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Raiders rookie CB gets rude introduction to NFL

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NAPA, Calif. (AP)

DeMarcus Van Dyke got quite the introduction to the NFL.

The rookie cornerback from Miami was lined up against Arizona superstar receiver Larry Fitzgerald on his first series of his exhibition debut and the Cardinals went right at him.

Van Dyke allowed a long completion to Fitzgerald on the first pass his way even though he did have tight coverage. He stayed with the five-time Pro Bowler on the next deep pass, leading to an incompletion.

But the debut got progressively worse after that with Van Dyke allowing an 18-yard touchdown to Stephen Williams late in the first half and several other completions to Arizona's less accomplished receivers.

"As a DB, you've got to have amnesia," Van Dyke said. "You get beat one time, you can't let it keep building, that feeling. They got me. They're not going to beat me again.

The Raiders are hoping for much steadier play this season from Van Dyke, a third-round pick out in April who could get plenty of opportunities to play against multiple receiver packages this season.

Van Dyke started just three games at Miami as a senior but blossomed at the NFL combine, where he ran a 4.25 40-yard dash. Along with the sprinter speed that made him so attractive to the Raiders, coach Hue Jackson has praised his loose hips, 6-foot-1 size and makeup as attributes that should help in man coverage.

"When I talk to the young man, there is no fear in him at all," Jackson said. "Fitzgerald makes those plays on everybody. I've seen him make them on the best in this league. He made one on that young man. But the young man came back and stayed with him the next time and that's what this is all about."

Van Dyke received encouragement after the game from fellow former Miami cornerbacks Antrel Rolle and Sam Shields, veterans who have been through the rough transition from college to the pros.

That only got harder when Van Dyke saw himself lined up against Fitzgerald as soon as he got on the field. He stayed with Fitzgerald stride for stride on the first pass but was outmaneuvered for the ball at the end, giving the Cardinals a 43-yard gain.

"It's a pretty good way to go out there and judge yourself on a guy of his caliber and see what I can get better at," he said. "I just have to finish on plays, that's about it."

Van Dyke gets to learn the trade from a pair of Hall of Famers in assistant coaches Willie Brown and Rod Woodson. Woodson, in his first year as a coach, compares Van Dyke to one of his former teammates in Baltimore, Duane Starks, and expects big things from his young player.

"He's going to be good. It's the little things that he has to work on," Woodson said. "He has to learn how to finish. He's still learning the little things about playing corner in this league, playing the different coverages, when to do certain things, when not to do certain things. But if he keeps progressing in the positive manner like he has in the first week or so, he'll be a decent player."

The question for the Raiders is how long that process will take. With All Pro Nnamdi Asomugha gone to Philadelphia in free agency, the Raiders have no experienced cornerback behind starters Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson.

Oakland drafted a pair of cornerbacks a year ago in Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware, who both struggled in limited time as rookies and have been victimized in training camp and in the exhibition opener. The Raiders also drafted Ohio State cornerback Chimdi Chekwa in the fourth round in April, but he has not been able to practice much this summer because of a shoulder injury.

Arizona quarterbacks combined to go 17-for-27 for 297 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions at a 137.4 passer rating once the starting cornerbacks sat after the first series.

"It's so blown out of proportion," Routt said. "They're young. People are going to make mistakes. It's preseason. Everybody wants to act like if you do bad in one preseason game, you should be crucified or whatever. It is what it is, the first preseason game. We got three more. Mistakes happen. Veterans make mistakes."

The Raiders did add some help in the secondary at safety, signing Josh Bullocks and Matt Giordano. Oakland needed to make the moves with backups Hiram Eugene (dislocated hip) and Zac Etheridge (knee) getting hurt in the exhibition opener and Stevie Brown injuring his ankle at practice Sunday.

Bullocks, a second-round pick by New Orleans in 2005, has six interceptions, 27 passes defensed and four forced fumbles in 90 career games with the Saints and Chicago Bears.

Giordano, a fourth-round pick by Indianapolis in 2005 out of California, had three interceptions in 55 games for the Colts from 2005-08. He played as a reserve the past two seasons with Green Bay and New Orleans.

Notes: Jackson gave many of the players age 30 and over a day off from practice. ... The Raiders will take Tuesday off before returning to practice Wednesday.

Tagged: Bears, Raiders, Saints, Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald, DeMarcus Van Dyke

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