The Oakland Raiders made moves to bolster their banged-up secondary on Wednesday by signing cornerback Brandian Ross from Green Bay's practice squad and giving starting free safety Michael Huff work at cornerback in practice.
The Raiders are short-handed at cornerback after injuries to both starters. Ron Bartell broke his shoulder blade in the opener and was placed on the reserve-injured list that will prevent him from playing in a game until at least Nov. 11. The other starter, Shawntae Spencer, left last week's game in Miami in the fourth quarter with a sprained right foot.
With Pat Lee and Joselio Hanson both struggling in coverage in the loss to the Dolphins, the Raiders needed to make some changes in order to contend with Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers' dangerous passing attack.
"Next guy has to step up," Hanson said. "That's why you have depth on a team. In the NFL everybody can play, so the next guy has to step up."
The first move was to sign Ross, who made the Packers' 53-man roster out of camp but was inactive the first game and then demoted to the practice squad last week. Ross spent last season on Green Bay's practice squad as an undrafted free agent out of Youngstown State when Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was a personnel executive with the Packers.
McKenzie convinced Ross to stay in Green Bay last year when another team was interested in signing him and then got him for the Raiders.
"He's a big guy, a physical guy, has got some coverage skills," coach Dennis Allen said. "He's a guy that Reggie knew about from being there with him, so he was a guy we thought could come in and compete."
Ross said he has been able to pick up the new defense well on his first day and is hoping to be ready to contribute Sunday against the Steelers.
Lee moved into the starting lineup when Bartell went down with the injury against San Diego but got pulled early in the loss in Miami after struggling to guard Brian Hartline. Lee allowed four catches in six throws his way in coverage for 56 yards, according to STATS LLC.
"We just have to pick it up. Guys that are backing up just have to do what we have to do and do our jobs right," Lee said. "Just be more aware of the situation and be more physical."
Hanson, picked up before the season after being cut by Philadelphia, didn't fare any better after replacing Lee. He allowed five catches in six attempts for 58 yards. Hanson had most of his success with the Eagles playing in the slot and could return there if the Raiders decide to shift Huff from safety to cornerback.
The Raiders had been planning to make that switch after last season before McKenzie and Allen took over the organization. Huff remained at free safety under the new regime while still getting time as a cornerback in nickel packages. He got some work at cornerback in practice Wednesday and could play there Sunday with Matt Giordano getting more time at safety.
"Huff is an all-around guy," Lee said. "He's a good player. He can do whatever out there on the field. He's going to do his job. That's Huff."
The Raiders also may have to replace a starter on the offensive line with right tackle Khalif Barnes out with a groin injury. Willie Smith, signed earlier this month, replaced Barnes in the game and will start Sunday. Smith started three games last season for Washington and was credited with allowing three sacks, according to STATS LLC. Smith will have his hands full with Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley, whose 49 career sacks since entering the league in 2007 are the seventh most in the league in that span.
NOTES: LB Rolando McClain missed practice after suffering a concussion late in the game in Miami and will have to go through the protocol before it is determined whether he can play this week. "It's one of the more scary injuries. With an ankle, you know what's wrong. But when it's in your head, you don't know," McClain said. ... CB Coye Francies also missed practice with a concussion. ... Oakland signed DB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and DT Vaughn Meatoga to the practice squad.
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