Raiders

Jon Gruden, Gareon Conley give Trayvon Mullen advice before first start

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AP

Jon Gruden, Gareon Conley give Trayvon Mullen advice before first start

ALAMEDA – Jon Gruden approached Trayvon Mullen this week in the Raiders training complex to deliver the rookie cornerback one simple message.

It’s your time.

The Raiders had just traded outside cornerback Gareon Conley to the Houston Texans for a 2020 third-round draft pick, leaving a vacancy in the starting lineup. Mullen gets the first shot to fill it. If the No. 40 overall draft pick does well, he could be there for years to come.

It’s his time.

“This means a lot,” Mullen said. “I’m going to prove to them that they can trust and believe in me, and that I’m going to make the plays that come to me.”

Ironically, that’s the same message Conley gave his friend and protégé on his way to Houston.

Conley said it’s time to step up, time to shine.

That’s why Mullen called the opportunity “bittersweet.” He’s getting a great chance to launch his NFL career, but losing a friend and mentor who, oddly enough, he’ll see on the opposite sideline Sunday when the Raiders face the Texans at NRG Stadium.

“That was a good feeling knowing I have an opportunity, but it’s tough losing a guy I could depend on in Gareon, someone who was helping me grow and get better,” Mullen said. “I have to put that aside and start making plays and help this team.”

Mullen hasn’t had many opportunities thus far. He played heavier snaps in the first two weeks and got beat in key moments but hasn’t played much defense since.

“He has been in every game and he’s played better,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s prepared himself, I think better. He’s healthy now. Remember he was hurt in training camp for a while, but I’m not going to make any predictions. We’ll get what we deserve at every position, including corner. I know he’s going to be tested and I’m anxious to see him compete.”

Mullen will get targeted a ton by fellow Clemson product and Houston quarterback DeShaun Watson, possibly while covering another Clemson product DeAndre Hopkins. Those elite talents are hard to handle, and Mullen might take some lumps early, but teammates like how he keeps getting up to compete.

“Trayvon is ultra-competitive,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “With a lot of corners, if they get beat in a practice, they get super mad and then they’re grabby, he just kind of stays even keeled but at an ultra-competitive level if that makes sense. Proven over time he’s not afraid to stick his face in there and hit somebody. He did it a lot in college and he’s done it for us in the short time that we’ve seen him be able to stick his head in there, he has no problem with the contact, which is a lost art these days at that position, and he has no problem doing it.

“He reminds me of just an old school, grimy, tough kind of corner. I think he’s…he’s a rookie so he’s going to have his plays where he wants them back, but at the end of the day I think he can be a really good player.”

Mullen has worked hard on his technique, on getting low and staying low, he says, and getting on the same page with fellow defensive backs.

[RELATED: Williams progressing well ahead of Texans game]

Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow has worked extensively against Mullen during their college days and shared some insight on how the cornerback will treat this starting chance.

“As I see it, Trayvon feels out his way and, when it’s his time, he goes and attacks it,” Renfrow said. “That’s what I think he’s going to do. That’s what I expect him to do. He’s a great player, and he’s reliable. That’s the most important thing. He’s going to be where he needs to be, and he’s going to go out and make plays.”

Source: Jordan Devey returning to Raiders, joining crowded guard group

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USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES

Source: Jordan Devey returning to Raiders, joining crowded guard group

The Raiders have tons of depth on the interior. So much, in fact, that there’ll be a dogfight for roster spots this summer.

A crowded field grew again Thursday morning, when the Raiders re-signed veteran Jordan Devey to a contract. A league source confirmed that news, first reported by NFL Network.

The reserve guard, who can also play center, started four games last season before landing on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle.

Devey had a strong to the year before going down for good, so there was certainly good reason for the Raiders to bring him back.

Richie Incognito and Gabe Jackson are set to start at guard, with Devey, Andre James, Denzelle Good, Lester Cotton and new signing Eric Kush battling for jobs as reserves.

Devey and James can both play center and back up Rodney Hudson.

This will be a position to watch during the preseason, with the Raiders possibly cutting a good player or two before the regular season. Jackson’s name has been tossed about in trade rumors, though the Raiders would like to keep him and make their line as strong as possible.

Devey played three years in Kansas City and one with the 49ers and New England Patriots before joining the Silver and Black.

Raiders' Derek Carr, Zay Jones building chemistry during offseason work

Raiders' Derek Carr, Zay Jones building chemistry during offseason work

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr didn’t link up much with Zay Jones after the receiver was acquired in a midseason trade. The former Buffalo Bill took some time to get situated, but he didn’t receive a ton of targets even after receiving tons of snaps.

Jones only had 20 catches on 27 targets in 10 games as a Raider despite averaging 46 offensive snaps per game. Those numbers suggest a lack of chemistry between an established quarterback and a receiver new on the Raiders scene.

The pair are working on that now, during downtime in the NFL calendar and when large gatherings are prohibited due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even if these were normal circumstances, players can't work together at training facilities during a dead period prior to the start of offseason programs. OTAs and team-organized strength and conditioning work could be canceled altogether as people in most states are encouraged to shelter in place. 

Carr and Jones have worked together often in recent days in the Las Vegas area. The videos posted on Carr’s Instagram page suggest they’re building chemistry and trust that could be applied to training camp and the regular season.

Carr has been adding Instagram stories of the two prepping for workouts over the past few days but posted several longer videos Thursday showing the two connecting well.

Jones is a smooth route runner with solid potential but he will have to compete for playing time in 2020 and might have to battle for a spot on the depth chart.

[RELATED: Why Kwiatkoski felt Raiders were 'best fit' in free agency]

Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow are locks, with free agent signing Nelson Agholor in the mix as well. The Raiders are expected to add a receiver in the NFL draft’s first round and possibly another later in the selection process. Keelan Doss and Marcell Ateman also will be in the mix as the Raiders try to improve a receiver corps that wasn’t good enough last season.

The Raiders acquired Jones on Oct. 8, 2019, for a 2021 fifth-round pick.