The Oakland Raiders had lofty expectations for Gareon Conley headed into his second training camp as a pro, and while he may not currently be on the field, those expectations have not changed.
The former Ohio State Buckeye has been unable to practice for the past several days dealing with a hip injury, and after Head Coach Jon Gruden gave an initial assessment that the ailment would sideline No. 21 for a few weeks, he doubled down on that prognosis Saturday afternoon.
"I saw him [Conley] out here yesterday in the walk thru," said Gruden. "I was really encouraged by that. You just keep that time table as it is, it'll be a couple weeks. We'll see what happens. We'll update you when we know something, but he was out here at the walk thru, and that's a real good sign yesterday."
The tale of Gareon Conley has been told ad nauseum. After an injury-riddled rookie year, where he appeared in just two games, 2018 was supposed to serve as a reset for the talented defensive back.
Healthy once again, and with a new coaching staff in place, Conley was going to be looked at to help solidify a Raiders' defense that ranked 26th in the league in defending the pass.
And while Conley may still indeed become that shutdown corner in the base defense this year, his absence has allowed other players a chance to make an impression on Head Coach Jon Gruden and Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther.
Daryl Worley in particular has seen an increase in his reps since Conley went down, getting a good amount of run on the outside with Rashaan Melvin, but as Coach Gruden also said, nothing in the secondary is set in stone quite yet.
"Well, we have a long way to go to see who the starters are going to be," Gruden said. "Obviously, Conley's injury has opened up the door for everything, and Erik Harris, he broke his finger, he's been out the last few days, it's wide open at the safety position. The Lions coming in here, dealing with Matt Stafford, and these Lions receivers, it'll be a great test, and we'll formulate our depth chart after Lion weekend."
As Gruden noted, the Detroit Lions are due at the team's Napa Valley Training Complex in a few days' time, where the two squads will hold a pair of joint practices before kicking off the preseason August 10 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Sunday was family day for the Silver and Black, and in addition to the day's work being a bit abbreviated, it also served as a rest day for many of the Raiders' veteran players – 17 to be exact.
"We sat down about 15 or 16 players, wanted to take a good look at some of our first-year guys, needed to see where they are, and we did what we did," Gruden said.
However, while many guys enjoyed some well-earned rest, there were no significant changes to the team's injury report.
Both Eddie Vanderdoes and Donald Penn remain on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list, but Coach Gruden did say that he expects both Erik Harris and Gabe Jackson to be back on the field when the team gets back to work Monday.
-It seems like each day there's a different NFL legend roaming the sidelines of Raiders Camp, and Sunday was no different, as Joe Theismann was in attendance for practice.
Theismann was in town for a charity event, and realizing the close proximity of his hotel to training camp, he decided to come down and watch some football.
"I hadn't seen Jon since he got the job," Theismann explained. "I just wanted to come out and see a friend. It works out great. I'm 10 minutes from where I need to be tonight, and get a chance to watch football which I absolutely love."
-The Silver and Black parted ways with Giorgio Tavecchio Sunday afternoon, signing veteran kicker Mike Nugent to take his place on the 90-man roster, and we got our first look at Nugent – who's now wearing No. 6 – today.
-While Gruden was quick to say that there's still a kicking battle even though Tavecchio is off the roster, Eddy Piñeiro handled a bulk of the work Saturday, going five of six during one of his field goal periods.
-During a one-on-one period of practice, fullback Keith Smith made a really nice catch in the open field, going up and grabbing a pass over the outstretched arms of the defender.
-Dwayne Harris also enjoyed an impressive highlight Saturday afternoon, hauling in a one-handed pass of his own from EJ Manuel.
-With 17 vets getting the day off, some of the younger players on the roster saw an uptick in their reps, and like he's done the past few days, wide receiver Marcell Ateman made the most of his chances. The rookie wide receiver was once again all over the football field, making himself available to the team's quarterbacks. Now a few weeks into camp, I think it's safe to say that No. 88 has been one of the more pleasant surprises on the roster.
"He's doing really well. He's doing really well. [If] Coach doesn't screw him up, we have a chance to have a heck of a quarterback." -Head Coach Jon Gruden sharing his assessment of Derek Carr's training camp progress.
The Lighter Side:
Like I said earlier, Joe Theismann was in the house Sunday, and at one point during practice, General Manager Reggie McKenzie came over, game him a hug, and the two talked football for a few minutes.
Man, I'd love to hear some of the stories that those two shared.
Derek Carr and Co., are off tomorrow, but they'll have a busy stretch when they get back to work Monday.
The team will practice Monday morning, and will then welcome in the Detroit Lions for a pair of joint practices beginning Tuesday. After that, the two will open the preseason against each other Friday night at the OACC.
We are so very close to football being back; I can't wait.