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

New Raiders DC explains what attracted him to joining Jon Gruden

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AP

New Raiders DC explains what attracted him to joining Jon Gruden

Paul Guenther and Jay Gruden are great friends. The bond formed in Cincinnati, when both guys were Bengals assistants.

Jay Gruden moved on to Washington, and has been that club’s head coach since 2014. Last year, Jay Gruden tried to bring Guenther with him. The Bengals, however, wouldn’t let Guenther out of his contract.

It expired this month, allowing Jay’s brother Jon Gruden to purchase this hot commodity. The Bengals tried to keep him with a lucrative contract offer, but Guenther’s mind was made. He took the job as Gruden’s defensive coordinator, and the four-year contract that came with it. This is about more than money. Jon Gruden presented a unique opportunity worthy of Guenther moving on after 15 years in Cincinnati.

“I’ve known Jon for a long time,” Guenther said this week in a conference call. “Just the ability to come with him and start something fresh from the ground up really excited me. I’ve been in Cincinnati for a long time. My kids were basically raised there. I know a lot of the players. But to have this opportunity with Jon coming to the Raiders and the brand of the Raiders really attracted me. Overall, just an opportunity to come coach with him, see him do it, see how he runs this organization, this team, would be a great thing for me to learn from.”

The Guenther hire was important. He’ll be installing a new system and will have considerable clout running the defense with Gruden focused on the process of scoring points.

Guenther’s defense was built in Cincinnati, with current Minnesota head coach and former Bengals DC Mike Zimmer also contributing to the scheme. He runs a 4-3 defensive front with single-gap responsibilities. What you’ll see from Minnesota in the NFC championship will look a lot like the Silver and Black scheme next season.

“Structurally they’re very, very similar,” Guenther said. “I would say 80, 90 percent of the defense, the calls, the fronts, the coverages, the terminology is all about the same. I spent a long time with Mike. Really, when he came over from Dallas and Atlanta to Cincinnati, he had the system that was probably 60 percent intact and then we kind of built up to where we are today. Certainly, I have my own little things that I added to the defense as I went along. He’s added things. We’re always talking in the offseason, just because we’re close friends, about the things that he’s doing, things that I’m doing. I would say it’s very similar.”

The Bengals didn’t blltz much under Guenther, especially last season. He isn’t averse to bringing extra guys. He just didn’t need to dial up those plays with the Bengals pressuring the passer without extra help.

“It all depends on how many we can get home with four (pass rushers),” Guenther said. “I think the thing you really have to look at is the amount of pressure you’re getting on a quarterback. If you don’t have to blitz and you can get home with four guys.

“…I love blitzing, I got every blitz in the book up on my board here. We got it all – double A’s, overloads – any blitz you can imagine, we have it. That was what my role was with Mike Zimmer (when he was Bengals DC) coming up with the third-down blitzes. I’m certainly all for it, but I think from a team perspective, and you’ve got to really see how the game is going.”

Guenther inherits a defensive depth chart with some star power, young talent and holes aplenty. The Raiders have some issues at linebacker, safety, defensive tackle and cornerback. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are solid off the edge, but the unit needs a talent infusion. There’s roster flexibility, with high-priced veterans easily cut if Guenther and Gruden so choose.

“I believe there’s a lot of good players here, a lot of good, young players,” he said. “You’ve got to get them out and develop them and get them to understand your system. But I think there’s a lot of good pieces here for a foundation for sure. Obviously, every year, whether you’re the number one defense in the league or the number 32 defense in the league, you’re always looking to add pieces and fill out your lineup card. That’s what we’re going to be working through this spring and through the draft and through free agency as well as developing the young players that we have here. This day and age in the NFL when you draft guys and you think they’re worthy, you have to get them out on the field. You can’t sit on these guys for a couple of years because before you know it, their rookie contracts are over and they’re out the door. I certainly think there’s some good, young prospects here that I’m eager to work with.”

NFL review shows Raiders complied with Rooney Rule

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USATSI

NFL review shows Raiders complied with Rooney Rule

ALAMEDA — The NFL said Friday that the Oakland Raiders complied with the "Rooney Rule" when they hired Jon Gruden as head coach.

The league said a review found the Raiders conducted "bona fide" interviews with minority candidates during their search for a replacement for the fired Jack Del Rio. The "Rooney Rule" requires NFL teams to consider at least one minority candidate before making an offer to a head coaching candidate. The team officially hired Gruden on Jan. 6.

General manager Reggie McKenzie said last week that he fulfilled the Rooney Rule by interviewing two minority candidates. He interviewed former Raiders tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin for the position. 

The Fritz Pollard Alliance called for an investigation last week out of concern that Raiders owner Mark Davis came to an agreement with Gruden before the team interviewed any minority candidates. Raiders owner Mark Davis said during Gruden's introductory press conference that he was leaning towards Gruden after a Christmas meeting in Philadelphia. That timeline suggests Davis made up his mind to hire Gruden well before interviewing Johnson or Martin. 

The Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization dedicated to promoting diversity and equality of job opportunity on the coaching, front office and scouting staffs of NFL teams, believes the Raiders violated the Rooney Rule. 

“We strongly disagree with the NFL’s conclusion that the Raiders did not violate the Rooney Rule,” the Fritz Pollard Alliance said in a statement. “We believe the facts overwhelmingly point in the other direction. In his enthusiasm to hire Jon Gruden, Raiders’ owner Mark Davis failed to fulfill his obligation under the Rule and should step forward and acknowledge he violated the Rule.”

“...The NFL broke ground when it created the Rooney Rule, but it made the wrong call in refusing to penalize Mark Davis in this instance. Davis crossed the line, and we are disappointed in the League’s decision. The Rooney Rule and all of the League’s equal opportunity efforts need to be strengthened. We have called for meetings with the League to ensure that a process like this never happens again.”

NBC Sports Bay Area reporter Scott Bair contributed to this report.