Brees Perfect Litmus Test For Raiders’ New-Look Secondary

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Raiders cornerback David Amerson won’t take it personally if Saints quarterback Drew Brees targets him frequently in Sunday’s season opener.

If anything, Amerson wants it that way and is preparing for it to go down just like that. It might be, he said, the only way to stop New Orleans’ nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback.

“As a corner every play you have to go out there like the ball’s coming your way,” Amerson said Wednesday. “You can’t worry about what’s going on on the other side of the field. You have to think every play (my receiver is) going to get the ball. I just lock in on my guy.”

The Raiders secondary definitely has its hands full facing Brees and the Saints after undergoing a serious makeover in the offseason.

In 10 games between the two teams, Brees has passed for 19 touchdowns with only four interceptions, a small chapter in the future Hall of Famer’s career.

“Drew is a great quarterback, a Hall of Fame quarterback,” Oakland safety Reggie Nelson. “He just does a great job of leading his group and he’s been doing that for a while now.”

Nelson is in his first year with the Raiders after spending the previous six seasons with Cincinnati. The veteran safety led the NFL with eight interceptions in 2015 and has squared off against the Saints three times previously. Nelson has picked off Brees once, in 2010.

“I just have to be patient,” Nelson said. “Communication is the number one key. When I got here that was my main thing, communicate with me. Guys have been doing that. As long as we’re on the same page nobody can stop us.”

On paper it seems like a complete mismatch in the Saints’ favor.

Brees led the NFL with 4,870 passing yards last year and was tied for seventh with 32 touchdowns despite a down year for New Orleans, while Oakland ranked 26th in pass defense in Ken Norton Jr.’s first season as defensive coordinator.

Brees will be facing a much different pass defense than the Raiders had last year and one that is vastly changed from the one he faced in 2012 when the two teams last played. Not a single starter in Oakland’s secondary was on the team then, and one — Amerson — wasn’t even in the league at the time.

Amerson, signed early last year after being abruptly dumped by the Washington Redskins two weeks into the regular season, entered the NFL as a second-round pick in 2013 and has never faced Brees. Facing a quarterback of Brees’ unquestioned caliber, Amerson said, is an ideal litmus test for the new-look Raiders.

“As a secondary if you want to test yourself and see how good you are right now and how good you could be, it’s the perfect game to go out there and go after it,” Amerson said.

Oakland first-round draft pick Karl Joseph won’t be in the starting lineup against Brees but figures to get playing time against the Saints’ multiple-receiver looks. Joseph had been taking a majority of reps with the first-team defense in the preseason and during training camp before the change was made to go with veteran Nate Allen.

“For us, it’s all about competition,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “Guys competing and then you basically get what you earn. We like the way Karl is working.”

Note: Right tackle Austin Howard sprained his ankle in the final preseason game and was held out of practice.

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