Several times this season Paul Guenther has included Gareon Conley in the conversation about rookie contributions on his defense. There are plenty of rookies being asked to step up immediately as it is and technically Conley isn’t one. He was the team’s top pick in 2017, but missed all of his rookie camp and appeared in just two games his first year, making him feel a lot like a rookie for this team.
Adding to Conley slow transition to the pro game was him once again missing a significant portion of training camp. it made for a bit a rough first part of the season, including getting benched at one point amid criticisms of his tackling abilities first and foremost.
Lately, he has shown himself to be figuring things out and has been a Baller each of the past three weeks after having been a Busters three times in the first nine games.
“He’s done much better,” said Paul Guenther. “Every week...in the beginning he was just kind of getting his legs under him, coming off that injury. I think he’s kind of settled into a starting corner. So, yeah, I think he’s kind of turned the page to the next chapter of his career.”
There’s no question the results are showing for Conley of late. In week eleven against the Cardinals, he got his second career interception to help the Raiders get their second win of the season. The following week in Baltimore, he had a pass breakup that led to an interception in the end zone. Last week he nearly had another interception in the end zone, but the ball went through his hands.
The talent was always there for Conley, but like any NFL player, there is a transition period. Only for him, it was a bit longer period due to so much missed time. It doesn’t help that the Raiders have had no pass rush to help him out in coverage. Guenther sees improvement in every aspect of Conley’s game that has led him to shed the rookie label.
“Just technique, his leverage, understanding, [that] if I call this coverage . . . the ball’s not going to go to that side of the field or if we are in this coverage it’s probably going to go to you and it’s going to be a tough down and understanding those situational things that he’s going to get,” Guenther said of Conley. “I think he’s grown that way tremendously.”
Conley is one of the few bright spots this team has in house for the long term.