Gareon Conley

Gareon Conley's 'heart is broken' over latest injury setback

Gareon Conley's 'heart is broken' over latest injury setback

NAPA – Gareon Conley’s hip strain will keep him out a while.

The Raiders don’t have an exact recovery timetable for last year’s first-round pick, but head coach Jon Gruden said he could be out a couple of weeks.

That might keep him out of the preseason opener versus Detroit, or maybe until training camp breaks the following week. Or maybe beyond that if all doesn’t go right.

Time will tell on that front.

Conley had zero injury history before entering the NFL, but has had a long one since. A shin injury stole most of his rookie year, a groin strain impacted minicamp and now this hip issue from the first full-squad practice is eating away at this training camp.

Gruden wasn’t concerned on the track record.

“I don’t know if concerned is the word. I think disappointed is the right one,” Gruden said after Monday’s training camp practice. “He comes out to start training camp and he’s in superb shape. He makes a play and suffers a setback. Hopefully he comes back sooner rather than later.

“Disappointed is the big word, I think. His heart is broken. He has put a lot into this, and he knows he has to stay healthy to get out there.”

Conley wasn’t available for comment after, but posted this on Instagram Stories Friday evening.

“When it rains it pours, and after it pours, the sun shines brighter,” Conley wrote.

The Raiders need him available in the secondary. The Ohio State product is their most talented cornerback, and could form a solid coverage duo with Rashaan Melvin.

They have to be available for that to happen, and Conley’s had buzzard’s luck in that regard since turning pro.

Raiders camp report: Gareon Conley misses first practice in pads

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AP

Raiders camp report: Gareon Conley misses first practice in pads

NAPA – Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley came into training camp 100 percent ready to go.

Full health didn’t last long.

The 2017 first-round pick suffered a hip strain on Friday in the first full-squad practice that has kept him out the last two days.

That included Sunday’s session, the team’s first training camp practice in pads.

“He has a little hip strain there. It’s unfortunate,” Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “He made a good play on a ball on the one-on-one drill. Just bumped his hip a little bit. He won’t be out for too long. We have a lot of guys working out there at corner, it’s going to be a good battle to see who comes out of it.”

Daryl Worley took Conley’s reps for the second straight day. He fared well covering Jordy Nelson most of the time and should be a solid reserve with significant starting experience.

Conley and Rashaan Melvin will start and play most every snap.

“Gareon is a very talented football player,” Melvin said. “He’s a young guy, a long guy; his skill set is unbelievable, for one. For myself, like you said, high expectations for both of us. I feel like we can be one of the best defensive back groups in the league and that’s what we’re aiming for. That’s our main goal, to come out here every day and practice hard and get better.”

Health is the main key there, especially after Conley missed most all of last season with a shin injury that ultimately required surgery.

The Ohio State product didn’t have an injury history entering the NFL, but dealt with a shin injury in 2017 and a groin strain during June’s mandatory minicamp.

Melvin has also had some injury issues, and missed the final four games last year.

“The start of my career, there were a lot of injuries, banged up in the past three years, three years I’ve been healthy,” Melvin said. “So, just staying the course. Injuries happen in football, it’s a part of the game. You just try to prevent it as much as you can and if they happen, try to recover as fast as you can and get back out there to help the football team out anyway you can.”

Linemen get physical

Offensive and defensive linemen love it when the pads come on. They can really hone their craft in full-contact practices, as pads change their ability to block and create leverage.

Opposing units get together frequently during individual periods, including one-on-one pass rushing drills that are a highlight of any practice.

Entertaining battles were waged, but most were undercards to Bruce Irvin rushing at first-round left tackle Kolton Miller off the edge.

Irvin got him the first time – he reached the quarterback for a simulated hit – and Miller rebounded well the second. They sparred well in reps together, though Miller went up against Arden Key as well.

Irvin, for one, came away impressed by the rookie.

“He’s going to be good. He’s just young,” Irvin said. “He’s a big guy. He’s very athletic. Takes coaching. What else can you ask for in a kid? He’s our first-round pick so he’s coming in with a lot of expectations. He’s doing a great job. We battle every day. I tell him that we’re going to go at it every day because we’re in the AFC-West and he has to go against Von [Miller], Bradley Chubb, those dudes in KC, so we have to get him ready. We need him. He’s going to be a really good player.”

The Raiders first-unit interior line – considered among the best in football – had a strong day. Center Rodney Hudson controlled Justin Ellis, Gabe Jackson largely corralled Maurice Hurst and Kelechi Osemele handled Mario Edwards Jr. well.

RBs banged up

The Raiders are down a few running backs early in camp.

Jalen Richard left Sunday’s practice early with an injury. He suffered a calf strain, a league source said, and it’s uncertain when he’ll be back.

Undrafted rookie Chris Warren was also unavailable for an undisclosed reason. The Raiders have a free roster spot that could go to a rusher should either player be out an extended stretch.

