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.