Last season, the Raiders starting cornerbacks Sean Smith, David Amerson, and T.J. Carrie, were all but forgettable. So much so, all three are no longer with the team. This left a crucial defensive position very much in flux as the Raiders headed into 2018.
“Never leave your team without cornerbacks kid,” former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis is reported to have said to then Raiders CEO Amy Trask. So it seems although not with our cornerbacks, the Raiders certainly have question marks despite perhaps upgrading with a slew of free agent signings.
Last years first round draft pick cornerback Gareon Conley and 2018’s fourth round draft pick cornerback Nick Nelson are both still nursing injuries.
When asked about the status of both players and if they’d be ready for camp, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden assured the media they would be.
“Yep, Conley is doing well. He is very close,” Gruden snapped quickly. “He participated in the veteran mini camp during the walk throughs. Conley is running with our defensive backs out here on the field. He is extremely close to getting the green light. Nelson is probable about 3-4 weeks away, and he will be ready for training camp as well.”
Conley is expected to be the number two corner at the very least. Nelson is expected to make the team and compete for the Nickle or Dime spot and contribute on special teams. They are the only two expected impact players at the position heading into camp.
That doesn’t mean the Raiders didn’t look to battle-tested veterans to help immediately.
Rashaan Melvin, Sharice Wright, Daryl Worley and Leon Hall were all brought in on one-year “prove it” contracts to shore up the position for the short-term. Melvin is the odds-on favorite to win the number one or two spot.
Worley was picked up after being charged with six offenses by Philadelphia police. Worley can certainly still play, but there could be a suspension waiting and possible jail time. So his reliability for next season is a big question mark.
Wright has the support of Gruden – at least for now. On numerous occassions he’s told the media that he believes the veteran will contribute in 2018.
Hall has history with coordinator Paul Guenther. He brings experience and leadership to a position that needs it. Also, Hall completely understand Guenther’s system so he’ll be a teacher on the field. He has an outside chance to actually make the team.
With an all new coaching staff, and a new roster, it’s new territory for the Raiders. That is actually not a doomsday scenario since everyone, except Hall, is learning a new system. The talent is there. It just has to gel, and be healthy. The competition is there.
Either way, this years camp battle at the cornerback position should be intense – and that’s good for the Raiders.