Raiders rookie Trayvon Mullen will learn from NFL debut vs. Broncos

Raiders rookie Trayvon Mullen will learn from NFL debut vs. Broncos

ALAMEDA -- Trayvon Mullen has a ton of talent. You don't get selected in the second round of the NFL draft if you can't ball. 

Still, cornerback is one of the positions where there tends to be a learning curve from college -- where quarterbacks rarely test top corners -- to the NFL where those same corners are targeted from the moment they step on the field.

Mullen, who did not allow a touchdown during his collegiate career at Clemson, got a taste of that life Monday when he made his NFL debut during the Raiders' 24-16 win over the Denver Broncos. After Oakland's top cornerback Gareon Conley was carted off the field with a possible neck injury, Mullen was thrust into action, charged with helping the Silver and Black preserve their lead. 

As expected, the Broncos and veteran quarterback Joe Flacco went right at Mullen, who was shadowing Emmanuel Sanders. The young corner was targeted four times, surrendering three catches and a touchdown to the savvy veteran. 

There was nothing for Mullen to hang his head about, though. He was half a step away from picking off a Flacco pass and taking it the other way for a touchdown, and had good coverage on the touchdown catch.

It wasn't a sparkling NFL debut for the talented corner, but Mullen knows he can build off his first real outing.

"For me, it was just, I went out there, played with confidence like always, took a couple shots and some plays I could have took back and did different, but for me, it's a learning experience," Mullen told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday. "I know the type of player I am, how good I am. For me, it's just playing with technique, being physical and playing fast and I'll be alright."

Cornerbacks are expected to play every snap, so Mullen had seen the field sparingly until Conley went out. There were no nerves, though.

"When he went out, I was ready," Mullen said. "I was like, 'I'm up.' Have to always be prepared. Like I said, I lean on my technique and my confidence and my play-making ability, so I was ready."

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Conley returned to practice Wednesday and is expected to play Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs visit the Coliseum, but Mullen will be ready for when his number is called again.

He watched the film of his debut and knows he belongs on the field. The Broncos picked their spots against the rookie and had some success.

The next team won't be as fortunate.

Vontaze Burfict's football IQ critical to Raiders’ defense playing fast

Vontaze Burfict's football IQ critical to Raiders’ defense playing fast

The Raiders set out to get faster on defense. That mission was accomplished in every sense.

That’s true by traditional measures, as the Raiders hope their raw speed can keep up with the track stars Kansas City trots out on offense Sunday afternoons.

It’s also true in terms of reading and diagnosing plays. The Raiders installed a faster multi-core processor this offseason, plugging Vontaze Burfict into a defensive network that now runs at warp speed.

Burfict has mastered Paul Guenther’s scheme and knows exactly how to adjust and re-align to best defend a particular offensive play. Burfict is confident in his reads, efficient and clear when dispensing pre-snap information. Being in the right spot, able to anticipate what’s coming, allowing the defense to play faster.

Burfict as Guenther’s field general has been a storyline since the veteran joined the Raiders in March, and his scheme knowledge assisted returners and newcomers alike during the preseason.

That was clear when operating at game speed. Burfict orchestrated the defense well in a Monday night victory over Denver, making individuals better while helping the defense play as a cohesive unit.

“It was awesome,” defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said. “He knows the system inside and out, so he’s able to make checks pretty quickly. He always seems to know what’s coming and gets us aligned fast, so we can just play ball.”

The Raiders must play mentally and physically fast against Kansas City, armed with speed and an offense that will attack using both latitude and longitude.

“They make you defend every inch of grass,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “Laterally with the jet sweeps, you got to defend them sideline to sideline. They can outrun you, outflank you and vertically they can run right by you over the top.”

There’s a buzz word that describes the key to defending this high-powered attack.

“Eye discipline,” linebacker Nicholas Morrow said. “[Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid] will try to mess with a defense, to shift people around the formation and put you in a bad spot. They will do all types of things to play with your eyes and make you think you’re seeing one thing when it’s something else. You have to trust your preparation and make the right checks.”

That’s where Burfict comes in, and why he’s so key to the Raiders’ defensive effort on Sunday.

“He obviously knows the system, but Vontaze is very intelligent,” Morrow said. “He processes information quickly and is confident in what he’s doing. That’s what you want from somebody in his position.”

Burfict is the defense’s cerebral cortex, but he isn’t just directing troops while watching them work.

He plays with trademark intensity and didn’t step over the line in his Raiders debut. That’s key moving forward, because the Raiders need him on the field to succeed against Kansas City, a team that doesn’t need freebies to score.

“He’s really fun to play with,” Hurst said. “He’s an aggressive player. He’s going to come downhill and hit everything that moves. It’s awesome playing with someone like that.”

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Burfict fought through some knicks in the opener but didn’t miss a practice snap all week. It’s important for him to stay upright and available, because they need his presence and football smarts on all three downs.

“Those of us returning for a second year with Paul [Guenther] feel pretty fluent in the system,” cornerback Daryl Worley said. “But having a leader like Vontaze in complete command is definitely helpful.”

Chiefs-Raiders odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 2 game

Chiefs-Raiders odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 2 game

An undefeated record is on the line.

It may only be Week 2 but after the Raiders and Chiefs earned victories to open the season, both will look to keep the momentum rolling in Oakland on Sunday afternoon.

The Chiefs are favored by a touchdown and likely would get a few additional points if the game were being played at Arrowhead Stadium.

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Caesars: KC -7 (-110)
Consensus: KC -7 (-110)
Westgate: KC -7 (-110)
Wynn: KC -7 (-110)

Here’s how NFL writers around the country see the matchup shaking out:

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN: Chiefs 38, Raiders 30
Adam Teicher, ESPN: Chiefs 37, Raiders 31
Gregg Rosenthal, Chiefs 30, Raiders 26
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk: Chiefs 30, Raiders 17
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk: Chiefs 35, Raiders 21
Tadd Haislop, SportingNews: Chiefs 34, Raiders 20
Greg Patuto, Chiefs 37, Raiders 21