Gareon Conley

Daryl Worley has eyes wide open heading into important Raiders season

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Daryl Worley has eyes wide open heading into important Raiders season

Daryl Worley’s shoulder popped out of its socket on a cold December day in Cincinnati, a painful predicament that had to be remedied right away. Getting it back in was imperative, but the Raiders cornerback wasn’t doing so just to feel better on the bench.

He wanted to get back in the fray. That impulse was strong despite a season already down the drain and zero financial security in the 2019.

“You have a drive as competitor that has been there since you were a kid,” Worley said on this week’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “Even though the season may not have been going as we would’ve hoped, I feel like it gets to a point where you grind for six months with guys who have become your brothers. You want to take care of yourself, but you also want to be out there with them.”

It’s that drive that drew head coach Jon Gruden to him last spring. He did some homework on a guy way too talented to be unemployed, someone mired in a rough patch.

“I can still see Worley on the sideline trying to knock his shoulder back into place and keep playing,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s a tough guy. He has also had some adversity in his career, but I got a lot of respect for the way a man can get up off the ground and dust himself off given another opportunity.”

The Raiders provided a soft landing after a rough go in his native Philadelphia. The Eagles traded for him last offseason, but a run-in with the law while reportedly intoxicated and resisting arrest put him on the street.

Gruden scooped him up knowing a suspension was on its way, with unwavering support in public and private. Worley was quickly inserted into the lineup upon return, where he started nine games until that shoulder issue sidelined him in Cincinnati.

It required surgery heading into restricted free agency, a less-than-ideal scenario that could prompt the Raiders to offer a lower contract tender and prevent other teams from bidding for his services. The Raiders essentially locked him down with a second-round tender offer worth $3.095 million, meaning a team that signed him to an offer sheet the Raiders refused to match would’ve had to cough up a second-round pick. That’s really something, considering Worley was a third-round pick and the Raiders could’ve saved some coin by offering an original round tender that still would’ve been a preventive measure.

Worley appreciates the extra million bucks, but the respect factor might’ve meant more.

“When you’re getting a nudge like that, it’s both business and personal,” Worley said. “It shows the comfort they have in me, and a certain level of respect.

“I’m thankful and appreciative of everything they’ve done for me. I try to pay it back every day, with the type of professional I am and the type of player they expect.”

This is an important year for him to find top form, which is possible after recovering fully from shoulder surgery. While Worley feels a certain loyalty towards Gruden, he isn’t blind to the fact the Raiders drafted cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen and Isaiah Johnson in the first four rounds. Gareon Conley’s a long-term solution on one side, with plenty of present and future competition at his current spot.

The Raiders were nice about the RFA tender but didn’t extend a long-term deal, so Worley will enter 2019 with unrestricted free agency’s possible riches (and career transition) on the immediate horizon.

“As a human, you know the future is coming,” Worley said. “You think about it, but I just always feel that taking care of each day, everything else will handle itself.”

[RELATED: AB setting new standard for Raiders during offseason program]

Worley likes playing in Silver and Black, across from Conley. They have become friends since Worley signed up, and they lived together during this offseason program. Worley has high hopes for them as a shutdown pairing knowing he must do his part, as he enters his prime right now at age 24. Matching that level with Conley’s steady and top-end talent could create a real impact.

“I feel that that’s something we expect of ourselves and something we expect,” Worley said. “It’s a situation where we’re in our second year in the system and we shouldn’t just make some plays. We should also be the thing that sparks the defense and our team and changes games.”

What Mike Mayock said on Raiders' last three first-round draft picks

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What Mike Mayock said on Raiders' last three first-round draft picks

Mike Mayock is one of the most respected minds in the NFL draft community.

When he was a draft analyst for NFL Network, his word was gospel. Now, the Raiders get to benefit from his wisdom after hiring him as their general manager.

So, what did Mayock think of the Raiders’ last three first-round draft picks? We're glad you asked.

In 2016, the Raiders selected West Virginia safety Karl Joseph with the No. 14 overall pick. He struggled during his first two seasons, but 2018 was seen as a breakout campaign for the 25-year-old.

Here's what Mayock said about Joseph when the 2016 NFL Draft had concluded:

"With his range, toughness and ability to drop down in the slot and cover man, he's like a poor man's Earl Thomas. He says he models his game after Brian Dawkins. Some say he's much like Bob Sanders. This is a dynamic playmaker."