The team doesn’t want to tax Marshawn Lynch or Doug Martin unnecessarily due to injuries down on the depth chart.

Kicker competition stays tight

Giorgio Tavecchio and Eddy Pineiro are alternating practice days in camp, as they battle to he the starting job this season. Pineiro was solid on Saturday, and didn’t miss a kick.

The Raiders tried to ice Tavecchio during Sunday’s work, but he nailed two field goals where significant pressure was applied. He missed one attempt but had a strong day.

This ‘n that

Lynch introduced rookie safety Dallin Leavitt to NFL football late in Sunday’s practice, hitting him with full BeastMode force after bursting through a hole near the goal line. Lynch was able to score on that play. … Third-round offensive tackle Brandon Parker has worked almost exclusively on the right side until Sunday. He practiced on the left side, with David Sharpe faring well on the right. …Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther praised Marquel Lee’s mental acumen running his scheme with the first unit’s base defense. He continues to play over veteran Derrick Johnson in that personnel package. … There weren’t many explosive plays to speak of Sunday, but undrafted rookie Saaed Blacknall made a nice catch on a deep slant. … The Raiders worked on punt returns, with Ryan Switzer, Dwayne Harris, Nick Nelson and Griff Whalen taking reps. Incumbent punt returner Jalen Richard was not involved in the drill.

Raiders camp preview: Gareon Conley the key to new-look secondary

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USATSI

Raiders camp preview: Gareon Conley the key to new-look secondary

Gareon Conley is healthy and ready to start training camp. That’s an upgrade over this time last year, when he dealt with a shin injury that stole most of his season.

That’s why, in many ways, this is Conley’s rookie year. It’s his first real chance to realize vast potential. It’s almost like the Raiders get an extra first-round pick. If he plays well as expected, the Ohio State product will boost an overhauled secondary needing better from its defensive backs.

Conley should pair with free-agent acquisition Rashaan Melvin, who starts at the team’s No. 1 cornerback. There will be a battle to play slot cornerback (see below), with a safety rotation that includes Marcus Gilchrist, Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph. Safeties are interchangeable in Paul Guenther’s defensive scheme, and he’ll play to his personnel’s strengths.

The Raiders signed four free agent cornerbacks, and some of them might not make the team. Head coach Jon Gruden wanted to create competition and options at that key spot, and there will be a battle for backup jobs. Daryl Worley is a talented guy and could push for playing time. Nick Nelson has a chance to make an immediate impact.

Who’s Here

Cornerbacks: Rashaan Melvin, Gareon Conley, Daryl Worley, Nick Nelson, Leon Hall, Shareece Wright, Dexter McDonald, Antonio Hamilton, Tevin Mitchel, Shaquille Richardson; Safeties: Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph, Marcus Gilchrist, Obi Melifonwu, Shalom Luani, Erik Harris, Dallin Leavitt

Best Of The Bunch: Melvin

This distinction could easily go to Conley. He’s the most talented Raiders defensive back, but has to prove himself at this level. Due to injuries, he hasn’t done that yet.

Melvin, however, took on No. 1 receivers all last year and won more often than not. He was a wet blanket in 2017, with a 60.3 passer rating and 52 completion percentage against him.

Melvin’s free-agent market was lackluster, so he signed a one-year deal in Oakland. That makes this a prove-it year, and Melvin’s highly motivate to put a great foot forward.

Top Camp Battle: Hall vs. Nelson vs. Worley

The outside cornerbacks seem set. The slot man, however, remains an open competition. Secondary coach Derrick Ansley has options. Hall has been around a few blocks, with extensive experience playing inside.

Worley is just 23 and has real talent, but hasn’t played inside much. If he’s the third-best cover man, it’s possible Conley could slide inside when required and Worley could take his spot. We haven’t seen that much since Gruden’s hire, but Conley feels comfortable inside and could be a factor there.

Nelson is an unknown, especially after missing the offseason program recovering from a torn meniscus. Gruden has praised the fourth-round pick, who can play inside and should’ve been draft higher without an injury during a pre-draft workout. A solid should put him in the mix.

Also, don’t sleep on Gilchrist helping out in the slot. He’s a roving chess piece, capable of playing both safety spots and in the slot.

Long shot: Erik Harris

Harris built an NFL career on special teams, but might have a chance to carve a defensive role. Gruden praised Harris a few times during the offseason program, and gave him first-unit reps with some safeties hurt. He fared well in those opportunities, and must continue solid play to be in the defensive rotation.

He’s still behind several in a competitive position group, but Harris has a chance to become a trusted backup option.

Overview

The Raiders have tried and failed to find secondary stability from season to season, despite significant draft and capital investment. They’re going with a largely new group again this season hoping results will be different.

Getting interceptions will be key after defensive backs failed to grab any until the season’s final weeks.

Joseph must take a step forward. Nelson and Gilchrist must fill their roles well to anchor the back end and let edge rusher Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin do some damage up front.