Raiders need cornerback Gareon Conley to play up to potential

Updated June 12, 2018 - 11:23 pm

ALAMEDA, Calif. — He has been trapped in the hype machine for some time, limited in his own powers to perform intended actions, meaning shutting down his side of a football field while causing havoc for the opposing team.

But now, Gareon Conley needs to prove all that publicity was a warranted account of his true abilities.

You can imagine how much the Raiders need it.

They’re putting a ton of faith in the hope that a player selected No. 24 overall in the 2017 NFL draft remains healthy and can finally exhibit those skills that deemed him a first-round pick.

It’s no secret: They really need this guy to be good.

The words and actions of coaches and management and anyone with a final say on things— which, in the case of the Raiders, means Jon Gruden — have made it incredibly clear that Conley is the team’s No. 1 and best hope at cornerback entering the season.

That, and how they have maneuvered things at his position intimates that Conley is the glue around which a critical spot will be built, now and perhaps even when the franchise relocates to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.

“His confidence has grown tremendously,” said Gruden, who on Tuesday oversaw the beginning of his first mandatory minicamp since returning as coach. “It has been a dark world that he has been in, this young man. He had an injury he needed to rehab from, a change of coaches, a new system to learn.

“It has been slow and steady, but, man, is he a good player. When he’s feeling good, you see why he was a (first-round) pick.”

There were just a few glimpses last season given how much time Conley missed, but sure as the clear blue skies that welcomed the Raiders to this three-day camp before their summer break arrives, the length and athleticism and instincts that made him a star at Ohio State flashed from time to time.

He saw action in two games as a rookie, missing the final 13 with a shin injury and finishing with 92 snaps. The team thought Conley might get better with rest and a decreased amount of reps, but he never did.

The pain lingered, and Conley eventually underwent surgery.

“It was really difficult, because I’ve never been hurt before, but I feel like I’m back and had a long time to recover,” he said. “Physically, it feels like my rookie year, but mentally, I learned a lot. In that way, it’s my second year.

“I learned people are there for you, but at the end of the day, you have to be there for yourself. You’re the only one who can prepare yourself to come back from it.”

Cornerback might be a position with some numbers for the Raiders, but depth doesn’t always translate to ability or long-term results.

The team saved needed salary cap money by releasing David Amerson and Sean Smith (who is now serving a one-year prison term for felony assault) after last season, and while they wanted TJ Carrie to return, he landed a sizable free-agent contract (four years for $31 million with $10 million guaranteed) from the Browns.

So in came former Colts cornerback Rashaan Melvin, expected to start opposite Conley, on a one-year deal.

Then came Shareece Wright and Daryl Worley and Leon Hall, all with various NFL experience and also on one-year deals.

It tells you the team had more pressing needs elsewhere in which to spend, and that the kid who barely saw the field last season but has all the talent in the world is being counted on heavily to translate those glimpses into a seasonlong run of weekly production.

It tells you that beyond Conley, there’s a whole lot of stop-gapping going on.

The Raiders are going to play a ton of press coverage — much as Conley did with the Buckeyes in college — under new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, a disciple of the Mike Zimmer blitzing tree and someone who needs to improve a unit that had the fewest interceptions in the NFL last season (five) while ranking third worst in passer rating against (101.8).

Conley can’t solve all those issues, but he needs to be better than just good.

“I’m not worried about (proving anything),” he said. “Of course I take it into account — like I have a chip on my shoulder — but I’m worried about myself.”

It’s no secret: They really need his performance to equal the hype.

