David Amerson and DJ Hayden will have their hands full this weekend when the Oakland Raiders travel east to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the argument could be made that they've already faced a pair of better receivers – in practice.
"I think our receivers are one of the best tandems in the league, and I think the past couple of weeks we've been facing some pretty good wide receivers." said Amerson. "You just have to go in there with that mindset that it could be a dogfight and you just have to scratch and claw and do whatever it takes."
And statistically, he has a point.
Heading into the team's Week 9 showdown with the Steelers, Cooper and Crabtree already rank seventh in the league with 1,048 combined yards and 6 touchdowns – more than the Steelers Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown's 949 receiving yards.
"I always knew Coop was a good receiver, but I didn't know he was as a good as he is," Amerson said. "Actually seeing him in person and seeing him work, he's very special, and Crabtree, I've known about him for as long as everybody did. We always knew he was a good receiver, a guy that you can rely on, pretty reliable."
So what do the Raiders corners gain from going against Cooper and Crabtree on a regular basis?
Well, initially, going against top-flight completion in practice brings out the best of the young cornerbacks and also prepares them for going against the some of the best the league has to offer.
"This is all about going out there and competing, man," Amerson said. "You're going against some of the best receivers in the league, so anytime you get a chance to go up and compete against the best you want to bring your A game. You have to have a pride about yourself."
"Amari and Crab [Michael Crabtree] are great receivers," added Hayden. "Coop's [Amari Cooper] quick, his agility, his movement in and out of his breaks is pretty fast. It kind of makes DBs hesitate a little bit."
Over the past several weeks, the Raiders secondary, Amerson and Hayden in particular, have shown a marked improvement week-to-week, but they know they'll have their work cut out for them this weekend squaring off against Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown, the 2014 NFL receiving leader.
Brown finished the 2014 campaign with 129 receptions for an impressive 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns, and the First-Team All-Pro has picked up right where he left off, already hauling in 52 passes for 718 yards this season.
"I think it's just a combination of speed and quickness," Amerson said when asked about Brown's unique skillset. "You can't [replicate] that, and when a guy has both of them, it makes it pretty tough to guard them because it's not like he just does one thing well or is this or that. He has speed and speed kills, and he's quick."
Compared to the New York Jets who are known as a ground and pound team, Amerson and Hayden know that Ben Roethlisberger will look to get his playmakers out wide involved, but the duo is looking forward to the challenge.
"Your technique will help you out no matter who you're playing against," Hayden said. "You just have to go out there and believe in yourself, trust yourself and trust your technique. Everything else will take care of itself."
"It would definitely be big if we could go out here and put on a good performance against them, which we will," added Amerson. "We just have to prepare."