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Oakland Raiders need Gareon Conley now

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NFL: Oakland Raiders Rookie Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last April the Oakland Raiders made CB Gareon Conley their pick at No. 24 overall amid rape accusations. Any questions about Conley being great pick at that spot went away when he was cleared of those allegations at the end of last month. If not for the accusations, Conley would have been a likely top-10 pick.

The former Ohio State Buckeye allowed a 2017-NFL-Draft-class best 14.0 QB rating into his coverage. By contrast the Raiders gave up more completions over 20 and 40 yards than any team in the NFL in 2016.

Sean Smith struggles with every receiver on the opposing team’s depth chart. David Amerson is supposed to be the leader out there but he hasn’t looked so good either. So, needless to say, the Raiders need him back from his shin injury now.

Conley attended the offseason program but hasn’t participated in training camp. One of the hardest positions to play as a rookie in the NFL is the CB position.

A rookie’s first training camp is his his most important as he learns complex pro defensive system. He would have a chance learn from his mistakes while it doesn’t count. He can’t get those valuable reps to sharpen up and experience pro coverage back.

And of course, there’s the preseason games, where they get a chance to experience it in a live setting.

Nowadays, there’s a debate over what exactly that injury is. Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie told the media that shin-splints is the injury he has, but Conley has disputed that.

Either way, he’s a rookie CB that isn’t getting those valuable practice reps. D.J. Hayden missed his first offseason and training camp and never recovered. Now he’s with the Detroit Lions, still trying to put a decent NFL together.

Saturday night, following the team’s preseason opener in Arizona, Head coach Jack Del Rio addressed Conley’s status and provided some encouragement.

“There have been some questions about [Conley] and his tweet,” said Del Rio. “The biggest thing is that he’s working his butt off to get back.

“He’s doing everything we’re asking him to do. He’s been a model teammate, and he’s doing things exactly as he should be. He’s on the mend. He’s going to be fine in a short amount of time, and that’s also a non-issue for me.”

Raider Nation hopes that’s true because the sooner he starts practicing, the bigger his rookie impact will be. And the way things are looking now, the Raiders are going to need him.