Antonio Pierce, as a former NFL linebacker, doesn’t just know toughness. He embodies it.
The Raiders interim coach still recognizes there are situations where he may need some help. And he knows which of his players he would turn to if things were going down.
Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers.
“Man, that’s the guy that when I walk down a dark alley, he’s coming with me,” Pierce said.
The answer may come as a surprise. The appreciation even caught Meyers off guard a little bit. But it’s a fitting tribute for someone whose toughness belies his quiet nature and slender frame.
Meyers, after signing a three-year, $33 million free-agent contract with the Raiders in March, has shown an ability to do just about anything the team has asked of him this season.
He has 52 catches for 591 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games. He’s also blocked for his teammates and taken handoffs on fly screens on occasion. He’s been one of the Raiders’ most trustworthy players.
So if that is the kind of toughness Pierce is talking about, Meyers deserves every bit of the praise.
“I just go out there and try to be me,” Meyers said. “If that’s how he characterizes it, I’ll take that compliment.”
It goes even further than that. Raiders star Davante Adams isn’t just one of the best wide receivers in the game. He’s one of the most connected players in the NFL. It’s becoming routine that his friends around the league hit Adams up about his teammate after butting heads with Meyers during a game.
“The feedback that I get from other players after the game about Jakobi, or later on in the week, they’ll say certain things like, ‘I didn’t know (No.) 16 was like that,’” Adams said.
Their reactions after dealing with Meyers validate what Adams has known almost from the moment he first took the field with his teammate during the offseason.
“He’s kind of like the best-kept secret,” Adams said.
It’s too bad the Raiders have not done a better job amplifying that. The Raiders’ underachieving offense has not consistently tapped into Meyers’ potential or that of many others on the team. It’s been a season-long struggle. Adams hopes it changes for the better during the Raiders’ last five games.
“We got to display it more,” Adams said. “He’s one of those sneaky players. As far as all the receivers that I’ve been around in my career that I got to play with, I’ll say he’s up there amongst the guys that are really never covered. His spatial awareness and ability to put his own savvy on different routes is special and it’s something that you don’t just see.”
The rest of the NFL may still be finding out Meyers. His Raiders teammates and coaches know the kind of value he brings to the table.
“You need to watch the body of work,” Pierce said. “You watch a guy go out there and he points, and he finds that linebacker and safety. He points at him and he puts his face right in it. Then you watch him catch a slant and go to the crib and have the speed and agility to make guys miss. He is a very unique player in a sense because of the attention that Davante gets with the double teams and all the attention. If you really watch 16, that’s a pretty good football player there.”
Who: Vikings at Raiders
When: 1:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: Allegiant Stadium
Radio: KRLV-AM (920), KOMP-FM (92.3)
Line: Vikings -3; total 40½