Raiders

Raiders snap count: Conley wasn't picked on much in debut

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USATI

Raiders snap count: Conley wasn't picked on much in debut

OAKLAND – Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack walked through the hallways on Saturday, past a meeting room dedicated to film study. Game tape was on in this one, with a solitary figure staring at the screen.

Mack identified the teammate as first-round cornerback Gareon Conley, conducting a study session before his NFL debut. Mack most certainly smiled to himself, with additional confidence in this young buck.

“That’s when I knew he was going to come out and do what he does best in coverage,” Mack said.

Conley was pretty good in his first professional game, a milestone delayed by a shin injury. It stole an entire preseason, leaving the Ohio State product little time to prep for the regular season.

That was evident over 46 defensive snaps in Sunday’s 45-20 victory over the New Yourk Jets as the Raiders’ No. 3 cornerback. He played outside in the nickel package, with starter TJ Carrie moving into the slot.

Conley was excited heading into this game, not anxious, and confident in his preparation.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Conley said. “Practice prepared me well. The communication with (free safety Reggie Nelson) and all the DBs was good. Reggie really helped me get comfortable playing this week.”

Conley was ready to get picked on. That’s what happens to rookies at this level, even highly touted first-round picks.

“That was my mindset coming in,” Conley said. “I thought they were going to come at me. You have to stay true on every play. You never know which play is a big play. I always think the ball is coming at me.”

Few actually arrived. Conley was targeted just twice in 29 coverage snaps, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus, and allowed one catch for eight yards.

He also had a pass defensed, and it was a beauty.

Conley locked horns with Jermaine Kearse deep downfield when tested for the first time. He smothered the route, timed his jump well and batted the ball. It floated up, so he smacked it again. It floated right for Nelson, who almost made the pick.

It wasn’t intentional.

“I was making sure to hit it down,” Conley said. “I didn’t know where the receiver was. I was making sure he wasn’t going to get it.

“...I should’ve picked it (myself).”

Conley wasn’t the only rookie with an increased Week 2 role. Undrafted linebacker Nicholas Morrow played 25 defensive snaps – he played two last week – primarily in sub packages. He was solid in coverage, per PFF, allowing one catch for minus-3 yards on two targets. He finished with three tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass defensed.

OFFENSE
Quarterback – Derek Carr 57
Running back – Marshawn Lynch 23, DeAndre Washington 17, Jalen Richard 13
Wide receiver – Amari Cooper 48, Michael Crabtree 35, Seth Roberts 34, Cordarelle Patterson 27, Johnny Holton 4
Tight end – Jared Cook 44, Lee Smith 26, Clive Walford 12
Offensive line – Gabe Jackson 57, Kelechi Osemele 57, Rodney Hudson 57, Donald Penn 57, Marshall Newhouse 57, Jon Feliciano 1

DEFENSE
Defensive line – Khalil Mack 44, Eddie Vanderdoes 31, Denico Autry 26, Mario Edwards 24, Jihad Ward 24, James Cowser 18, Justin Ellis 15, Treyvon Hester 14
Linebacker – Cory James 56, Bruce Irvin 38, Nicholas . 25, Tyrell Adams 21, Marquel Lee 10
Cornerback –David Amerson 56, TJ Carrie 56, Gareon Conley 46
Safety – Karl Jospeh 56, Reggie Nelson 56

SPECIAL TEAMS
Erik Harris 23, Shalom Luani 23, James Cowser 18, Giorgio Tavecchio 15, Antonio Hamilton 15, Xavier Woodson-Luster 14, Johnny Holton 13, Tyrell Adams 13, Lee Smith 12, Jon Feliciano 11, DeAndre Washington 11, Marquette King 10, Jon Condo 10, Clive Walford 9, Marquel Lee 9, Dexter McDonald 8, Karl Joseph 8, Cordarrelle Patterson, Vadal Alexander 7, Marshall Newhouse 7, Kelechi Osemele 7, Gabe Jackson 7, Justin Ellis 7, Denico Autry 6, Jalen Richard 6, TJ Carrie 5, Khalil Mack 5, Bruce Irvin 5, Eddie Vanderdoes 5, Treyvon Hester 5, Gareon Conley 2, Amari Cooper 1, Jared Cook 1, Cory James 1

DID NOT PLAY

QB EJ Manuel

INACTIVE
Connor Cook, , Keith McGill, Jamize Olawale, Jylan Ware, David Sharpe, Darius Latham, Sean Smith

Jon Gruden's presence felt during first practice back with Raiders

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AP

Jon Gruden's presence felt during first practice back with Raiders

ALAMEDA – Raiders practices have a soundtrack. Hip-hop typically blared during on-field sessions run by Jack Del Rio, with music designed to sustain intensity.

