Amerson pushing for starting cornerback job with Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Two months after wondering whether he still had a future in the NFL, cornerback David Amerson is inching closer to a starting job with the Oakland Raiders.

A 2013 second-round draft pick by Washington, Amerson has been mostly in a backup role with the Raiders. He made a handful of starts while the coaching staff moved players around to compensate for injuries and is coming off a strong game last week against Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions.

With the exception of a Week 9 matchup with Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, Amerson has been Oakland's best cornerback since his arrival in late September after being released by the Redskins.

''I like him, period,'' coach Jack Del Rio said. ''I think he's a good player. I think he was targeted five or six times (by Detroit) and did a nice job. One swing pass that he could have kept his head up and tackled better, but for the most part I thought he played pretty well.''

The Raiders need something to change in their secondary. Oakland is 30th against the pass this season and 2013 first-round pick DJ Hayden is laboring through another rough year.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, Hayden is the most-targeted cornerback in the NFL and has given up a league-high 61 completions. Opposing quarterbacks have a 112.7 rating when throwing at Hayden, who has also given up more yards after the catch (362) than any defensive back.

Del Rio declined to say who would start this week against Tennessee, but left open the possibility for a lineup shakeup.

''Our plan is to use the best people,'' Del Rio said when asked about Amerson perhaps starting. ''We'll continue to look at whatever we can to improve our football team.''

Amerson surprised many people around the league with how quickly he adapted to the system with the Raiders. He's looked nothing like the cornerback who was beaten for 10 touchdowns in 2014.

If anything, Amerson has gotten better with each game. Against the Lions last week, Amerson was matched against Johnson four times and allowed one completion. He also made a sparkling play as Oakland's nickel back when he came from behind Johnson to break up a third-down pass.

Still, Amerson won't get in a debate over whether he should be starting. The 23-year-old is content to be back playing after being uncertain about his future in the NFL - or if he even had one after being released by the Redskins.

''It's just the business, I play the role they assign me,'' said Amerson, who is signed through the 2016 season. ''They make the decisions and I just work here. Whatever role I get, whatever week it is, I just do the best of my ability to execute that role. I just play.''

Whether starting or not, Amerson will likely be on the field a lot Sunday in Tennessee.

Although the Titans are 2-8, rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota has played very well. Mariota isn't the running, gunning quarterback he was in college, but is mobile enough to cause problems in the NFL.

''Any time you run into a quarterback who can move, you run into the possibility of stinging plays,'' Amerson said. ''You might shut down a route initially then the quarterback starts running around, and all of a sudden someone goes deep or you lose sight of your man. It's not easy by any means, but as a DB it's what you signed up for.''

NOTES: Center Rodney Hudson missed his third consecutive practice after aggravating an ankle injury and is doubtful. ... RB/KR Taiwan Jones (knee) practiced for the first time this week. He is questionable. . Safety Charles Woodson (shoulder) and TE Lee Smith (wrist) are probable.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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