As one of the most talented cornerbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft, expectations were high for Gareon Conley to infuse the Raiders secondary with much needed talent. Those hopes were hindered by a shin injury that cost the first-round pick all but two games of his rookie season. One year later, Conley is finally healthy again, and head coach Jon Gruden has liked what he’s seen.
“We are excited about the return of Gareon Conley, our first round draft choice. He’s been excellent so far,” Gruden said in a conference call with fans on Wednesday.
Our own Levi Damien noted how impressive Conley was in the first OTA practice and how the coaches were raving about him. Gruden said at that time how great it was to see him on the field after being out so much time and just how much the team is counting on Conley.
“Conley’s practicing now,” Gruden continued. “He’s at full speed, he’s at full strength, and you talk about a huge addition to our team. It starts with Gareon Conley who missed almost all of it last year. This is a shutdown corner. He’s a guy that we’re gonna build our secondary around.”
In week two of the 2017 season, Conley made his NFL debut against the New York Jets, and lived up to the hype playing 46 snaps while allowing just one catch on two targets. He had similar success his senior year at Ohio State conceding only 14 receptions for 159 yards according to Pro Football Focus. Conley led the FBS with a 14.0 passer rating on throws into his coverage.
Starting at the other cornerback spot is former Colts corner Rashaan Melvin who was signed in free agency.
Melvin allowed an opposing passer rating of 60.3 when targeted which ranked 9th best in the NFL. In the Colts match-up against the Steelers, Melvin shadowed Antonio Brown on 88% of his routes, holding the six-time Pro Bowler to just two catches for 42 yards on four targets.
If Conley maintains his health, he and Melvin could become one of the better cornerback duo’s Oakland has seen in years. While it is early, the arrow on both players is pointing up, and should have Raider fans excited.
With the top three corners from 2017 all gone now, the Raiders secondary will be almost unrecognizable from last season’s, led by former first-round pick Gareon Conley.