Joseph certainly hasn't lived up to the Earl Thomas comparison. Thomas is a three-time first-team All-Pro. After three seasons, Joseph isn't at that level yet.

The next year, the Raiders again addressed their secondary, picking Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley at No. 24. It was a risky pick because of the baggage that came with Conley. Just before the draft, he was accused of rape.

Injuries cost him most of his rookie campaign, but Conley played in 15 games in 2018, and finished with three interceptions and 37 total tackles.

At the time, Mayock focused on Conley's legal troubles when he said this:

"You can't make that pick and be wrong because your owner is gonna hold you accountable for it if this kid ends up with any kind of jail time."

Two years later, Reggie McKenzie was out as GM.

Last year, the Raiders wanted Mike McGlinchey at No. 10, but the 49ers snagged him at No. 9. So Oakland traded the No. 10 pick to Arizona for No. 15 and two later picks. They used that No. 15 pick to select UCLA offensive lineman Kolton Miller.

Miller had his ups and downs during the 2018 season. At one point late in the season, he was leading the league in sacks allowed. But big things still are expected from him, and some pressure will taken off Miller with the addition of high-priced free agent Trent Brown.

Here's what Mayock said about Miller at this time last year.

"They get the No. 2 offensive tackle in this draft to put behind Donald Penn, the incumbent left tackle. He can start on the right side. He only answered the bell 23 times in three years. Durability is a concern."

[RELATED: Mock draft has Raiders trading up for a QB]

Miller erased any concern about his durability by starting all 16 games as a rookie.

Now, instead of critiquing the Raiders’ draft class, Mayock is in charge of picking the players whom others will critique.

Jon Gruden, Raiders still on cornerback hunt with NFL draft upcoming

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Jon Gruden, Raiders still on cornerback hunt with NFL draft upcoming

The Raiders have some quality cornerbacks on the roster, enough to fill out a lineup card.

Gareon Conley’s locked into a starting spot outside. Daryl Worley should occupy the other one, though veteran Nevin Lawson won’t take that lying down.

Head coach Jon Gruden considers newcomer Lamarcus Joyner a top option in the slot.

Nick Nelson will be available everywhere in reserve.

Gruden wants more at a premium position.

“I think you need five corners,” Gruden said. “I think you gotta have five because they do get banged up. It is a very difficult position to play and sometimes you want to play three or four at a time.”

You’ve read five names to this point, but Joyner will play a significant amount of free safety and will have that position on his football card.

There’s another reason why the Raiders could go for another cornerback in this upcoming NFL draft, possibly with one of four picks in the top 35 overall: Their top outside options have trouble staying healthy.

“We are still looking,” Gruden said. “Getting Conley healthy and playing to his potential is priority No. 1. We got to see it 16 weeks now from Gary. He flickered some and did some really good things last year but he didn't finish healthy, which is a concern. Worley started really good, got hurt. We need 16 outings from him. Lawson can play nickel, he can play outside. He has been healthy. That is what I love about Lawson. He doesn't miss any action.”

Lawson has been a full-time starter for three seasons now, and will expect that run to continue even after signing relatively late to a team with returning starters.

Gruden wants further depth, but could absolutely go for an upgrade at a position with 2019 options but few long-term solutions. Conley’s going to be around for a while, but Worley and Lawson will work on one-year contracts. The jury’s out on Nelson, a fourth-round pick last season who played catch-up after a pre-draft knee injury.

You’ll see mock drafts aplenty attaching cornerbacks to the Raiders at No. 24 or 27, where some quality cover guys should be available. There isn’t an agreed-upon order the cornerback prospects will go in, so everyone from Georgia’s Deandre Baker, LSU’s Greedy Williams, Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin and Washington’s Byron Murphy could make it to the 20s.

“We are looking for another corner,” Gruden said.

The Raiders have had boots on the ground doing that. It is known defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil was at Kentucky and Washington to see prospects, and he saw several quality options while coaching the Senior Bowl.

Versatile safety Nasir Adderley of Delaware was there and showed well. So did Maryland’s Darnell Savage. O'Neil saw Washington safety Taylor Rapp up close along with Murphy.

[RELATED: Here's where Raiders' defense stands at 2019 season approaches]

The draft could provide long-term solutions and competition right away as the Raiders figure out which cornerbacks are worthy of sticking around, and whether Conley can stay healthy enough to reach his grand potential.