Gareon Conley

Raiders' leaky defense has no answers for Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Raiders' leaky defense has no answers for Aaron Rodgers, Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers might be the most talented quarterback of all time. Green Bay’s signal caller certainly is in the conversation, a first-ballot hall-of-famer capable of making any throw at any speed.

He’s most always awesome, but rarely better than he was Sunday in a 42-21 victory over the Raiders, who could not slow him down despite their best efforts. Rodgers finished the day completing 25-of-31 passes for 429 yards, five touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. He also ran for another score.

“He’s one of the best of all time,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “He made a couple of great audibles. He made a couple of great throws. He’s tough as hell, man. We hit him a few times and it didn’t bother him one bit. He did a great job, but we have to play better defensively. There’s no excuse giving up big plays like that.”

The Raiders gave up a ton. Nine, in fact, went for 21 yards or more. Three of them were touchdowns. Talk about explosive. 

Gruden’s right. That’s inexcusable.

Defensive linemen will say they didn’t get enough pressure up front. They hit Rodgers hard a few times, but Rodgers largely had time to slice and dice the secondary. The defensive backs say they have to cover better, communicate better and focus better.

They weren’t interested in a simple tip of the cap to someone who’ll one day wear a gold jacket. They looked inward and believe deep down they should’ve done better.

“He’s a great quarterback and was able to will his team to a win,” safety Karl Joseph said. “He’s so smart. He’s quickly able to see what defense you’re in. He can read your cards and make the smart decisions. He can run and create and buy time and can make all the throws.

“He is a great quarterback and runs a great team, but I think we beat ourselves today.”

Most every cornerback was victimized at one point, but Gareon Conley had a particularly frustrating day defending the run and pass. Without watching tape it was tough to pinpoint exactly what went wrong allowing so many big plays.

“It was a combination of things,” Joseph said. “We just have to play better overall as a unit.”

The Raiders were upset by the result but promised to be resilient and grow from this defeat. They’ll have to do so quickly with DeShaun Watson and the Houston Texans coming up next week.

[RELATED: Rodgers had historic day in dismantling Raiders' defense]

“It’s frustrating because we know we have talent in the secondary and the front seven,” safety Erik Harris said. “We just have to eliminate explosive plays and have better eyes on our man. The biggest disappointment is that we did things that were uncharacteristic. Whenever you lose a game like this you have to examine why did that and why we were playing like we know we can.

"Everybody’s positive in the locker room. We’re going to learn, improve and do better next week.”

Why Raiders should trade for Jalen Ramsey, who wants to play in Las Vegas

Why Raiders should trade for Jalen Ramsey, who wants to play in Las Vegas

Let's get the obvious out of the way: Jalen Ramsey is the best cornerback in the NFL. Full stop.

The 24-year-old has shown he has the talent to go up against the best receivers in the game and come out on top. He has been a key component of a Jaguars' defense that has been one of the best in the NFL over the past two seasons.

And now he reportedly has requested a trade, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Friction between Ramsey and the Jags has been brewing for quite some time, and it appeared to boil over Sunday when he got into a sideline argument with head coach Doug Marrone.

Now, there's no telling whether or not Ramsey will get his way, but he's already told us where he would want to play if given the choice: the Raiders or the Titans. 

Ramsey is from Nashville, so playing in front of his hometown team would make sense, but would the Raiders be interested? Better yet, should they be?

Short answer: Yes and yes.

Following the Antonio Brown saga that ended with the Raiders releasing the receiver before he ever played a snap in Oakland, head coach Jon Gruden might want to avoid players prone to drama. Make no mistake, Ramsey, while brash and confident, is not Antonio Brown, and to suggest so because he has requested a trade is irresponsible. Now, that isn't to say Ramsey is without headache, and it's fair to wonder if general manager Mike Mayock and Gruden would want to go down that road again. Would Gruden even want to handle the quote-unquote volatile superstar, which Ramsey has, either fairly or unfairly, been labeled?

But the bottom line is simple: Talent talks.

Gruden should see an opportunity to collect talent and take his secondary from mediocre at best to almost elite. The easiest way to accelerate a rebuild is to acquire top-tier talent.

The Raiders already boast talented young corners Gareon Conley and Trayvon Mullen, along with veteran slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. Cornerback Daryl Worley will be a free agent after this season, and Conley still is on his rookie contract, which could go through 2021 if the Raiders exercise his fifth-year option.

Acquiring Ramsey would allow the Raiders to move Conely to the No. 2 corner position and give Mullen time to become the star his talent suggests he is. Once the Clemson product is fully actualized, the Raiders could have one of the most elite secondaries in recent memory. The Raiders did use two high draft picks on Mullen and Conley, and they might not want to relegate Mullen to the No. 3 corner for the near future, but it's a problem only teams stocked with talent have to worry about. It's a good problem to have.

Now, there's the issue of what it would take to acquire Ramsey and the cost to keep him in silver and black once his contract is up. The Jaguars reportedly are looking for a first-round draft pick. The Raiders have two in next year's draft thanks to the Khalil Mack trade, and swapping the lower of the two would be well worth the cost of acquiring a 24-year-old All-Pro cornerback.

