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Raiders tap CB Trayvon Mullen for start Sunday after dealing Conley

The Raiders (3-3) look to rise one game over .500 against the Houston Texans (4-3) Sunday — as they start a new face in the secondary.

The Raiders Monday traded cornerback Gareon Conley on Monday for a third-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

They dealt Conley to the same Texans who Oakland plays this Sunday. Conley is expected to play, according to Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien, and will have an immediate revenge game on his plate.

To fill the shoes of Conley will be rookie Trayvon Mullen. Losing Conley is just business in the NFL, but for Mullen, he lost someone who taught him the ropes of the league:

“It was a big deal because he was a guy that helped me grow coming in. A guy I know I could ask questions to, a guy that lead me in the right direction when I needed some help, so it’s kind of bitter sweet, but it’s my time to step up now.”

It might not be a total shocker that the Raiders were so willing to trade a former first-round pick. Conley was a Reggie McKenzie pick back in 2017, and was injured a lot in his three-year career, including a scary neck injury in Week 1 against the Broncos that sidelined him a game and brought in Mullen.

Still, Conley was a Top 10 talent out of the draft a few years ago, and had potential to be a building block for Oakland’s future.

Mullen is a second-round choice from Clemson and has played very little this year. In his short time playing he has allowed one touchdown and a passer rating of 134.6, according to Pro Football Focus.

When Conley went down in Week 1, Mullens got an unexpected expanded role on the defense. Being a back-up rookie, the Broncos picked on him quite a bit. Mullen said he expects the same sort of treatment this week:

“I do expect it and if does happen, I’m not surprised. I know I’m ready to make plays. I’ll stick my head in there, make plays that come to me, play fundamental football.”

With Conley gone, the Raiders are showing confidence in a rookie, and Mullen know this is an opportunity to shine:

“It means a lot. I’m going to prove to them that I can go out there and they can trust me, believe in me and make that plays that come to me.”

The original version of this story misidentified Texans QB Deshaun Watson. SFBay regrets the error.

The 40th overall pick will be thrown out to sink or swim against fellow Clemson Tiger Deshaun Watson, who has 1,952 passing yards, eighth-best in the league, and elite receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Lining up opposite of Daryl Worley, Mullens said that Worley has been coaching him since he stepped into the Raider facility:

“That’s been from Week 1. Just being able to learn from a guy like Daryl and [Gareon]. I ask him about plays, if I don’t understand something I can go to him and ask him a question.”

What do these personnel changes mean in the long run? It means Oakland is seeing what it’s got and still rebuilding. They picked up one more draft pick for General Manager Mike Mayock while also showing confidence in their draft class.

This draft class has been impressive overall so far — and full of players from Clemson. Hunter Renfrow makes clutch third-down catches, Mullen is starting, Keelan Doss has contributed.

Derek Carr described Renfrow as barely scratching the surface and Mullen has “ultra competitive” while being calm at the same time. It’s safe to say that this draft class has impressed Carr:

“The thing I say about this whole rookie class is that they’re just professionals. I’ve been around a lot of rookie classes now and very few of them from top to bottom are like this one … these guys are pretty solid. They get it … our future is in good hands.”

One rookie not mentioned above is Clelin Ferrell. The fourth-overall pick has been limited by injury and has produced just one sack in five games played.

Head Coach Jon Gruden believes it’s because he is playing out of position:

“If you’ve watched the tape, you know he’s not playing defensive end very much. He’s playing inside more than outside. Part of that is out of necessity. We hope at, some point, to get him more snaps at defensive end, but he’s doing pretty good. He’s a good run defender.”

The Raiders had big injury questions coming into Wednesday’s practice, including top receiver Tyrell Williams who is listed as questionable with a foot injury. Gruden said:

“I thought he looked pretty good, I mean he’s still questionable, we’ll see. I give him one more day to go out there and test that foot … we’re in the process of seeing who is available and who needs to step up.”

The Raiders are near the end of their historically long 48-day-long road trip that has been, as Gruden calls it, “unprecedented” for an NFL team:

“We’re anxious to finish this road trip. It’s been a lot of fun, this schedule we have here. It’ll be a great challenge with the Texans, another playoff team in a hostile environment.”

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