Even before Thursday night’s exhibition-season finale, Shalom Luani had probably done enough to prove he belongs on the Raiders roster.
But Luani made a few more big plays in the game against Seattle, anyway, and now the safety, a seventh-round pick from Washington State, appears to be a roster lock.
Luani had 12 tackles and an interception, picking off a pass from Seahawks quarterback Trevone Boykin in the first quarter. Luani has been a standout for the Raiders in practices and exhibition games throughout the summer, and should start the season as a backup safety and special teams player.
“He’s very instinctive,” head coach Jack Del Rio told Curtis Pashelka of the Bay Area News Group after Thursday’s game. “He really has a nose for the football. He has developed special-teams wise with some of the things we’re asking him to do. He’s developed in learning our system. I think he’s been a real positive addition for us in the back end.”
Luani was happy with his play in Thursday night’s game, but says he’s “not satisfied.”
“Still have a long way to go,” he told Pashelka.
John Pagano, the Raiders’ assistant head coach in charge of defense, also has been impressed by Luani’s instincts on the field.
“You never, ever want to over-coach a guy that has great instincts,” Pagano told Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “You want to let him see ball, go get ball and have the ability. He has a great knack right now for getting around the football, and it’s been since OTAs, since he’s been here in rookie camp (in May). So it’s been exciting.”
Luani will find out if he’s made the roster Friday or Saturday, when Oakland must trim to 53 active players. The Raiders will open the regular season Sept. 10 vs. Tennessee.