NAPA -- Jon Gruden is a brilliant football mind, and he has crafted the 2019 Raiders into his version of what a football team should look like.
Gruden acquired Antonio Brown, and brought in Tyrell Williams, Trent Brown and Lamarcus Joyner. But there's one thing he hasn't been able to do: Get Gareon Conley to take off his hood.
“You know Gareon, he’s more of a day-to-day, to himself kind of guy," Gruden said Tuesday. "I try to get Gareon to take the hood off so I can find out where he is, he’s wearing that hood all the time. He’s a private person for the most part and that’s fine with me. We are just trying to get him to be all he can be for 16 weeks. We want him to be healthy and If he’s out there every day he’s got a chance to be an excellent football player. That’s the big thing right now.”
Conley, who was the Raiders' first-round draft pick in 2017, has dealt with his fair share of injuries early on in his career. But now that he's fully healthy for the first time in his young NFL career, the Ohio State product is slated to be the Raiders' No. 1 cornerback and the leader of the secondary. Drawing the assignment of the opposing team's best receiver is a task the 24-year-old relishes.
“I mean I like all pressure," Conley said. "Any responsibility I take on, I’m going to take it and embrace it. So if anybody wants to go in and put their best receiver up, I’m going to try and go against them and lock them down."
The additions of Brown and Williams have helped Conley and the rest of the Raiders' defensive backfield get better over the course of the offseason. Conley and Brown matched up Tuesday in practice, with Brown getting the best of him on a corner route. Conley has been picking Brown's brain about everything from positioning at the line of scrimmage to when he decides to break in his routes.
Last season, Conley allowed only 54 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed, and quarterbacks notched just a 72.8 passer rating when targeting him. Brown's wealth of knowledge only can help him take his game to the next level.
Despite a solid second year, Conley knows he has a ways to go.
"I feel like I made great strides," Conley said. "But I can always make greater strides and I’m always looking to get better and there’s always money out there left on the field. So I just got to get better every time I can.”
Conley will anchor a secondary that has Joyner, Daryl Worley, rookies Trayvon Mullen and Johnathan Abram and safety Karl Joseph. He's ready for the challenge that comes with being the No. 1 cornerback and the leader in the secondary. But what about taking his hood off for Gruden?
"That probably won't happen," Conley said with a smirk before heading back to the weight room.