From the moment Jon Gruden took over the Raiders early this year, he made one thing very clear; he was going to build his own team.
Recent Raider staples like Michael Crabtree and Marquette King were shown the door, and Gruden brought in his own players, many of whom were older and relatively inexpensive. Those moves seemed insignificant compared to what was to come. Before the calendar year ended, Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper, and Bruce Irvin would also be gone. This isn’t a team that was built to compete in 2018, but 2019? That’s a different story. Here are Gruden’s chosen ones, the Raiders that will return for year two of the Gruden regime.
The Chosen Ones: Which Raiders Will Be Back Next Year
Like it or not, Jon Gruden will almost definitely stick with his quarterback for one more season. He’s improved in Gruden’s scheme with time, and he deserves a full year with the same offensive coordinator. Assuming the Raiders get him offensive line help and some new weapons, he’ll be even better in 2019. If not, then there’s always Jake Fromm.
Jalen Richard might not be the starting back for the Oakland Raiders next year, but there’s no doubt that he makes an excellent complementary back. He’s a great receiver out of the backfield (he actually leads the team in receptions), and makes for a great change of pace back. Whoever the team’s feature back may be in 2019, whether it’s Marshawn Lynch or a free agent (maybe Mark Ingram?), Richard will make them better.
Jared Cook is having the best year of his career in 2018. Cook leads the team in yards and touchdowns, and has easily been Carr’s favorite target this year. He’s emerged as Carr’s go-to-guy, and it would be a real shame if the Raiders were unable to retain his services in 2019.
Kolton Miller has had his struggles, but there’s no way that Gruden is going to walk away from his first round pick only a year later. Miller definitely needs a summer in the weight room if he wants to keep protecting Carr’s blindside, but it’s a safe bet that he’ll be on the roster in 2019.
I was originally on the fence about this one. Kelechi Osemele has struggled at points this year, partially because of some weight loss, and partially because of Tom Cable’s offensive line scheme. There’s a chance that Gruden lets his troubled offensive line coach go, and the next man up knows better and just lets Osemele be his physical, nasty self.
Rodney Hudson has quietly been the best player on the Raiders ever since they signed him in 2015, and considering the relationship he has with Carr, it’s hard to imagine the team letting him walk away.
Maurice Hurst has been a fantastic player for the Oakland Raiders this year, and currently leads the team in sacks. Some teams were scared off by his heart issues in the pre-draft, but the Raiders took a chance on him, and in return, they got the steal of the draft.
P.J. Hall didn’t adjust to the pro game as fast as Mo Hurst did, but he has been making strides. He didn’t play for a big school like his defensive line-mate, and he isn’t used to this level of competition. He was a second round pick, so regardless of how frustrated some fans may be with his development, he’ll be around for at least one more year.
Arden Key has shown flashes of brilliance this year, even if he’s not the elite pass rusher that Raider Nation wants him to be. It’s hard to make the leap from college to the pros, especially at pass rusher. But should the Raiders take someone like Nick Bosa, or perhaps sign DeMarcus Lawrence, his second year will be a lot easier.
Marquel Lee has improved quietly over time, especially since moving to SAM, and while he might not be Sean Lee, and the Raiders should consider adding Devin White as a partner, he’s earned a spot on this roster moving forward.
Gareon Conley has had a rocky season, at points looking like someone who was destined to be traded. However, after he fought his way back into the starting lineup, he’s been fantastic. He’s been phenomenal when targeted, and he’s being targeted less and less. Maybe it wasn’t just Conley, but against the Kansas City Chiefs, Tyreek Hill only had one catch for 13 yards.
I almost put Conley and Karl Joseph in the same paragraph because they have identical stories. After a point during the season where a trade seemed inevitable, Joseph worked his way into the starting lineup and has played well ever since. It was rumored that Joseph struggled to break into the starting lineup because of several excuses, one being his size, another being his supposed inability to learn the playbook, and another being that defensive coordinator Paul Guenther wanted to cycle through his defensive backs to find the right combination.
But ever since Joseph has broken back into the lineup, he’s been great. He’s improved in coverage, he’s laying crazy hits, and he’s really starting to look like a crucial part of Oakland’s defense moving forward. Hopefully the Raiders get him a worthy partner back there in the defensive backfield.