Raiders

'Certain amount of pain' keeping Raiders CB Gareon Conley sidelined

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USATSI

'Certain amount of pain' keeping Raiders CB Gareon Conley sidelined

ALAMEDA – Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley missed his second straight game Sunday against the Ravens. There’s no certainty when this year’s first-round pick will play next.

Conley’s still dealing with a shin injury that has plagued him since June. It caused him to miss training camp, the entire preseason slate and the regular-season opener.

His debut came against the New York Jets. He looked like a first-round pick. The encore occurred the next week in Washington. Conley looked a bit slower.

Head coach Jack Del Rio slowed him down after that, saying he looked sore despite never complaining about the ailing shin. He missed the Denver game and wasn’t ready against Baltimore.

Del Rio isn’t sure when the next appearance will come.

“There’s a certain amount of pain that’s involved that keeps him from doing what he needs to do,” Del Rio said in a Monday press conference. “When he gets it under control and ready to go, we’re going to have him. Until that is under control and he’s able to do what he needs to do, he’s going to be on the sidelines.”

That the shin injury remains an issue is troubling for a Raiders secondary in need of healthy talent.

“I hope that it would be resolved in some time in the near future,” Del Rio said. “It’s an issue we’re doing the best we can to manage.”

Smith getting beat:
Veteran cornerback Sean Smith got beat deep twice against Baltimore. The first one came on the game’s initial play and went for 52 yards. The second salvo came in the second quarter, when Smith got beat for 54 yards.

Del Rio had a different take on each play.

“Well, the very first play, nobody can help him on that one,” Del Rio said. “He’s got a buzz player coming underneath him, he’s got to stay on top. You just can’t start the game that way, but the second one, Reggie [Nelson] should have intercepted that ball. That ball’s thrown inside the numbers told the middle of the field, we have to go make a play on that and give him some help there. Either way, he’s got to be on top, that’s his job to be on top on both of those plays. But, the second one he should have had more help.”

Smith allowed three catches for 114 yards on three targets in Sunday’s game, and could be counted on again next week with David Amerson and Conley uncertain to play the Chargers.

Losing at the line:
The Raiders spent significant funds and draft capital securing dominant offensive and defensive lines. Del Rio believes the Ravens took control at the line of scrimmage. He expects better from those groups and didn’t get it in key moments.

The Raiders gave up three sacks and didn’t notch any, frequently giving Flacco too much time to work. The Raiders also had problems slowing the Baltimore run game, which created issues getting off the field in crucial spots.

“I thought they were a little more physical yesterday, which is unusual,” Del Rio said. “We have really good offensive and defensive lines, but they were more physical than us yesterday. They sacked us. We didn’t sack them. They threw some long balls over the top of us. We didn’t throw any over them. They got a turnover for a touchdown. We didn’t get a touchdown. They got us yesterday.”

How rookie Brandon Parker earned respect of Raiders vets right away

How rookie Brandon Parker earned respect of Raiders vets right away

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have high hopes for Brandon Parker. They used a third-round pick thinking the athletic tackle can be a long-term solution on the offensive line.

The North Carolina product wasn’t thinking about the future this spring. Parker was focused on learning a new system, working with new position coach Tom Cable and endearing himself to new teammates.

That last goal isn’t always easy, especially on the offensive line. Rookies are tested and pushed early regardless of position. Offensive linemen want to see you stand up for yourself and protect your own. That is, after all, their primary job description.

Parker did that on the first day of last week’s minicamp, pushed back against defensive lineman Fadol Brown in an exchange that evolved into a post-rep scuffle.

Coaches didn’t love it. It distracted from practice and a two-minute drill. Brown was penalized and ejected from practice for fighting. The offense got some extra yards by penalty and kicking a field goal.

The linemen, however, were pleased to see Parker refusing to back down.

"Brandon stood up for himself,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “That was really cool to see. You always want to see that, you worry about a guy’s toughness. He’s a tough kid. He’s been playing well. He’s really intelligent. Really smart.”

Veterans test newbies. Parker made a good impression there.

“That’s a positive impression you want to leave,” Parker said. “You want to show the veterans that you’re not afraid of anything, and they you’ll go to battle with them like they’ll go to battle with you. It’s more a matter of gaining respect than proving you’re the toughest guy out there.”

