Oakland Raiders

Raiders must wait until 2018 to see what they have in Conley

Sep 17, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley (22) stands on the field before the start of the game against the New York Jets at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Gareon Conley, the Oakland Raiders’ 2017 first-round draft pick, spent most of his rookie season watching from the sidelines. The Raiders ensured that’s where he’ll spend the rest of it after moving him to injured reserve on Monday.

A lingering shin injury spoiled what many expected to be a promising rookie season for the 22-year-old cornerback. He only played in two games this season, totaling five tackles and one pass deflection. There wasn’t nearly enough game action to formulate a fair opinion of Conley’s abilities on the field.

He could still be every bit as good as the Raiders hoped when they selected him with the 24th pick. His ability to effectively shadow talented receivers surfaced during training camp, as the Raiders saw him matched against Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. It generated a lot of excitement for a team that had seen its fair share of struggles in the secondary.

But the Raiders never got a chance to see what a Conley-led backfield had to offer. Sure, they saw a couple of brief appearances from the rookie against the New York Jets and Washington Redskins, but those games were more about getting him on the field and acclimated to playing in the NFL. It took Jared Goff and an entire season to hit his stride as a player. Conley only had two weeks. The Raiders have only scratched the surface of his potential as a player.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie hoped he’d be able to bounce back and help the team this year, but he was already hinting at the possible move to IR last week.

“We’ll see what’s happening after when we come back from the weekend and see if we can do anything early in the week, and we’ll make our determination from there,” said McKenzie, per The Mercury News. “It’s just people’s bodies are different, when you have those type injuries, you wait and see if it can heal and feel better and good enough to play. He was feeling better, then he had a setback . . . if he can’t go, then he can’t go and we’re going to have to move on. But we’re going to give him every opportunity to see if he can do it.”

The Raiders will have to move on with a banged up secondary and one of the league’s worst defenses. Nothing can save them from a showdown in Mexico City on Sunday against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

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