Raiders

Conley, Melvin should lead improved Raiders CB corps

conley-melvin.jpg
USATSI/AP

Conley, Melvin should lead improved Raiders CB corps

Raiders defensive backs engaged in an interception drill during some of the offseason program’s on-field work, and the volley aimed at Gareon Conley sailed pretty high.

Last year’s first-round pick jumped up and caught it at full stretch, an action captured by a Raiders team photographer and posted on social media.

That sight, and head coach Jon Gruden’s statement that Conley’s ever-so-close to full clearance following shin surgery allowed Raider Nation to dream about the Ohio State product featuring prominently in the Silver and Black secondary.

That didn’t happen much last year, when a shin injury suffered during the 2017 minicamp stole most of Conley’s rookie season.

Conley’s a natural cover man, and Raiders brass believes he can be a standout member of a revamped cornerback corps.

They’ve overhauled the position group before, several times in fact. Results have been lackluster.

There’s a real chance for better this season. On paper, anyway.

We haven’t seen much of the 2018 Raiders this offseason, save stretching and individual drills on two occasions. We don’t have much to go on during this quiet time in the NFL calendar, but the talent’s there.

This position group should look much different in 2018, with a chance to show far better results.

Conley should be a feature member of the cornerback corps, and still might not be the No. 1 guy. Rashaan Melvin should take that mantle, and is comfortable covering top receivers.

The 28-year old is coming off a career year, and will be supremely motivated playing on a one-year, prove-it deal. Opposing passers had a 60.3 quarterback rating a paltry 52.3 completion percentage when targeting Melvin’s man.

Those numbers would offer a vast upgrade over last year’s cornerback corps, which featured Sean Smith, TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald and an oft-injured David Amerson.

Unlike last year, the Raiders have some injury insurance. Daryl Worley will provide help, maybe more than that, in his first season in silver and black. The 23-year old has started 25 games in two professional seasons, with a career 94.8 passer rating against him.

Off-field concerns make him a wild card. He was arrested on suspicion of DUI and for resisting arrest, which got him released by Philadelphia. The NFL could impose a suspension for the incident, which is still working through the legal process.

The combination of Conley, Melvin and Worley is an on-paper upgrade over the Raiders’ 2017 crew.

“We think Rashaan Melvin can be a really good player,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said on April 24. “We think Conley can be a really good player if healthy. We have a lot of competition right now behind him, and usually that breeds success.”

The Raiders added another corner in fourth-round pick Nick Nelson, a Wisconsin product recovering from meniscus surgery. He should be ready by training camp, and could help fill a void in the slot created by TJ Carrie’s departure.

Gruden wanted Carrie back, but Cleveland lured him away with significant funds. None of the three main cornerbacks have played much in the slot – Conley can play anywhere – but safety Marcus Gilchrist has the versatility and prowess to play there.

Veteran Leon Hall has experience there and in coordinator Paul Guenther’s scheme, from their time together in Cincinnati.

Nelson can play inside and out, meaning competition for slot options snaps should be stiff.

If Melvin reprises last year’s form and a healthy Conley can realize potential, the Raiders cornerback corps could be much better in 2018.

Arden Key signs, entire Raiders 2018 draft class now under contract

keyardenraiderspractice.jpg
AP

Arden Key signs, entire Raiders 2018 draft class now under contract

The Raiders drafted nine players back in April. Now they’re all under contract.

Third-round edge rusher Arden Key was the last to ink his rookie deal, putting pen to paper on a four-year rookie deal Friday morning.

Key will make an estimated $3.57 million over the league of the deal with a $834k signing bonus, per athletic salary site spotrac.com.

The current collective bargaining agreement and its rookie wage scale makes signing draft picks far easier, with little wiggle room to negotiate deals.

The Raiders locked up their last rookie the day after the offseason program’s conclusion. NFL teams largely go quiet during this time, until training camps begin in late July.

The Raiders are excited about Key’s potential. The LSU product believes he’s a first-round talent who dropped due to off-field concerns and a drop in his 2017 production over the previous year.

Key has flashed great athleticism, quickness and bend. He could make an immediate impact as a third edge rusher behind Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.

“Arden Key,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said, “has got some special pass-rush ability.”

Reports: Raiders WR Martavis Bryant's standing with NFL in question

Reports: Raiders WR Martavis Bryant's standing with NFL in question

The Raiders gave up significant draft capital to acquire receiver Martavis Bryant. The trade cost a third-round pick, something the Silver and Black were willing to sacrifice for a game-breaking talent missing from their arsenal.

They might've traded for a player who will be unavailable. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported Thursday night that the Raiders are concerned the NFL will discipline Bryant. The report also states discipline is believed to stem from poor standing with the substance abuse policy.

That would be news to Bryant. As of late Friday morning, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area, the NFL had not notified Bryant about issues with his standing with the league.

An NFL spokesman declined comment when asked if the league was considering discipline for Bryant.

Bryant violated the NFL substance abuse policy multiple times while playing in Pittsburgh. The Clemson product has been suspended twice over failed drug tests, and missed the entire 2016 season as a repeat offender of the substance abuse policy.

He was conditionally reinstated prior to the 2017 campaign. The receiver must now follow stringent guidelines, including tests and meetings, to remain compliant with the substance abuse policy. In short, more than a failed drug test can get a player in some trouble.

The NFL Network reports the league has identified an issue with Bryant, but that it is not clear if it will result in a delay in his availability – he was held out for the start of training camp last year with Pittsburgh – if the issue can be simply remedied clerically or if it will result in a suspension. NFL Network also reports Bryant met with the league at its New York office in late April, and was in good standing at that time.

Bryant did not participate in Thursday’s Raiders minicamp practice, the last session of their offseason program.

Bryant has not spoken to the press since April 27, when he said the Raiders trade offered a “clean slate” he planned to maximize.

“I’ve had my difficulties in my past, but I’ve come a long way from that,” Bryant said. “It’s all about keeping the right resources around me and continuing to stay on the right path. I’m going to make sure I get that done.”

Bryant has one season left on his contract, originally signed with Pittsburgh. He has looked good in practices open to the press, flashing great speed and an ability to use his 6-foot, 5-inch frame well.