ALAMEDA (AP) — Raiders linebacker Curtis Lofton says Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown are so similar that it won’t matter much who the Cleveland Browns start at quarterback.
It’s not a dilemma that Oakland is spending much time on this week while preparing for its first road game of the season.
Of more importance to the Raiders is trying to clean up and correct a defense that has given up 66 points and nearly 900 yards in the first two games.
“We have to just keep making jumps, keep taking a step in the right direction,” Lofton said Tuesday. “I think we took a step in the right direction from Week 1 to Week 2. We just have to keep doing that.”
The Raiders withstood a late flurry by the Baltimore Ravens before backup cornerback Neiko Thorpe’s interception with 19 seconds left secured a 37-33 win.
It was only the second takeaway of the season for defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.’s unit, which is ranked last in total defense and 31st in points allowed.
Despite the numbers, Oakland coach Jack Del Rio believes the defense is improving. At the same time, there is also room for continued growth as his team heads into Sunday’s road game against the Browns.
“We just need to do what we do better,” Del Rio said. “Offensively, some of the things we were talking about a week ago were a lot better this week. We’re looking to make the same kind of jump on defense.”
Oakland will need to improve its pass rush if it hopes to contain Cleveland’s quarterback, be it Manziel or McNown.
McNown opened the season as the Browns’ starter but suffered a concussion in the opener. Manziel took over and played well in Cleveland’s 28-14 win over Tennessee.
Browns coach Mike Pettine hasn’t said who will start.
“I don’t think it makes any difference,” Lofton said. “They both like to run and we just have to be fundamentally sound. The defensive line has to rush, can’t give them any holes to run out, and on the back end we just have to be prepared, for if he does get out, to make tackles.”
Keeping the quarterback in the pocket might also help improve Oakland’s anemic pass rush.
The Raiders are just one of two teams in the NFL without a sack this season. That despite boasting the tandem of Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith, who was signed days before the season opener specifically to upgrade Oakland’s pass rush.
The two combined for just two tackles and one quarterback hurry in the win over Baltimore, though Lofton says it’s unfair to blame the lack of a pass rush just on them.
“It’s not just them getting their rush,” Lofton said. “The secondary has to cover and those guys have to rush. It works hand in hand. When it works, good things happen.”
The Raiders took a step they hope can improve their pass defense by claiming cornerback David Amerson off waivers from the Washington Redskins.
Amerson was active for Washington’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals last week but played only on special teams after being limited to just eight snaps on defense in the Redskins’ opener.
The Raiders could be eyeing Amerson as a potential replacement for former first-round pick D.J. Hayden, who has struggled in coverage this season.
Notes: S Tevin McDonald was waived to clear room on the roster for Amerson. ... The Raiders signed RB Rajion Neal to the practice squad and released George Atkinson III.