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Spotlight: Defensive Backs

Spotlight: Defensive Backs

This time, no one expected Marshawn Lynch to touch the football. He didn’t . . . and this time, no one cared.

With virtually every starter sitting in last Thursday’s 17-13 exhibition-ending home loss to Seattle, the Raiders’ desire to strengthen their secondary overshadowed the former Seahawk star’s Bay Area arrival at running back. The offseason focus remained on dismantling the notion that the best defense is a superb offense.

Urging his players to produce quality video for his staff to evaluate, third-year Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio called on his defense “to have fun and rip it up” while trying to improve on its ranking of 26th among the 32 NFL teams in total defense (375.1 yards per game) last season.

Despite going winless, rookie safety Shalom Luani appeared to enjoy the exhibition season as much as anyone. The seventh-round draft pick from Washington State intercepted an overthrown pass against the Seahawks to further secure the roster spot he appeared destined to attain early in preseason.

Meanwhile, third-year seventh-round draft pick Dexter McDonald will join Luani on the Oakland sideline. The former Kansas cornerback survived falling down and being beaten for a 34-yard first-half touchdown by scrambling to knock away a probable TD reception toward the end of the first half.

Second-year cornerback Antonio Hamilton of South Carolina State also earned a spot alongside an established group of DBs comprised of David Amerson, TJ Carrie, Gareon Conley, Karl Joseph, Keith McGill, Obi Melifonwu, Reggie Nelson and Sean Smith.

Despite a first-half interception, undrafted rookie free agent Breon Borders wasn’t as fortunate. Without backside help, he was beaten for a late score and found himself on the practice squad following the weekend cut from 90 to 53 players.

Mobile Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota will provide the revamped Raiders secondary its first test when the Tennessee Titans break the huddle Sunday in Nashville.

Former longtime Las Vegas Review-Journal Sports Editor Jim Fossum brings nearly 40 years of award-winning experience covering virtually every facet of print and digital journalism to Las Vegas Raiders Report. Fossum is the site's senior columnist and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus. Recently retired, the 1980 Northern Arizona University graduate began his 25-year Review-Journal career in January 1981 as tennis, golf and football beat writer. He was lead writer for the annual Alan King/Caesars Palace Tennis Classic, featuring Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg; all three of Las Vegas’ major professional golf tour stops as a longtime member of the Golf Writers Association of America; and the celebrated “Randall Cunningham Era” of UNLV football. Also a copy editor and page designer who became R-J sports editor at age 33 shortly after covering UNLV in the 1991 Final Four, Fossum was named Nevada Sportswriter of the Year in 1998 by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Winner of numerous writing awards from the Nevada Press Association, his reporting experience includes ringside coverage of several of boxing’s most anticipated world championship prize fights, including the highlight of his career -- the September 1981 world welterweight title bout between Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard at Caesars Palace. Hall of Famers Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Larry Bird are among the many superstars he has interviewed, in addition to helping document the careers of Las Vegans Andre Agassi and Greg Maddux. Honored with numerous community service awards from local charitable organizations such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the American Cancer Society, Fossum was cited in the late 1990s by the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame for his contributions to local athletics. A longtime member of the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), he helped oversee the organization’s annual West Regional Convention for several years at various Las Vegas Strip resorts. He helped recruit APSE’s national convention to the MGM Grand in 2006 after annually attending weeklong seminars at many of the country’s largest and most respected major dailies. In 2005, he was honored with Lake Havasu High School’s Distinguished Alumni Award and delivered his alma mater’s Class of 2006 commencement speech 30 years after graduating. Review-Journal sports editor for 16 years, Fossum retired to the Oregon Coast at age 48 in January 2006. Most recently, he was founder/publisher/editor of OregonCoastSports.com (previously SportsLincolnCounty.com), an independent website dedicated to area youth. He also worked at two weekly community newspapers (Newport News-Times and Lincoln City News Guard) as section editor, reporter, photographer and page designer.

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