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