We’ll likely never hear the true reason why cornerback Rashaan Melvin has been banished to the NFL hinterlands known as “inactive”. But his outburst on social media was a large part of the reason.
I’m done trying to change my style. It’s not me. Back to what I know and what got me here!! ✌🏾😤😤 #22
— Rashaan Melvin (@Rmelvin30) October 15, 2018
Inked to a one-year $5.5 million deal in free agency — according to Spotrac — to become the Oakland Raiders No. 1 corner, the lanky 6-foot-2 29-year-old corner worked tremendously hard in the offseason and preseason to perfect the preferred coverage style deployed by defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
All appeared well, but then, in October, the coaches deemed the corner ineffective and then came the outburst and benching. Stating he was defying Paulie G’s preferred style wasn’t going to do Melvin any favors. Just listen to what Gruden had to say about his DC:
“There’s not a better coach I know than Paul Guenther,” Gruden said. “There’s not a better friend that I have than Paul Guenther.”
That was after we witnessed a “tiff” the two had on the sideline of the Thursday Night debacle against the San Francisco 49ers.
Gruden and Co. have banished others for ineffectiveness. Fellow corner Gareon Conley was told to sit. Paulie G favorite Reggie Nelson even rode the inactive pine. But, unlike the aforementioned, Melvin hasn’t seen the field since.
And the Raiders are in a tough spot in terms of Melvin’s contract numbers. While some say just simply release him and move on, his $5 million dead money cap hit says otherwise. Plus, the Raiders offensive lack of depth at corner may mean Melvin’s number might be called if injury occurs.
Yet, there is one who is absolved of the burden of ineffectiveness, apparently — rookie punter Johnny Townsend. A boomer at Florida, Townsend is a shanker in the pros. He’s bottom of the barrell in average at 41.9 and a number of punts that didn’t go over the 25-yard mark.
”I think he’s overthinking some things a little bit,” Gruden said. “Directional punting, putting the ball between the numbers to the sideline to the right, to the left, getting it off quicker, whatever it may be. I make no excuses for Townsend, but I will say this, I have seen him bomb it. I have seen him be a difference maker and I am confident it’s in our near future.”
The belief — which can be mind-numbingly absurd at times — in Townsend is both encouraging and frightening. Uplifting in a sense that Gruden will not throw the towel in on a rookie. Horrifying in a sense that the coach will yank peeps with the quickness but the punter is granted immunity reserved for diplomats.
I mean, Gruden did wax linebacker Azeem Victor from the roster after he took him in this past draft, so don’t give me the malarkey defense that you keep faith in rookies.
Gruden doubled down.
“I went through this with Lechler,” Gruden said. “Lechler used to tick me off. He used to punt the ball out of the Black Hole instead of trying to get it inside the 10. I’ve been through it with Janikowski. Everybody hated Janikowski for the first three or four games. I’m going to be patient and everybody knows that’s not a strength of mine.”
In Sugar Shane’s rookie year, he finished second in average at 45.9 behind only Aussie great Drew Bennett.
Am I advocating for Townsend to get waxed? No. I too hope and want to see him return to his Gator form — especially with teammate and kicker Eddy Pineiro.
But it’s hard to ignore the clamoring for a return of Lechler and the mercurial Marquette King — both free agents.
On a team where the Raiders cut excess waste — Derrick Johnson saw snaps reduced before he asked to be let go, ditto for Bruce Irvin who was just cut — Townsend is untouchable.
It’s surely the perfect sneak tank method. Having an iffy punter who routinely gives the opposition salivating field position is a down-low way of giving a game away.