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Oakland Raiders

Examining storylines surrounding Raiders secondary

Oakland Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley tosses a ball during NFL football practice on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, at the team's training facility in Alameda, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot

The biggest story of the Oakland Raiders’ training camp and in the preseason has been the secondary.

The Raiders still have big questions on defense. They are hoping to get help in the secondary, yet issues and questions still hover with the regular-season opener just 12 days away in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans.

Here is a look at several areas of attention in the Oakland secondary:

Trade for Joe Haden: Of course, this is all speculation. CBS Sports reported that the Cleveland Browns are interested in trading Haden. The Raiders immediately comes to mind as a possible fit. However, after further thought, it’s doubtful that the Raiders would be overly gung-ho to pursue Haden. He has a huge contract. While the Raiders have about $13 million in salary cap room left, they do have to deal with Donald’s Penn desire for money. Plus, Haden hasn’t played up to his contract and has been injured often. He just doesn’t seem worth pursuing for Oakland.

Gareon Conley: The heralded first-round pick finally hit the practice field on Tuesday. It was Conley’s first field action since a June workout. Conley, though, was limited on Tuesday. Here’s the key question about the No. 24 overall draft pick: can he get ready enough to be a factor in 12 days at Nashville against the Tennessee Titans? The Raiders have three legitimate practices next week. Will that be enough for a rookie who missed all of training camp to get ready and be a real factor? Unless he suffers a setback, Conley, who reportedly had a shin injury, will likely play against the Titans, but how much is a legitimate question.

Obi Melifonwu: Tuesday was not a great development for the second-round pick. The safety from Connecticut did not practice. After dealing with a reported ankle injury for most of training camp, Melifonwu played at Dallas on Saturday. Perhaps he had a setback. It would be doubtful that the Raiders would hold a rookie who has missed most of training camp out of a practice if he were 100 percent. So, Melifonwu’s availability for the Tennessee game would be in question as well.

Sean Smith: He has struggled in camp and in the preseason, even losing his starting role at some point. Smith, who is facing felony assault charges for allegedly attacking his sister’s boyfriend, is guaranteed to be paid $9.5 million this season. It would take a lot for the Raiders to cut Smith, and like Haden, he might be tough to deal. If Conley can stay healthy and get up to speed, Smith could be relegated to a backup role. If so, despite signing a four-year, $38 million deal last year, could be in his final months with the Raiders.

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

T.J. Carrie: Carrie benefited from Smith’s swoon. But the truth is, Carrie also played poorly in the preseason. Carrie, though, is a gamer, and he will have a role this year. But, ideally, it wouldn’t be as a starter.

David Amerson: The starter suffered a concussion at Dallas. But there was encouraging signs on Tuesday when he was on the field stretching. Clearly, Amerson is navigating through the league’s concussion protocol. While it is difficult to predict his recovery, if Amerson continues to improve, he should have a good chance of playing in Tennessee.

Shalom Luani: The seventh-round pick has been impressive. He should make the 53-man roster. He is not in position to vie for a starting job, but we likely will see Luani on special teams and some packages. He could have an intriguing future.

Breon Borders: He is an example of the highs and lows of young players in the preseason. Early in training camp, the undrafted free agent made nothing but plays, and even worked with the first team as a nickel cornerback. Then, the preseason games started and Borders tumbled back to earth. His best bet currently looks like a practice-squad bid.

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