The Oakland Raiders leaky secondary talk has become a broken record the past few seasons. For fans, it’s a horrible, scratching record that just won’t stop playing. Finally, it’s losing steam. With Gareon Conley making his first start, and Karl Joseph quickly coming into his own, it looks that old played out record can finally be thrown out.
The Silver and Black are already known for their high powered offense. They spent high draft picks on Derek Carr and Amari Cooper in back-to-back years. It didn’t stop there either. They spent big money on huge offensive linemen like Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele, and Donald Penn.
Though they did draft the reigning defensive player of the year, Khalil Mack with their first round pick in 2014, their other defenders have left something to be desired. With Mack holding down the front seven, the Raiders decided to use both of their 2016 and 2017 first round picks on the secondary. They chose Joseph at strong safety, and then Conley at cornerback this last NFL Draft.
Gareon Conley – The Cover Corner the Raiders Have Been Looking For
Conley is the newest addition to the Raiders secondary. Although he was selected amidst some controversy, he put that behind him, and is ready to go all in for his NFL career.
He made his first start of the season week two against the New York Jets. Even though he was going against subpar receivers, he still looked right at home, especially for a rookie. Pro Football Focus gave him an 83.6 rating for his debut, which ranks second in the league for rookie cornerbacks so far.
Obviously it’s a tiny sample size, and we’ll have to see how he does against stiffer competition. Still, it’s about as good of a start as a rookie cornerback can have when he misses most of the offseason with injuries. Corner usually takes some time adjusting to in the NFL, and Conley likely only gets better from here.
Plus, he also almost made a huge play in the game, trying to tip a pass attempt to safety Reggie Nelson.
Gareon Conley: “Get that out of here.” pic.twitter.com/C65qUCc1J8
Karl Joseph – A Physical Playmaker
Joseph was selected in the draft a year before Conley. Like Conley, he came into the league with issues, though his were due to injury. He tore his ACL in practice after only four games of his senior season.
ACL injuries take a long time to come back from. Even though Joseph started most of the season for the Raiders last year, it was obvious that he wasn’t at 100%. With a full year of recovery under his belt, he spoke on his enhanced confidence earlier this off-season, saying “It’s a whole different world. I feel like night and day, really, from now to last year. I came in hurt and I couldn’t really do much.”
He’s playing like a whole different player too, and Oakland’s coaches are figuring out his strengths. Last week, they unleashed him on multiple safety blitzes against New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown. He ended up not just sacking McCown, but forcing and recovering a fumble. Joseph is going to give opposing coaches fits when trying to gameplan against him if he keeps it up.
This kind of physicality helped Joseph earn a 90.7 grade from Pro Football Focus last, the highest overall grade for safeties that week. Joseph is looking to be one of 2017’s breakout players.
Bringing it All Together
An improved Oakland Raiders secondary is going to help out the entire team. Last season, Carr had to put the team on his back far too many times. The defense couldn’t be relied on so he had win games on last minute drives. Although it was exciting for fans, it is very taxing on a team to have to do that every week.
On the defensive side, Mack is an absolute monster, and had his fair share of shutdown plays in crucial moments of games as well last season. That being said, he cannot do it all himself. When receivers are running free all over the field, opposing quarterbacks can easily just toss the ball down the field to avoid Mack’s ferocious pass rush.
With solid playmakers down the field, there won’t be as many targets for quarterbacks to get rid of the ball to. This helps Mack, along with other players on the defensive line like Bruce Irvin, and rookie Eddie Vanderdoes bring down the quarterback. When defenses can’t score as many points, Carr and the offense can cruise to more victories and not have to pull off as many last-second miracles.
The Silver and Black’s complete resurgence is almost complete!
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