Raiders

Conley, Melvin should lead improved Raiders CB corps

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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.

How Jordan Devey signing gives Raiders versatile offensive line depth

How Jordan Devey signing gives Raiders versatile offensive line depth

The Raiders hope Rodney Hudson plays every single offensive snap in 2019. He might be the league’s best center, and is the unquestioned leader along the offensive front.

They need a Plan B, even if they never hope to use it. Jon Feliciano was the primary reserve at guard and center, leaving a void upon signing with the Buffalo Bills.

Jordan Devey will fill it. The former Kansas City Chief signed a one-year contract with the Raiders on Thursday, the team announced, adding depth and versatility to an overhauled front.

Devey spent parts of five NFL seasons with New England, the 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, primarily as a reserve guard. He played more center over the past two seasons, and has some tackle work on his resume. Devey finished last season on injured reserve with a pectoral issue

Offensive line coach Tom Cable prizes versatility, especially with a need on the inside. Second-year pro Brandon Parker is expected to be a swing tackle.

Kolton Miller and Trent Brown will be starting tackles, with Hudson at center. Gabe Jackson and Denzelle Good look like starting guards at this time.

[RELATED: Raiders GM Mike Mayock explains the value of important pro day tour]

Devey was clean cut Thursday when signing with the Raiders, but he rocked a pretty serious mullet last season in Kansas City.

Raiders GM Mike Mayock explains the value of important pro day tour

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USATSI

Raiders GM Mike Mayock explains the value of important pro day tour

General manager Mike Mayock and his traveling Raiders band are on a college pro day tour.

They were at Alabama on Tuesday, Ohio State on Wednesday and will be at Kentucky on Friday, connecting with elite NFL draft prospects worthy of the Silver and Black’s No. 4 overall selection. Coaches and scouts have shuffled in and out, which the GM personally visits prestigious schools important to this year’s Raiders draft.

Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, Ohio State’s Nick Bosa and Dwayne Haskins, and Kentucky’s Josh Allen are the main attractions, but the Raiders are keeping a close eye on everyone at these big-name schools.

The Raiders have watched game film on all of them and evaluated NFL combine workouts. They have met with several and done homework on those under consideration. Mayock’s pouring over tape day and night preparing for his first NFL draft as an NFL general manager.

They know these prospects well, but Mayock still sees advantages in going to pro days himself.

“I think it’s a couple different things,” Mayock said Wednesday in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco. “When you’re in person you get a better feel. You can watch all the tape in the world, which we do, but when you’re here in person you sometimes get a better feel for their movement ability. You get a better understanding for how they interact with each other, with the coaches. I’m big on collecting information.”

Mayock didn’t see Williams or Bosa do any on-field work. Both guys stood behind excellent combine stats and bowed out of pro-day drills. According to Maiocco, Allen will follow suit and sit out during drills at Kentucky's pro day Friday. 

“We’re seeing more and more of the top 10 or top 20 guys who are electing not to work out,” Mayock said. “To be honest with you, if you have a couple years of tape and a full combine workout, we ought to be able to evaluate him.”

The Raiders will conduct a private workout with Williams so defensive coordinator Paul Guenther can see him up close. Such an exercise will happen with other prospects the Raiders are considering throughout the draft, especially with their four valuable selections in the top 35 overall.

The Raiders were still able to check in with Bosa, believed to sit high or on top of their draft board. Kentucky’s up next, where the Raiders will keep an eye on several prospects including a host of defensive backs. Allen will be a focus despite not doing anything at Wildcats pro day. He has done enough already. That includes a decision to return for his senior season, which Mayock believes paid big dividends.

He has moved near the top of most draft boards following a season where he had 88 tackles, including 21.5 for a loss, 17 sacks, and five forced fumbles.

[RELATED: NFL insiders believe Raiders could be most improved in 2019]

“He’s a talented edge rusher,” Mayock said. “I think most of the league’s very aware of him. He put some weight on this year and carries it well. I think he’s kind of a testament to coming back to school as a senior. I think he enhanced his draft status immeasurably coming back bigger, stronger faster and having the kind of year he had.”