Once Ramsey's contract is up, he's made it clear he won't take a discount. He wants to get paid. As he should. By virtue of voiding Brown's guaranteed money and ejecting him to Foxboro, the Raiders saved $30 million and have the capital to make Ramsey a Raider long term. It seems like a perfect match.

Maybe you aren't sold on Ramsey or you think the price is too high. So, let's look at the numbers.

The Chiefs are the team the Raiders are trying to catch in the AFC West, and as seen Sunday in KC's 28-10 win, they have a ways to go. The Chiefs also didn't have elite speedster Tyreek Hill and still torched the Raiders. If the Raiders are going to be seeing Hill two times a year for the foreseeable future, they should want to acquire a guy who has been able to bottle up the Chiefs' dynamic weapon. 

During last season's Jags-Chiefs game, Hill went up against Ramsey on 18 snaps. Of those 18 snaps, Hill was targeted just five times and caught two balls for 47 yards. When the two matched up in Week 1 this season, Hill caught two passes for 16 yards against Ramsey before leaving with an injury. 

Ramsey currently faces Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins two times a season and it's been a battle since Ramsey came into the league. Coming into Sunday's matchup. Hopkins had caught 18 passes on 32 targets in his career against Ramsey, averaging 8.6 yards per target and scoring twice since 2017. But Sunday, Ramsey allowed Hopkins to tally just 27 yards on seven targets in the Texans' 14-13 win.

Ramsey also has battled Brown, now with the Patriots, during his career. When facing the dynamic receiver, Ramsey has allowed him to catch nine passes on 13 targets for 155 yards. But he hasn't allowed a touchdown and has picked off two passes intended for Brown. Elite receivers are going to get their Ws, but Ramsey has played the best of the best tougher than anyone.

The AFC is full of talented receivers, and while Conley is good, Ramsey is the best cover guy in the NFL bar none and he's still just 24.

[RELATED: Mullen will learn from NFL debut vs. Broncos]

Mayock and Gruden made it their mission in the offseason to get younger, faster and more talented. Ramsey checks all those boxes and he gives you an elite player at one of the most important positions in football.

If the Jags ask for the Bears' first-round draft pick, Gruden should fly the rights to the selection to Jacksonville himself and bring Ramsey back with him.

Draft picks are exciting because they are based in the unknown. In what they could turn in to.

We know what Ramsey is: The best at his position. And he wants to play in Las Vegas.

Case closed.

Should Raiders trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick after Johnathan Abram injury?

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USATSI

Should Raiders trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick after Johnathan Abram injury?

Losing Johnathan Abram was a massive blow to the Raiders' defense.

The 27th overall draft pick was one of the talks of training camp, and his speed, physicality and energy were on full display in the Raiders' Week 1 win over the Denver Broncos. But the Mississippi State product tore his rotator cuff during the first quarter, and he underwent surgery earlier this week, effectively ending his rookie season after just four quarters.

WIth Abram on the shelf for the season, the Raiders will rely on veterans Erik Harris and Curtis Riley to fill the void left by the talented rookie. But is there another option? One might have presented itself in the form of the sinking ship known as the Miami Dolphins.

As the Dolphins embark on one of the most obvious tank jobs in recent memory, second-year slot corner/safety Minkah Fitzpatrick reportedly has been given permission to seek a trade.

The versatile safety was brilliant in his rookie season, totaling 80 combined tackles, nine passes defensed, two interceptions and one defensive touchdown. Upwards of 20 teams reportedly have reached out to the Dolphins since word of Fitzpatrick's trade request being granted broke, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora. The Dolphins reportedly would like a future first-round draft pick for Fitzpatrick, per La Canfora, but their ask could change based on the market.

A Fitzpatrick trade could happen as soon as this week, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday, citing sources.

Fitzpatrick is upset with his role in Dolphins coach Brian Flores' scheme, as he prefers to play slot corner/ free safety as opposed to strong safety.

The Raiders, of course, signed Lamarcus Joyner in the offseason, and he now occupies the slot corner role in Paul Guenther's defense. But Fitzpatrick, in theory, could slot into the free safety role with Abram out, and the Raiders could figure out the Joyner/Abram/Fitzpatrick/ Karl Joseph dynamic next season.

A first-round pick is a high price to pay, but Fitzpatrick was a first-round pick a year ago, and he has shown he was worthy of his high selection. The Raiders have two first-round picks in the 2020 draft -- owning the Bears' by virtue of the Khalil Mack trade -- but the Silver and Black probably would prefer not to trade either of those selections. While the Bears had a great 2018 season, they reside in a brutal division, and things could go south.

But if the Dolphins would take a first-round pick down the road or a different package of picks that doesn't include one of the 2020 firsts, the Raiders should jump at the opportunity to acquire someone as talented and versatile as Fitzpatrick.

Adding the 22-year-old would give the Raiders a loaded secondary with Fitzpatrick, Abram, 2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley and 2019 second-round pick Trayvon Mullen. That secondary could develop into one of the NFL's best.

[RELATED: How Burfict uses mind to help Raiders' defense play fast]

Trading for Fitzpatrick will come at a cost, but if it's one the Raiders can stomach, it would end up being a worthwhile coup to grab a guy with Pro-Bowl potential at the age of 22. He can help lessen the blow of losing Abram this season, and then become a staple of the secondary for years to come.