If there is a throwback on the Oakland Raiders roster, it is cornerback Gareon Conley. The talented second-year man out of Ohio State embodies exactly what legendary former owner Al Davis coveted in his cover men: Size, speed and sticky.
Raiders’ defensive coordinator Paul Guenther shows no qualms putting the 23-year-old on an island and it was under the spotlight this past Sunday in a Week 2 tilt against the Denver Broncos. The 6-foot, 195-pound corner displayed the toolbox with shadow coverage, speed to make up for lost ground and the instincts to fight off the ball racking up four tackles and four passes defended.
Nevertheless, it was not all sunshine and roses for Conley. He got plenty of valuable teach tape, especially in the decisive fourth quarter.
With the Raiders needing to disrupt Broncos quarterback Case Keenum, Guenther dialed up a blitz. That call would leave Conley solo on the left side. Broncos’ wideout Tim Patrick ran a short hitch route with Conley playing off coverage, caught the ball and made a move inside leaving Conley grasping for nothing but grass on a 26-yard gain.
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“It was man-to-man coverage”, Raiders boss Jon Gruden said. “A 5-yard hitch route. We have just must find a way to get him on the ground. We missed a couple tackles on the play. It’s what happens when you play 1-on-1 coverage against some of these receivers because you’re blitzing.”
It’s imperative Conley watch the film repeatedly. Then, file it away and learn from the painful but immensely valuable lesson. Conley has the skills to continue being a sticky press-man corner, there is little evidence Guenther is going to shy away from putting him in those situations, and it will only be a matter of time before the corner makes offenses pay for throwing it his way.
The thing about islands is, sometimes, people can escape. Just look at those folk on Gilligan’s Island, they eventually made it out.
We will find out as the season progresses how many escape Conley Island.