Antonio Brown was targeted seven times Sunday afternoon.
He caught five passes for 35 yards, and while his teammate on the outside, JuJu Smith-Schuster, certainly made his presence felt in Sunday’s clash with the Oakland Raiders, Brown was essentially a non-factor for 60 minutes at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
“That’s a key,” said cornerback Daryl Worley when asked about slowing down Brown. “He’s a key guy in their offense. He’s an All-Pro player, especially with a Hall of Fame quarterback back there. That was the key to today, taking those two guys and minimizing everything they do in the game.”
And for those of you keeping track at home, after limiting Tyreek Hill to just one catch last week, that’s back-to-back weeks where the Silver and Black’s defense has taken the opposition’s No. 1 wide receiver out of the equation.
The Raiders are 2-2 over their last four games, and while 2018’s final record won’t be a memorable one, over the past month or so we’ve undoubtedly seen an improved brand of football from the team’s defense – the secondary in particular.
With Gareon Conley, Worley, and Rashaan Melvin in the mix, Paul Guenther’s group on the back end has made life tough on opposing wide receivers, and given Head Coach Jon Gruden optimism that he’s growing ever closer to finding a long-term solution at the position.
Take a look through the top images from the Raiders' win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14 at the Coliseum.
“Yeah, I really am,” Gruden said when asked about his confidence growing regarding the team’s DBs. “Conley, his play has really improved steadily. [Daryl] Worley is still battling through that shoulder injury, but we still think he’s got a big upside, so to answer your question, yes.”
As Gruden said, second-year cornerback Gareon Conley in particular has been a revelation out wide in recent weeks. In Sunday’s win over the Steelers, he played every defensive snap except one, tallied a team-high two passes defensed, and along with Worley and Melvin, did an exceptional job in taking Antonio Brown out of the Steelers offensive picture.
“He’s a lot more confident now,” Gruden said of Conley. “He missed a lot of training camp, he was hurt. Missed most of last season. I think his preparation has been better. I think he’s been able to practice. Our secondary coach has helped him play a role in this. The guy is talented and he’s gaining confidence each week. Each week he sees himself covering the best guys in football and he’s having some success. He’s doing the little things right and he’s getting better every week.”
“He’s doing exactly – everything we expected of him,” added Worley. “We knew the type of player he was, when he’s able to get healthy, he’s playing at a high clip right now.”
Worley, in his own right, has played really well as of late too, and with three games left on the docket, hopefully the Raiders defense as a whole can keep up the positive momentum down the stretch.
Next up for the group is a trip to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals, who although without the services of A.J. Green, seem to have found a little something in third-year wide receiver Tyler Boyd who currently has a team-high 990 receiving yards and six touchdowns.