Gruden’s Cuts are Proving the Coach Right

Almost immediately after being introduced as the Raiders head coach, Jon Gruden began remaking the team’s roster. He had a clear vision for the team and any player who did not fit that vision was promptly cut. While last season Gruden certainly made some questionable decisions, the majority of the players that Gruden decided to cut have proven him right. As you can see below, a lot of these players either had unproductive seasons in 2018 or currently find themselves without a place to play. 

Michael Crabtree

Out of all players cut by “Chucky,” Crabtree was the most productive wearing the Silver and Black, but the pass catcher saw a dip in production away from the Bay. Before Baltimore turned the offense over to Lamar Jackson (Weeks 1-9), Crabtree averaged 1.35 yards per route run, per Pro Football Focus. That number is lower than any of Crabtree’s three seasons in Oakland, and his 607 receiving yards and three touchdowns were the lowest of Crab’s career since 2013. Clearly his productivity with the Ravens wasn’t enough, and Baltimore decided to cut ties with the wide receiver after one season.

While one can argue that Crabtree’s release had more to do with the Ravens shifting gears to a more run-heavy offense, he has been on the free agent market since March and remains unsigned. There are plenty of NFL offenses that could use a receiver like Crabtree, so clearly Gruden isn’t the only person that believes the former Raider’s best years are behind him. 

Obi Melifonwu

One of the more surprising cuts made by Gruden was the decision to move on from former second-round pick Obi Melifonwu. The safety’s tenure with Oakland was short lived and riddled with injuries. Coach Gruden grew frustrated with Obi’s injuries, and the safety went on to sign with the Patriots. While he remains on New England’s roster, the defensive back only played 20 snaps last season and currently sits at third third on the depth chart. If Obi can overcome the injuries that have plagued him, egg on Gruden’s face. However, with the way things stand now, it looks like Gruden made the right call.

Marquette King

No player was more vocal about his feelings towards the Raiders head coach than King. The punter ended up signing with divisional rival Denver, yet that relationship only lasted four games. While injuries played a role in King’s release, it probably didn’t help that he was averaging the fewest yards per punt (44.1) of his career.

Like Crabtree, King has yet to find another suitor and has even gone so far as to apologize and ask Gruden for forgiveness. Between the dip in production and the overall lack of interest in the former second-team All-Pro punter, Oakland’s head coach is vindicated.

Mario Edwards Jr.

Another former second-round pick with injury issues, Edwards was cut after the final preseason game. Along with the injuries, production was an issue for the former Florida State Seminole as he accumulated 71 tackles and five and a half sacks in three years for the Raiders. Edwards spent the 2018 season with the Giants and was even less productive. In New York, he only managed 14 tackles and 2 sacks.

The defensive lineman now enters his fifth season and will be playing for his third team (Saints) in as many years. Between the injuries and limited production in Oakland, the team likely wouldn’t have re-signed Edwards when his contract was up, so essentially Gruden just expedited the process.

Bruce Irvin 

After trading Khalil Mack, Irvin was given an opportunity to prove himself as an elite pass rusher. However, he did not capitalize on the opportunity, which resulted in a diminished role for the aging veteran, and Irvin was eventually let go midseason. He went on to sign with the Falcons, but the change of scenery didn’t seem to work, as Irvin’s PFF pass-rush grade was higher in Oakland.

In the offseason, the Panthers signed Irvin to a one-year four million dollar contract. His contract with the Raiders carried and average per year value of $9.25 million, so not only was getting rid of Irvin a smart decision from a football standpoint, but from an economical one as well.  The edge defender is no longer a burden to Oakland and is now in Carolina, trying to hold onto what’s left of his career.

Chris Warren III

Gruden’s most recent casualty was a preseason hero in 2018. Warren ended the preseason with 292 rushing yards, five yards per carry and two touchdowns. Unfortunately that was the extent of the running back’s contributions, as he was placed on IR after the fourth preseason game and never officially made the roster. The undrafted free agent still has a chance to prove the coach wrong, but a deeper dive into Warren’s 2018 preseason stats give reason to believe his performance was a fluke.

While five yards per carry is impressive, what’s concerning about the former Longhorn, is that he only averaged 2.55 yards after contact per carry. According to Pro Football Focus, that ranked 57th among all running backs with at least 11 carries in the preseason. This suggests Warren’s five yards per carry is more impressive for Oakland’s offensive line than Warren, and the likelihood that the running back will replicate his 2018 preseason heroics in 2019 is low.

Seeing this list should instill confidence in Raider Nation because it looks as if head coach Jon Gruden has a good sense of when players have overstayed their welcome. The fat has been trimmed and the future looks bright for Oakland/Las Vegas. Now the coach just has to ensure the players on the current roster can replace the names above.

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So we conveniently leave off Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Very convenient as the production by those two alone makes Gruden look like a complete idiot. Bruce Irvin is an undersized pass rusher, when Mack left all teams would just slide protect to his side. What does that mean? No one on ones for a speed rusher…

alan robinson
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alan robinson

I would give Marquette King one more chance but with a salary cut with possible performance options. I would also require he restrain his demonstrations on the field. He has the potential to really make a difference if he gets his act together.