In the 2017 NFL draft the Raiders wanted to upgrade the secondary. So they selected a cornerback with their first pick and a safety with their second.
But as the team enters the second game of the preseason, the secondary is a bigger question - and possibly bigger weakness - than it was prior to the draft.
The health of the two rookies hasn’t helped. Obi Melifonwu, who the Raiders snagged in the second round out of UConn, has missed a chunk of training camp. He has been easing his way back into practice, but still isn’t expected to play on Saturday when the Raiders host the Rams.
Gareon Conley, the first round pick, missed all of training camp with a shin injury.
The Raiders begin a regular practice schedule next week, but Conley’s status is still unknown. When asked if Conley’s status for the regular season was in doubt, Jack Del Rio was non-committal.
“No. I don’t think we’re there,” Del Rio said. “Obviously, the next couple of weeks will be huge.”
Conley was expected to push for immediate playing time at cornerback. Without him, the Raiders are missing a potential star on the defensive side of the ball. At the very least, they are missing out on quality depth on the back end.
Beyond injuries, Sean Smith is now a question mark for the team. He was arrested - and has since posted bail - for allegedly beating his sister’s boyfriend. The charge of felony assault could land Smith in prison for seven years.
ESPN reported that Smith has an arraignment scheduled for September 29, which is two days before the Raiders play the Broncos in week four.
Next in line at cornerback to line up with David Amerson is T.J. Carrie, who is entering his fourth season in the NFL. Carrie posted 19 tackles and one interception last season.
The safety spots, at the top end, is intact. The Raiders return Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph from last year’s defense.
Nelson, entering his 11th season in the NFL, has played at least 13 games every year, including starting all 16 games last season and snagging five interceptions.
The second-year Joseph is in line to take a step forward in 2017, something the Raiders need from multiple spots along the defense.