The Oakland Raiders’ defense has drastically improved in the past two weeks after allowing over 1,000 yards in the first two weeks.
One change the team made was starting linebacker Cory James, moving Ben Heeney to a backup role. Heeney then suffered an ankle injury and it was rumored that he was heading to the injured reserve list.
That move became official on Tuesday after the Raiders announced that Heeney was being placed on IR. HeeneyTo replace him on the active roster, the Raiders signed former Washington Redskins’ linebacker Perry Riley, Jr.
Riley, Jr. spent six seasons with Washington, playing in 79 games (63 starts) and totaling 437 total tackles (257 solo). He added 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and defended 26 passes. The veteran broke a bone in his right foot last season, causing him to miss the last five games of the season. A surgery in February slowed him in training camp and eventually he was cut by Washington.
The 28-year-old discussed some of his strengths on Tuesday via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com:
“I’m a football player,” Riley said Tuesday in the Raiders locker room. “You ask me, I think I can do everything — cover, tackle, play the run and pass. But playing the run is definitely something that outside people have told me I do well. I’m a physical player; I come downhill, taking on blocks, making plays in the gap, backfield, whatever.”
He expanded more about his coverage skills, something he believes he’s been unfairly judged on:
“But I think a lot of people underestimate my athleticism or speed outside in pass coverage. I think I got a lot of scrutiny in Washington about a couple of pass coverages I gave up. But at the same time a lot of people don’t know everything that’s supposed to go on. You don’t know assignments. You don’t know leverage and stuff, so a lot of stuff I got blamed for wasn’t always my fault, but I think a lot of people will be pleasantly surprised with the way I cover.”
Riley, Jr. grew up with current Raiders LB Bruce Irvin and even tweeted about reuniting with his friend:
— Perry Riley Jr (@PR56) October 4, 2016
As for Heeney, his season is likely over because the Raiders are expected to use their IR return designation on Mario Edwards, Jr. Heeney finishes with 11 total tackles.