The Oakland Raiders defense has been terrible for the past couple of years. Outside of All-World end Khalil Mack, the Raiders defense became known for poor play and inconsistency.
The worst part about the Raiders defense remained their secondary; as a result, Jon Gruden emphasized strengthening the secondary in free agency. 2017 first round pick, cornerback Gareon Conley, who played two games in 2017 (shin), looks to take a big stride in 2018. Gruden stated, “He’s a guy that we’re going to build our secondary around.” Along with Conley, the Raiders have new pieces at cornerback that make them very excited. 6-year veteran Rashaan Melvin signed a one-year deal. Moreover, he possesses the size and the length to excel. With the Colts, he had three interceptions and 13 pass deflections in 10 games. Leon Hall and Reggie Nelson look to help some of the younger corners adapt to Paul Guenther’s system. Each played for him all during with the Bengals.
Although the Raiders upgraded their secondary, they signed some players whose play and off the field decisions raise many questions. Three-year corner Daryl Worley owns loads of talent, but he raises concerns. The Eagles released him for having an altercation with police while being intoxicated. New corner Shareece Wright has experience, but last season he had one of the worst seasons of his career. He has a shot to play but needs to get back to his 2016 form.
The surprise of training camp has been the play of fourth round pick, Nick Nelson. After having a very successful college career at Wisconsin, Nelson competes for the starting nickel job. Young corners Dexter McDonald and Antonio Hamilton earned playing time last year. Yet,with secondary upgrades and a switch to safety seeming unlikely due to Karl Joseph, Obi Melifonwu, McDonald, and Hamilton are a good bet to see a release.
Overall, the Raiders secondary could improve from last season. Jon Gruden and GM Reggie Mackenzie did a great job in signing players who can make an impact. They are still young, but they are hungry and poised to have a successful season in 2018.