Raiders HC Jon Gruden Has High Expectations for Rookie Class

The Las Vegas Raiders are in year three of head coach Jon Gruden’s tenure. Although the first couple of seasons didn’t produce many wins on the scoreboard, his vision is slowly taking shape.

There’s a plan ahead of the 2020 season

In his first year with the Raiders, Gruden revamped the team and added plenty of veterans. Some of those were Derrick Johnson and Jordy Nelson. Two years later, the team is going through an infusion of youth after having the oldest roster in the NFL in 2018.

Ever since Gruden took over, the team has relied on rookies to have an impact in their first NFL campaign. Even though it was more out of necessity than by design in 2018, the head coach feels comfortable giving first-year players plenty of snaps. The team’s official website uploaded a fragment of Gruden’s latest press conference. In it, he shares observations about this year’s and previous Raiders rookie classes.

I think over the last couple of years a lot of young players have played for us — that was the goal when we got here.

Gruden points out that entrusting rookies is part of the plan to rebuild a Raiders roster that was devoid of talent before he arrived.

You could say we excavated the land here in terms of the roster in the first year, but we have built it back with young players, Maxx Crosby, ‘Cle’ Ferrell, obviously Josh Jacobs and [Hunter] Renfrow. Kolton Miller started as a rookie, Brandon Parker started as a rookie, so we don’t have any doubt that if Trayvon Mullen can start, [Damon] Arnette can start. John Abram was an opening day starter as well, so we’re not afraid to play the young guys, but they’ve got to earn it.

Gruden is right, he won’t start rookies for the sake of justifying his investment in young players. Last season, cornerback Trayvon Mullen saw plenty of action in Week 1 only to sit in the bench some games before settling on one starting spot. The same was true for Maxx Crosby and Hunter Renfrow last year. They didn’t see meaningful playing time until they showed they could handle a more prominent role.

Related: Raiders Rookie Magnificent 7 Arrive at Henderson HQ

The 2020 season will also see Raiders rookies take plenty of snaps

Despite the fact the Raiders now have more talent all around, their rookies will still play a key role. It’s not set on stone, but two players from the 2020 draft class are slated to start. At this point, it’s uncertain if Prince Amukamara or Damon Arnette will start opposite of Mullen. Nonetheless, the team expects the Ohio State product to start sooner or later. On the offensive side of the ball, Henry Ruggs III seems to be the Silver and Black’s No. 1 receiver.

It isn’t just Arnette and Ruggs. If Edwards shows playmaking prowess, he could take over Tyrell Williams’ starting role. The same is also true for Amik Robertson. If slot corner Lamarcus Joyner underperforms, the Louisiana Tech product should get consideration for the job.

The Raiders have slowly improved since the 2017 campaign. This year’s rookie classes could be what the Silver and Black needs to finally get over the hump.

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Top Photo: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

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