More Raiders: Follow Raiders coverage at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Raiders Videos
Vegas Nation Mailbag: Week 3
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Review-Journal sports writer Gilbert Manzano answer your burning questions about the Raiders and Jon Gruden.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Practice After Loss To Broncos
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken go over how Jon Gruden is improving the team after the 20-19 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Gruden touts Carr's pocket presence
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden hopes to get bigger plays from Derek Carr as the season rolls along, and the coach praises Carr's ability to feel pressure in the pocket.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Pass Rush Noticeably Lacking
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken talks about another poor pass rushing performance by the Raiders defense as the team looks ahead to Miami.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Fall To The Broncos
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond, Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney, Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken and sports writer Gilbert Manzano goes over the Raiders 19-20 loss against the Denver Broncos.
Vegas Nation: Kolton Miller prepares for Von Miller matchup on Sunday
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken previews the upcoming matchup between rookie left tackle Kolton Miller and Broncos linebacker Von Miller.
Vegas Nation: Bryant ready to play for Raiders immediately
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken talks about Martavis Bryant's return to the Raiders practice field, as well as a potential suspension for the wide receiver.
Martavis Bryant "Very Surprised" with Raiders Re-Signing
Raiders wide receiver Martavis Bryant speaks with the media for the first time since the team cut and re-signed him within a ten day time frame.
Vegas Nation Mailbag
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Review-Journal sports writer Gilbert Manzano goes over Raider Nation's reaction to the Raiders loss to the Rams.
Vegas Nation: Martavis Bryant Returns to the Raiders
Bryan Salmond is in studio and Michael Gehlken reports from Alameda as Martavis Bryant returns to the Raiders and Oakland picks up to new defensive linemen.
Gruden, Carr Believe Bryant is in a "Good Place"
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and starting quarterback Derek Carr talk about Martavis Bryant returning with the team after being cut over a week ago.
Las Vegas Raiders Stadium Progress
Construction at Las Vegas Raiders stadium as seen on September 11, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Nation: Raiders fall short in Week 1 to the Rams
Bryan Salmond and Gilbert Manzano are in studio recapping the first game of 2018 for the Oakland Raiders. Michael Gehlken and Ed Graney report from Oakland.
Vegas Nation: Raiders fall short in Week 1 to the Rams
Bryan Salmond and Gilbert Manzano are in studio recapping the first game of 2018 for the Oakland Raiders. Michael Gehlken and Ed Graney report from Oakland.
Sports Betting Spotlight: Las Vegas sports books will be Raiders fans in season opener
Las Vegas sports books will be big Raiders fans in Oakland's season opener. Mat Luschek/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Vegas Nation Stadium Show: Raiders name 4 locations for stadium parking
Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney and business reporter Rick Velotta discuss the Raiders' four proposed stadium parking locations and what that could mean for tailgating and traffic to and from the stadium.
Vegas Nation: AJ McCarron Learns Gruden's Playbook
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken go over AJ McCarron learning Gruden's offense before the Raiders play the L.A. Rams on Monday.
Kolton Miller "excited", "a little nervous" for regular season debut
Raiders starting rookie left tackle Kolton miller talks about his impending regular season debut against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday.
Vegas Nation Mailbag: Khalil Mack trade
Vegas Nation host Bryan Salmond and Review-Journal sports writer Gilbert Manzano go over what Raider Nation thinks about the Raiders before their first game against the Rams.
Amari Cooper Ready for Monday Night Football
Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper looks forward to team's season opener against the Los Angeles Rams.
Vegas Nation 9.3 Alt
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken talks about the team's first practice after the Khalil Mack trade, and the player's reaction to the trade.
Vegas Nation 9.2 Alt
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken reports from Alameda, Calif. as Jon Gruden addresses the media for the first time after Khalil Mack's trade to Chicago.
Derek Carr looks toward career without 'brother' Khalil Mack
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr speaks with the media for the first time following Khalil Mack's trade to the Chicago Bears on Saturday.
Gruden Addresses Khalil Mack Trade
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden addresses the media for the first time following defensive end Khalil Mack's trade to the Chicago Bears.
Vegas Nation: Raiders hold first practice since Khalil Mack trade
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken talks about the team's first practice after the Khalil Mack trade, and the player's reaction to the trade.
Marshawn Lynch celebrates grand opening of his Las Vegas store with fans and family
Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch meets with fans and discusses the opening of his store 'Beastmode' in Las Vegas.
Marshawn Lynch says he may not play with Raiders when they move to Las Vegas
Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch spoke on whether or not he'd still play football when the team moves in 2020 and reacted to news about the release of some of his teammates at the grand opening of his store 'Beastmode' in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Raiders BBQ
On Friday, July 20, Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden hosted — and paid for — a free barbecue for Raiders fans. Gruden teamed up with the Raiders and Ricky's Sports Theater and Grill in San Leandro, Calif. as a way to show thanks and gratitude for the support of the Raider Nation. Over 500 Raiders fans showed up to the event that had music, raffles, and appearances from Raiders alumni. This was the final event before the Raiders begin their training camp next week in Napa. Chris Booker Las Vegas Review-Journal
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like