Isaiah Johnson should help Raiders' special teams now, defense later

Isaiah Johnson should help Raiders' special teams now, defense later

Isaiah Johnson doesn’t have much experience playing cornerback. The former receiver converted relatively late in his college career, switching to defense before his junior season. Athleticism and instincts helped him transition quickly and perform well, but he is still learning the position’s nuances with each experience in the secondary. The Raiders see great potential in this cornerback prospect, which is why they nabbed him despite already having a cornerback in the draft class.

Let’s analyze what to expect from this talented prospect during his rookie season:

Isaiah Johnson

Draft slot: No. 129 overall (Fourth round)
Position: Cornerback
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 208 pounds
School: Houston

Skill set

Johnson has ideal size and length to play cornerback in the Raiders' system. He’s a big guy with long arms, and has the speed required to keep up with receivers downfield. He proved instinctive with his ball skills, compiling four interceptions and 13 pass breakups during his two seasons at cornerback.

Johnson also comes armed with a receiver’s mentality after playing offense for so long, meaning he understands route concepts and anticipates where his man will go in the pattern. That also helps him defend what’s coming, though there’s still a lack of consistency playing the position that must be erased. He also must continue to refine his technique, which remains relatively raw and can get him in trouble at times.

Training camp proving ground

Johnson remains a work in progress, a point made clear during offseason program work. He got beat decisively a few times during sessions open to the press, though Raiders receivers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams can perplex even the most established of cornerbacks. Coaches will work closely with him as he develops as a cornerback while facing NFL competition. That could set up a tough stretch, but he could get better fast if he applies the teaching well and leans on his great athleticism.

Best-case scenario

Johnson progresses quickly, his talent proves too valuable to ignore and he leapfrogs several to earn a spot in the rotation. It’s unrealistic to expect him to start as a rookie, especially with Gareon Conley a lock for one cornerback position and Daryl Worley in line for the other outside slot. Nevin Lawson and second-rounder Trayvon Mullen also have a better shot, but there’s nothing to prevent a rapid rise if he puts it all together quickly. He could end up being the first or second reserve off the bench at outside cornerback if things go well.

Johnson’s also a real asset on special teams. He was an excellent gunner in punt coverage, a spot where the Raiders need immediate help. Anchoring a gunner spot and adding him to kickoff coverage would really help the kicking game.

Worst-case scenario

Johnson struggles to find footing of any kind in the preseason, gets beat regularly and ends up on the roster bubble with a possible practice squad demotion. That would be a bad beat for both player and team, though it certainly shouldn’t be expected from such an athletic talent.

Johnson needs practice time and consistent field work to improve, and a preseason injury could really cut into that. His regular-season practice reps could dip, so this summer is vital to his long-term growth. Missing those opportunities could slow his development, which the Raiders hope to expedite.

[RELATED: Raiders' best-, worst-case scenarios for rookie Mullen]

Realistic expectations

Pencil Johnson in as an important special teams contributor. That’s the type of immediate impact fair to expect from those drafted in the middle-or-later rounds. He takes pride in special teams work, and should strengthen coverage downfield.

The Raiders have a deep cornerback corps, so Johnson ending up the fourth or fifth cornerback seems likely considering those above him. He’ll continue to work on the mental side of his game, so he’s ready if called upon for regular snaps in a game or more this season.

Former Raiders receiver Brice Butler says he worked out for Oakland


Former Raiders receiver Brice Butler says he worked out for Oakland

Brice Butler is hoping his NFL career comes full circle.

Selected by the Raiders in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Butler spent two seasons in Oakland before they traded him to Dallas.

Now, after bouncing from the Cowboys to the Miami Dolphins, Butler is hoping to make a return to the Raiders.

NFL Network's Jane Slater reported Friday that Butler told her he worked out for the Raiders ahead of their Week 3 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings.

Butler appeared in eight games between the Cowboys and Dolphins last season, and he caught six passes for 60 yards and one touchdown.

In his two seasons with the Raiders, Butler caught 30 passes for 383 yards and two touchdowns.

The Raiders were expecting to have a deep wide receivers group, but they released Antonio Brown on the eve of the regular season. That forced offseason acquisition Tyrell Williams to slide into the No. 1 spot.

And while Williams has produced over the first two games, the rest of the group hasn't. Aside from Williams' 11 receptions and tight end Darren Waller's 13 catches, no other Raiders receiver has more than six (rookie Hunter Renfrow).

Ryan Grant and Dwayne Harris have combined for five receptions.

[RELATED: Brown already receiving interest from teams]

So bringing back a veteran like Butler might not be the worst idea in the world for the Raiders.

But if coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock are already working out free agents, it tells you they are concerned about the group they have.

Raiders featured in eight of NFL's '100 Greatest Plays', including No. 1


Raiders featured in eight of NFL's '100 Greatest Plays', including No. 1

Who doesn’t love an anniversary?

As the NFL celebrates 100 years of existence, the league has released its list of the top 100 plays from its first century.

The Oakland Raiders are involved in eight of the plays on the list, including seven of them that made it into the top 30. 

Most of the Raiders’ appearances in the countdown are positive plays for the team, but several -- including the No. 1 play in NFL history -- might leave some nostalgic fans in a somber mood

You can see each clip below, with the exception of No. 61, featuring Hall of Fame defensive back Willie Brown.

[RELATED: Five Raiders to watch in Week 3: All eyes on Josh Jacobs]

Maybe the 2019 version of the Raiders can be inspired by all of this past success, as they prepare to face off with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3.