ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Yes, you want a certain swagger from your cornerbacks, a confidence that is palpable through not only the secondary but the entire defense.
Introducing, then, the newest Oakland Raiders cornerback ...
“I’m here to dominate the league,” Rashaan Melvin said after he signed as a free agent with the Raiders following the past two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. “It might be time for some new faces at the cornerback position. That’s my take on that. I’m excited for it.”
Are you, Raider Nation?
Finding not only a shutdown cornerback but also a serviceable and reliable one has been Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie’s Achilles’ heel since coming to Oakland in 2012.
And while you’re at it, check in on Gareon Conley, whom the Raiders are putting a lot of faith in to recover from his shin injury that limited last year’s first-round draft choice to two games.
Oh, and about that confidence thing. Conley is marketing himself as Conley Island, for what it’s worth. And that’s good considering Oakland anticipates him being the No. 1 cornerback, on the right side.
“I think he’s a great young guy,” Melvin said of Conley. “Full of potential. I know there was a couple of reasons he wasn’t able to play last year. But this year I know he’s ready to step up and be that corner opposite [me].
“For me to come in and help these guys out and show those guys exactly what it takes to be a great secondary, I think that’s what we need. That’s what I’m here for. That’s why I signed up for this.”
Melvin? Pencil him in on the left side.
Staying healthy and on the field would be a start for Melvin, as his potential has never been in question. Avoiding injury has been his issue.
The 6-foot-2, 193-pound Melvin went from being the Colts’ projected No. 3 corner to replacing an injured Vontae Davis and asked by then-Colts coach Chuck Pagano to shadow their opponents’ top receiver. Guys like Antonio Brown.
“It was all about going in there, going into the coaches’ office and letting them know, ‘Hey, I’m ready for this opportunity. I’ve been practicing. I’ve been preparing the whole season. Hey, let me do what I have to do to not just to prove to myself that I’m right but to show everybody else around the NFL that, hey, this guy is for real,’” Melvin said.
“For [Pagano] to give me the opportunity, I’m grateful for it because I lived up to all the expectations they had for me, even more. So I’m just looking forward to continue to improve my game, continue to be the best player I can be.”
Melvin had a career-best three interceptions -- the Raiders had five as a team last season, with Smith’s two leading them and being their only cornerback with a pick -- and 13 passes defensed, but a hand injury ended his breakthrough season in Week 12. He has played in at least 10 games only twice since entering the NFL as an undrafted rookie out of Northern Illinois in 2014.
“It’s been an experience,” Melvin said of his career. “I’ve been cut four times. I’ve been in four different locker rooms [Miami, Baltimore, New England, Indianapolis], and I was able to gain my teammates’ trust, my coaches’ trust and the organization’s trust, as well. My confidence just grows over time.
“There’s not a lot of players that can say they’ve been cut four times and end up in a situation where I’m at today. Like I said, it’s perfect timing. My work ethic, my style of play and the way I approach the game and the way I approach my job, my business, it speaks for itself.”