Raiders hurting without Conley, Melifonwu: 'Our secondary needs some help'


Raiders hurting without Conley, Melifonwu: 'Our secondary needs some help'

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio wasn’t thrilled with his secondary following Sunday night’s 27-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins. He believes loose coverage hindered the pass rush, and poor tackling hurt the overall defensive performance.

That position group has been banged up, working without David Amerson (foot), and Karl Joseph (groin) isn’t 100 percent.

They had three healthy career corners available Sunday, far from the lineup expected this offseason.

Health has hurt Amerson throughout the year, and completely negated first-round cornerback Gareon Conley and second-round safety Obi Melifonwu.

Conley played two early games and a shin injury shut him down indefinitely a month ago. Melifonwu spent the season’s first half on injured reserve after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

The Raiders had big plans for both guys. Conley was going to be an every-down cornerback. Melifonwu was to help cover tight ends and running backs in sub packages.

“Those two guys are really talented,” Del Rio said in his Monday press conference. “They’re going to help our secondary, and our secondary needs some help. That would be welcome.”

They need it now. A true impact might not come this season. Melifonwu lost significant development time on IR and while dealing with a training-camp ankle issue.

Conley’s shin has been an ongoing issue since June. Del Rio hasn’t specified Conley’s exact ailment, but it certainly seems like it evolved into something worse than the Raiders originally thought.

Del Rio still has high hopes for Conley, even if he might not play again this year. The Raiders will determine his fate rather soon. An early shutdown would complete an unceremonious rookie year where his draft was shrouded by legal troubles that didn’t lead to an arrest or charge and injuries that kept him off the field.

“The first round pick, the guy is going to be a really good football player,” Del Rio said. “First, there was the drama surrounding the off-the-field stuff that ended up being what we thought, that didn’t amount to anything.

“There has been the unknown injury that he has had to deal with. We wanted to get to the bye week and take a look, so at some point we’ll take a look and make a determination that we’re good to go, or we’ll know that he’s going to need to go down. That decision is approaching.”

Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?


Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?

Jon Gruden doesn’t love offseason restrictions on player-coach interaction. They weren’t so strict when Gruden last coached nine years ago, but the new collective bargaining agreement prevents the new Raiders head coach from extended contact with his players at this stage in the NFL’s downtime.

He has, however, run into several Raiders stopping by the team’s Alameda complex.

Count running back Marshawn Lynch and receiver Michael Crabtree among them. Conversations with those talented, yet mercurial players will be key as Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie decide how best to use the salary cap.

Both guys have a long history of NFL production. Both guys are getting up there in age, and have some drawbacks. Both guys can be cut without a salary cap hit.

Gruden had nice things to say about both guys in a Wednesday interview with the Bay Area News Group.

He was asked directly if Lynch will be on the 2018 roster.

“I don’t know,” Gruden said. “I bumped into him. Some of these players that live locally do come to the facility to get a workout, see the trainer. I’ve been downstairs and met several guys. I have talked to Marshawn briefly. We’ll see. We’ll keep everybody posted. Right now, he’s our leading ball carrier. He’s our back, and we’re counting on him. Hopefully we get an opportunity to work together. That’s a man that has a lot of respect in this league as a player and I certainly have respect for him also.”

Lynch started slow but finished strong, and was the team’s best skill player in the season’s second half. He’s contracted to make up to $6 million in 2018.

Crabtree came up later in a discussion of what he likes on the roster.

“I got to bump into Crabtree,” Gruden said. “Hopefully we can get the best out of Crabtree and his career.”

Crabtree is coming off a down year following two stellar seasons in Oakland. He had just 58 catches for 618 yards – he still had eight touchdowns – but his targets and snaps decreased the last two weeks. He seemed at odds with the previous coaching staff, a group that was dismissed at season’s end.

Crabtree is set to make $7 million next season, though none of it is guaranteed.

Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders


Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders

PALO ALTO – Raiders cornerback T.J. Carrie became a father on Super Bowl Sunday. Newborn son Elijah Carrie has been the sole focus these last few weeks, as T.J. learns on the job how to be a dad.

Pardon him if he hasn’t thought much about impending free agency. The 2014 seventh-round pick turned full-time starter has a rookie deal expiring soon, with a raise on the horizon following his best season as a pro.

That’ll come in March. Early February, however, has kept him otherwise engaged.

“I’ve been so busy with my little one, and I haven’t been getting any sleep,” Carrie said Thursday. “Learning how to be a dad has been so engulfing that I haven’t delved into the details of what free agency will mean to me.”

Soul searching wasn’t required to realize his dream scenario. The East Bay native wants to stay in Oakland, with a Raiders team he loved as a kid.

“My intention is to be here,” Carrie said. “I’m a Bay Area guy, a hometown kid. I couldn’t see myself being anywhere else. This is a passion for me. I dreamed about playing for the Raiders for such a long time. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to play there for four years, I want to finish (with the Raiders).”

Carrie wants to work with a new Raiders regime. He visited the team’s Alameda complex on Wednesday and met with new head coach Jon Gruden and defensive assistants. The interaction left Carrie wanting more, furthering his belief that be belongs in Silver and Black.

“Coach Gruden is very energetic,” Carrie said. “He’s a coach that likes to have fun but it a very business oriented guy. There are a lot of things, I imagine, that are going to change, just from the way he has done things. It’s going to be different, but I embrace it. It’ll be very challenging entering into a new regime, but there are a lot of positive factors involved with it.”

The Raiders don’t have many cornerbacks under contract come mid-March. They released David Amerson, and could do the same with Sean Smith later this offseason. Gareon Conley should start at one spot, but everything else is wide-open entering free agency and the draft.

Carrie could find value on the open market after recording 70 tackles and nine passes defensed in 16 starts. He’ll explore his options further next month, before free agency begins in earnest March 14.

“I know March is really when it starts to go down,” Carrie said. “My son will be a little older then, so I can focus more on free agency and make some more decisions.”