Why Raiders' young secondary excites defensive backs coach for 2019


Why Raiders' young secondary excites defensive backs coach for 2019

Derrick Ansley is a grinder, someone who appreciates working with similar personality types. That’s why the Raiders secondary coach is looking forward to molding a group of young defensive backs expected to play major roles next season.

Cornerback Gareon Conley and strong safety Karl Joseph seem set to start next season. Daryl Worley should formally join that crew at outside corner opposite Conley this spring, when he’s expected to re-sign with the Raiders as a restricted free agent.

Nick Nelson’s also in the mix there. So is free safety Erik Harris – he’s technically an exclusive rights free agent set to return -- who finished the season strong often as the last line of defense.

The common thread: All of those guys have three years NFL experience or less.

That’s a solid group to build on in the back.

“All those guys are young, but the most important thing is they have an ear and an eye to get better,” Ansley told NBC Sports Bay Area at the end of the Senior Bowl practice week. "If you have guys who lock in and pay attention to details, that helps them grow.

"Our young defensive backs have ability. The only thing they’re lacking is experience. Some have more that others, but I believe those guys are headed in the right direction.”

It wasn’t clear Joseph was doing that early on. The 2016 first-round pick was buried on the depth chart, as low as the fourth safety through three weeks.

A hamstring injury at Miami ruined his season’s first half, but the West Virginia came on strong once he got healthy and grew within a hybrid role that often had him attacking in the box. Joseph was both aggressive and effective, becoming a defensive tone setter the secondary sorely lacked.

Ansley knows why that happened.

“Football means a lot to Karl,” Ansley said. “He puts a lot of time into his craft and, whether it’s in the meeting room, film room or practice field, he’s always trying to find the next thing needs to get better. If football really matters you work and work and work, things start to turn around. We saw what towards the end of the season with Karl.”

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The Raiders must add to this secondary with cornerback depth and a presumptive starter at free safety. That could come in the draft.

Alabama’s Deionte Thompson is often considered the NFL draft’s best safety, though Delaware’s Nasir Adderley impressed many, including the Raiders, with college tape and a solid Senior Bowl week. Maryland’s Darnell Savage also showed well, with the versatility many teams crave.

Someone coached by the Raiders during Senior Bowl week, including the last two prospects mentioned above, could help complete a secondary that seems to be on the rise if Ansley can continue to develop young talent.

Source: Curtis Riley agrees to contract with Raiders to help secondary

Source: Curtis Riley agrees to contract with Raiders to help secondary

The Raiders continued fleshing out their secondary on Friday agreeing on terms of a contract with safety Curtis Riley, a source said. The former New York Giant visited the team’s Alameda facility on Thursday and left without a deal, but he ended up taking the Raiders offer despite interest from other teams.

Riley hinted at a pact on Twitter, saying he was coming to the Bay Area. He’ll exchange coasts after starting all 16 games at free safety with last year’s Giants. He had 75 tackles, four interceptions and five pass breakups for that squad.

He’ll have an opportunity to play significant snaps in the Raiders secondary. High-priced free-agent signing Lamarcus Joyner is also a free safety but is expected to play slot cornerback regularly in 2019, likely shuttling back and forth between positions.

Riley could step in as the free safety in sub packages that defenses spend significant time in nowadays. Erik Harris will compete for that role opposite strong safety Karl Joseph.

The Raiders have options in the secondary now, with the aforementioned safeties and depth at cornerback. Gareon Conley’s a virtual lock to start at one outside cornerback spot. Daryl Worley’s expected to return on a second-round free-agent tender, through Thursday’s signing Nevin Lawson will compete for time there as well. Last year’s fourth-round pick Nick Nelson will have to fight for time with this new defensive back depth chart.

The Raiders could well draft another defensive back as well, especially if a good one slips and becomes a great value pick.

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News of Riley’s agreement should excite quarterback Derek Carr. Riley’s a fellow Fresno State alum and was teammates with Carr in 2013.

The Raiders also had interest in George Iloka, who played with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther in Cincinnati. Iloka visited the Raiders complex Thursday but left without a deal and scheduled other visits. 

How Jordan Devey signing gives Raiders versatile offensive line depth

How Jordan Devey signing gives Raiders versatile offensive line depth

The Raiders hope Rodney Hudson plays every single offensive snap in 2019. He might be the league’s best center, and is the unquestioned leader along the offensive front.

They need a Plan B, even if they never hope to use it. Jon Feliciano was the primary reserve at guard and center, leaving a void upon signing with the Buffalo Bills.

Jordan Devey will fill it. The former Kansas City Chief signed a one-year contract with the Raiders on Thursday, the team announced, adding depth and versatility to an overhauled front.

Devey spent parts of five NFL seasons with New England, the 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, primarily as a reserve guard. He played more center over the past two seasons, and has some tackle work on his resume. Devey finished last season on injured reserve with a pectoral issue

Offensive line coach Tom Cable prizes versatility, especially with a need on the inside. Second-year pro Brandon Parker is expected to be a swing tackle.

Kolton Miller and Trent Brown will be starting tackles, with Hudson at center. Gabe Jackson and Denzelle Good look like starting guards at this time.

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Devey was clean cut Thursday when signing with the Raiders, but he rocked a pretty serious mullet last season in Kansas City.