NAPA – Antonio Brown was as dynamic as ever in the Raiders' padded practice Tuesday, regularly zooming by defenders while making big plays.
Cornerback Trayvon Mullen was one of Brown’s victims. The second-round draft pick got beat soundly for a touchdown, but didn’t get too down. He got beat by one of the NFL’s best wide receivers, and wanted to use it as a learning experience.
Brown made it a coachable moment. He advised Mullen after the rep on how to do better the next time, a common occurrence for someone he has chosen to mentor.
“Quite frankly, he’s getting me better,” Mullen said. “I’m going against the best and each rep I know he’s going to bring his best. So it’s going to do nothing but get me better. Him catching a ball on me, to me breaking up a ball, we’re both going to get each other better at the end of the day.”
While it didn’t come against Brown, Mullen showed improvement on a deep shot intended for J.J. Nelson, and the Clemson product showed great closing speed to break the pass up.
Mullen isn’t the only defensive back excited to face Brown on a daily basis. He practices at a different level than most, finding game speed on every active rep. Gareon Conley and Keisean Nixon also learned that covering Brown is difficult, though Lamarcus Joyner prevented a deep volley to Brown later in drills.
Conley matched up with Brown several times Tuesday with the team’s top cornerback facing its best receiver. Those reps are vital for Brown and Conley. The Raiders hope the latter can become a true lockdown cornerback, capable of competing with the NFL’s best.
“He was brought here because he is a great receiver,” Conley said. “Every time I get a chance to go I’m going to try to go against him and always ask him questions about when he breaks, what he’s doing at the line, down the field, how he plays against (cornerbacks). It’s going to make me better.”
While Brown vs. Conley was regular on Tuesday, head coach Jon Gruden said matchups will vary based upon the day. The goal is for each cornerback to get work against different types of receivers and deal with the dynamics of playing the same guy over and over like they would in a game.
“We are going to try to isolate matchups every day. Sometimes you’ll come out here and see Conley with Antonio, Conley with Tyrell [Williams], Conley with [Hunter] Renfrow, whoever,” Gruden said. “We are trying to see certain matchups and I think the competition has really helped everybody get better.”
The Raiders secondary will see Brown regularly soon.
The Silver and Black are keeping whatever ails him quiet, but one thing was plain Tuesday morning: There was no hitch in his giddy-up.
Brown spent a few days on the non-football injury list with an undisclosed injury, came off it during a Sunday practice cameo and returned to full-speed work in this training camp’s second padded practice.
He was active for most of the session, but skipped out prior to team drills. Brown went into the locker room, ditched his pads and was back before long playing with his kids.
While full practice work will come in time, each day Brown shows how dominant he can be even with somewhat limited action. Each rep also doubles as a master class in how cornerbacks should cover top receivers.
All of the Raiders defensive backs see value in going up against Brown, but Mullen has done so more than most. He and Brown worked out together several times this offseason, and have bonded quickly over growing up in similar areas of South Florida.
“I mean, it’s something that we always did in the offseason was working out with each other getting it in,” Mullen said. “Getting to train with him is awesome. One of the best, so he’s preparing me for other guys that we got to go against in the league.”