Scuffles don’t improve your standing with coaches. Studying hard, executing well and flashing athleticism certainly does, especially before the pads come on. That was Parker’s primary objective during the offseason program.

“I think I presented well,” Parker said. “I do a good job retaining information. I didn’t really have a whole lot of mistakes. The first couple days are a whirlwind and a faster pace, but after I got used to it and got my feet wet and started to show the veterans what I can really do, they kind of warmed up to me. It has been a smooth adjustment ever since.”

Parker has had hiccups along the way, including a mistake early in the offseason program. He expected Cable to come up and correct what went wrong. Somebody different came his way quickly.

“I looked back and Donald Penn was there and was one of the first to address me,” Parker said. “Having his experience and (veteran Breno Giacomini) on the team and around to give us technical pointers is great.”

Parker and first-round offensive tackle Kolton Miller received significant work during the offseason program, and were praised for their intelligence and athleticism. There’s plenty of development remaining, but the rookies seem to be off to a good start.

“They’re smart kids. They listen,” center Rodney Hudson said. “They’re learning and working and asking questions, which I think is always important for young guys. To ask questions about where they can do better, and both of those guys do that.”

Watching Geno Atkins has Maurice Hurst excited to earn role in Guenther's defense

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AP

Watching Geno Atkins has Maurice Hurst excited to earn role in Guenther's defense

ALAMEDA – Maurice Hurst is familiar with Paul Guenther’s defensive scheme and his role in it. That knowledge didn’t originate from the Raiders offseason program, or sleepless post-draft nights studying the playbook.

Hurst studied it first at the University of Michigan, focusing on one of planet Earth’s best at his position.

“I’ve been watching Geno Atkins since I was in college,” Hurst said Wednesday. “He’s always someone I’ve had my eye on.”

The veteran Cincinnati Bengal is an elite defensive tackle both stopping the run and pressuring quarterbacks as a three technique, working a scheme Guenther coordinated the last four seasons. Hurst shares similar size, traits and explosiveness off the ball, making Atkins a proper athletic role model. He's a good one, with 61 sacks and six Pro Bowls to his credit.

Time watching Hurst was extremely well spent. The Raiders drafted Hurst in the fifth round – a health issue torpedoed this first-round talent’s draft stock – and paired him with Guenther, who came to Alameda this offseason to coordinate Jon Gruden’s defense.

The Raiders certainly hope Hurst can be like Geno in time, because a dominant interior pass rusher is vital to Guenther’s scheme.

“(Atkins is) strong and he’s fast,” Hurst said. “Those traits translate well in the NFL. He’s able to be very disruptive and get after the quarterback. The three technique is the penetrator of our defense. You have to have someone like Geno to make the defense go. That’s a major part of Coach Guenther's scheme, and why he brought in me and (second-round defensive tackle) P.J. Hall. We have Mario (Edwards). We have a good group of guys who can do what he expects us to do.”

Hurst has immersed himself in Guenther’s scheme since joining the Silver and Black. The Michigan man prides himself on scheme study and proper application in practice, but his head start may have helped. Having an inside man didn’t hurt. Fellow Wolverines defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow was drafted by Cincinnati last season and watched film with Hurst during the offseason.

“I had a pretty good idea of what the defense was like and what coach was expecting,” Hurst said, “from watching film with Ryan and talking to him on FaceTime.”

Hurst likes Guenther’s scheme, and his possible role playing three technique – lining up off the guard’s outside shoulder – for the Raiders.

“It definitely gets me amped up,” Hurst said. “The Bengals, their best player was their three technique. That’s the focal point of their defense, and that’s what Coach Guenther is used to getting, and what he has got his whole time in the NFL (with Atkins). He drafted Geno, and it says something for him drafting me and P.J. I think he expects a lot from us and expects us to fill that role he had with the Bengals.”

Hurst and Hall join Edwards as interior linemen with pass-rush ability. It’s unfair to heap expectations on a rookie and the Raiders won’t, but there’s optimism Hurst will make an instant impact.

He can’t make one right now – he hasn’t put pads on as a Raider – but believes he made a solid first impression during the now concluded offseason program.

“I handle those situations pretty well,” Hurst said. “I try to keep my knowledge of the game up, and I’m always on top of my plays. I’m making sure I always stay true to myself and stay true to the game by working hard and putting in a lot of effort. That’s what can set you apart, being reliable.”