The backbeat faded once Del Rio left town, but there’s a new sound stimulating work rates.

Jon Gruden’s voice.

That was clear Tuesday afternoon, during his first practice since taking over (a second time) as Raiders head coach. He doesn’t speak nonstop, but can be clearly heard across the field when sending out instructions, critiques or motivational salvos.

Gruden revved up as practice began, just telling his offense how he wants to huddle. It took off from there, but not just with volume. There was substance and purpose, even in a brief window open to the press.

“The energy level he brings is amazing, and somehow he’s consistent with it day in and day out,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “That’s impressive. It’s fun, and I think we’ll feed off of that. That’s part of the reason why we were successful today and our tempo was good. He’s bringing the energy, and it feeds down to us.”

Motivation isn’t the only goal. He’s often testing his charges, as he did to quarterback Derek Carr on Tuesday.

“We tried to give him some audibles and different situations on the very first day,” Gruden said. “He was all over it…Derek didn’t blink.”

Carr has only possessed Gruden’s playbook a few weeks now, but Gruden was testing his field general to see how much he learned and retained.

“He tried to get me, to see if I was listening to him in the meetings,” Carr said. “We had a lot of fun out there. It’s fun to accept his challenge, do well and then wink at him or something like that. We have fun together because we know we have the same goal in mind. We’re putting the ship in the water and then we want to hit this thing running.”

Carr passed with flying colors. Count Gruden among the impressed.

“I got really excited out there. You can have a really creative imagination out there with that guy as your quarterback,” Gruden said. “He can make every throw. The ball comes out fast, and he’s accurate. He’s mobile. He’s sharp. He’s a great leader.”

The first of three minicamp practices was a pop quiz of sorts. He wanted things run at a moderate pace, to see how players reacted under some stress.

Gruden’s volume and intensity wasn’t the only new addition. The Raiders have added to large video boards to the practice field, allowing players to review practice reps right after they happen. Gruden said he took the idea from Jim Harbaugh, who uses video boards at the University Michigan. The Miami Dolphins took them from the Wolverines, and Gruden saw them while broadcasting for ESPN. That’s an example of how Gruden’s recent past shapes how he’ll coach nine years after his previous stint.

It had been a long time since Gruden ran a practice, and the moment, however insignificant in the grand scheme, was not lost on him.

“I came back to coach,” Gruden said. “I’m excited to be here. I take it as a serious responsibility, and the practice field has always been a laboratory for a coach. That’s where we earn our pay. We have to develop this team. We have to learn a lot about them quickly. We have a lot of things to teach, and a lot of areas to improve. It was fun to be out there, but I don’t want to get too deep or philosophical about it. I might start crying.

Laughter followed that last line, which he has used in various forms since his last coaching stint. Gruden was comfortable back in his element, excited to be coaching the Raiders again with his own unique style.

Raiders seven-round mock draft: Defense for five of first six picks

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AP

Raiders seven-round mock draft: Defense for five of first six picks

 

NFL draft picks create a butterfly effect. One move will impact many others in unpredictable ways. That’s why mock drafts are often a fool’s errand, even if their focused on the first round.

A trade or unexpected pick or run on a certain position changes the dynamic of the entire round, making the prediction business extremely difficult. We were only talking about the first round, here.

The Raiders have 11 picks over the course of this three-day NFL draft. Trying to get all of them right (or even some) is an impossibility. We’re gonna do one anyway. It’s for fun. Let’s treat it that way and see what a good Raiders draft might look like, one that addresses several needs over the course of seven rounds.

