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ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Oakland Raiders cornerback Keith McGill's struggled to get on track his rookie season because of injuries and the time it takes to adjust to the NFL.
McGill played just 18 defensive snaps over the first 14 games as he was relegated mostly to special teams duty when he was healthy. With starting cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers on injured reserve and backup Chimdi Chekwa injured last week, McGill finally got an opportunity to show what he can do.
McGill fared well against the Buffalo Bills but now is in for the ultimate test in the regular-season finale when he must match up with Peyton Manning and his deep group of receivers on the Denver Broncos.
"I think every week we've gone against a pretty explosive receiver," McGill said. "Obviously, this week going against Peyton Manning, it just adds a quarterback element in that picture, so whenever you're going to play against him, I think you're going to raise your game up. So with him and the receivers around him, I think we're going to be ready for it."
McGill, a fourth-round pick out of Utah, was expected to contribute as a rookie but was slowed by a groin injury that sidelined him for four games in the middle of the season.
It took until the second-to-last game of the season for McGill to make a big contribution. He played 50 defensive snaps last week and allowed only one catch despite being matched up for part of the game with talented rookie Sammy Watkins.
"When you put a young guy in a game like that, they don't get the reps, they don't see the pictures, you're wondering how they are mentally," interim coach Tony Sparano said. "It tells you that they're paying attention in the meetings, it tells you that their coaches are doing a good job with them that way, but I was impressed with what Keith did that way."
McGill said he spent the time on the sideline trying to learn from the veterans on the field and did his best to keep up in the meeting rooms.
He acknowledged being a little winded during the game last week, but kept at it and hopes a performance like that will help prepare him for next season when he hopes to play much more.
"It's always going to be nice to get game reps and you just have to build off of whatever kind of foundation you have," he said. "Mine is kind of late in the season, but those last two games, they're going to be important and I just have to go in there and try to do my job as best as possible."
McGill is one of three young cornerbacks the Raiders will look to build their defense around this offseason. Fellow rookie TJ Carrie, a seventh-round pick, has gotten ample playing time both outside and in the slot and has allowed just one touchdown pass against all season, according to Pro Football Focus.
DJ Hayden, the team's first-round pick in 2013, has shown promise after the start of his career was derailed by injuries that limited him to eight games last year and forced him to miss the first six this season.
"As much as you'd love to have Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown and those guys out there, it gives you a chance to see the younger players and to see the guys that you drafted and to see some of those things happen and I think that the more that these kids are playing, the more comfortable they are out there," Sparano said. "I've been impressed with that group."
NOTES: Pending free agent C Stefen Wisniewski said the Raiders made a few contract offers this season but did not meet his price so Sunday's game could be his final with team. ... Carrie (ankle), LB Khalil Mack (hamstring) and RT Menelik Watson (foot, ankle) are questionable for Sunday. ... WR Vincent Brown (groin), WR Denarius Moore (knee, ankle) and Chekwa (hamstring) have been ruled out.
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