As if you needed proof Jon Gruden thought the Oakland Raiders roster was littered with “basura”. The new head coach is making sure the roster is to his liking with the quickness, isn’t he?
In just over a week, the Raiders jettisoned wide receivers Michael Crabtree, Cordarrelle Patterson, offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse and cornerback Sean Smith. That’s four moderately priced contracts off the Oakland books.
In the case of Patterson, the Raiders netted a fifth-round pick from the New England Patriots in a swap. Sure, Oakland sent along a sixth-round selection along with CP, but it’s a proper move in Gruden’s eyes.
Route running trumps all.
“Excuse me?” you ask?
On a Gruden-run team, wide receivers must excel at running routes; they must be exemplary technicians. It’s imperative receivers beat defenders with precise execution rather than pure speed and awesome athleticism.
Hence the departure of Patterson and the arrival of Jordy Nelson. Patterson, for all the electricity and game-breaking speed he provides, runs routes no better than former Raider receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Nelson, on the other hand, may be on the downward slope of his career but is head-and-shoulders the superior route runner.
Why did Gruden single out Amari Cooper and say he’s making him the feature weapon at WR? The Alabama product was a high draft pick because of polished surgeon-like execution on routes.
“Then why was Crab dumped?” is a valid inquiry.
For Crab is a renowned technician himself, winning the battle based majorly on his execution. Something somewhere was fractured in the Crabtree-Raiders relationship. One that dealt beyond his ability to get in and out of breaks. Nevertheless, Oakland landed a receiver it felt can produce on a similar level as Crabtree — Nelson. That will have to be proven this coming season.
Let’s shift to another Gruden imprint being pressed upon the Raiders: Smashmouth football.
One of the game’s premiere blocking tight ends is back in Silver and Black in Lee Smith. Derek Carrier was also brought in to shore up blocking at the position. And Keith Smith was nabbed to help at fullback. Beard Mode, Carrier and Beef are each slated to help bring back a nastiness in the run game.
Add those three ingredients to Beast Mode, and Gruden wasn’t being coy when he said the team needed to service Marshawn Lynch properly.
Oakland brought in hungry and passionate players in the first week of free agency. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson is eager to prove he’s got plenty left in the tank, as is running back Doug “Muscle Hamster” Martin. Cornerback Rashaan Melvin is famished for a chance to show he’s a shutdown corner while Tahir Whitehead is chomping at the bit to solidify the linebacker unit. Those are classic Gruden players.
Gruden-isms aren’t solely for additions and subtractions to the Raiders roster. Bruce Irvin is slated to be a benefactor of the Gruden Effect. During combine interviews, the Raiders head honcho noted Irvin was best used as a pass rusher. The linebacker perhaps confirmed that notion on Twitter stating he’d no longer be dropping in coverage. A move to defensive end (his college position) or pure-rush linebacker is inevitable.
Gruden has taken the Raider roster by storm, for better or worse. The head coach told general manager Reggie McKenzie who he wants and the exec handles the numbers part. And the duo isn’t close to done. Free agency is still in full swing and next month’s draft means even more madness.
But there’s a method to this Raider’s madness. It just so happens to come with a Chucky-esque scowl.