First round (No. 10): DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
-- Fitzpatrick’s a popular player, a versatile and dynamic defensive back capable of doing so much so well. He’s a coveted talent, but I feel like a quarterback run and early inside linebacker selections will send Fitzpatrick tumbling to the 10th pick. The Raiders will snatch him up without hesitation, led by former Alabama secondary coach Derrick Ansley, who now occupies that position with the Raiders. Fitzpatrick can do so many things well, and could shore up several problem spots for this Raiders defense.

Second round (No. 41): DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
-- There was some talk of Hurst sliding way down the NFL draft due to a heart condition that got him sent home from the combine. He was cleared to perform at his pro day, but health questions keep popping up. I haven’t seen his medical chart and couldn’t understand it if I did (not a doctor), but let’s assume the Raiders think he’s okay to play. If that’s the case, Hurst’s a near-perfect fit, and it’s maybe too much of a risk to wait and see if he lasts until in the third round. The Raiders desperately need an interior pass rusher, and Hurst’s the best in this draft. His slide stops here.

Third round (No. 75): WR Dante Pettis, Washington
-- Jon Gruden loves precise route runners. Pettis is an excellent one, who can operate outside or in the slot. He has sure hands, is reliable and has a strong work ethic. Gruden likes thost traits, too. Good fit for this new offense.

Fourth round (No. 110): EDGE Kemoko Turay, Rutgers
-- The Raiders need depth rushing off the edge behind Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. He has solid size (6-3, 258), explosiveness and sure tackling ability. He needs some technical seasoning and more moves in the arsenal, but could spell the top guys right away and take over for Irvin in the long run.

Fifth round (No. 159): CB Parry Nickerson, Tulane
-- The Raiders are looking for a steady slot cornerback. Nickerson could compete to fill that role now or in time. He might be gone by this point in the draft – Nickerson has a 4-6 round projection -- but they should pounce if he’s available. He’s more physical than you’d think for someone his size and never quits on a play. Nickerson visited the Raiders during the pre-draft process.

Fifth round (No. 173): ILB/SLB Tegray Scales, Indiana
-- Fans certainly wanted linebacker help before the fifth round – where GM Reggie McKenzie typically takes his linebackers -- but this mock draft didn’t fall that way. Scales is a quick player and sure tackler with coverage ability. He has strong leadership, and could play on the strongside, another spot where the Raiders need help. He should step right in and help on special teams as well.

Sixth round (No. 185) P JK Scott, Alabama
-- The Raiders didn’t let Marquette King walk without a plan to replace him. They worked out several punters in this draft, and snag an excellent one here. Scott is used to the big stage. He’ll be able to step in and produce right away. They might be pushing their luck waiting this long. A trade up could be in order to secure the draft’s second-best punter.

Sixth round (No. 212) RB Justin Jackson, Northwestern
The Raiders add another running back to the mix, an extremely productive one at that. Jackson was durable despite taking so many carries for the Wildcats, thanks in part to his elusiveness. He’s a solid receiver out of the backfield and could be an asset running behind a effective offensive line.

Sixth round (No. 216) DT R.J. McIntosh, Miami
The former Hurricane was given to the Raiders in an NFL.com mock draft, and he seems to be a good fit in Oakland. McInthosh is a versatile defensive lineman who can be a productive interior rusher if he continues to develop. He could be a rotational piece behind Hurst, Mario Edwards and Treyvon Hester if he earns such a role. He could also spend a year on the practice squad if he’s not ready.

Sixth round (No. 217) DL/OG Kahlil McKenzie, Tennessee
-- Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie wasn’t against drafting his son when asked about the prospect. Kahlil McKenzie has all the physical tools to be a productive pro, and nobody knows that better than his dad. He could fit in on defense or on the offensive interior, a place he worked out at during the pre-draft process.

Seventh round (No. 228) TE Jordan Thomas, Mississippi St.
-- Thomas is a lump of clay at this stage, someone with great athleticism and size at 6-4, 265 pounds. He has the tools to succeed as a pro, but analysts say there isn’t much tape to back it up. If he can be taught well and developed into a proper football player, the former basketball player could become a productive NFL receiving tight end. He’s worth a flier in the seventh, maybe a bit earlier than that.