This is going to be head coach Jon Gruden’s third year of his second tenure with the Las Vegas Raiders. Although they had one of the oldest rosters in the NFL in 2018, they now have plenty of youth. It’s not just the players though, the whole team looks and sounds fresh heading into their Week 1 matchup against the Carolina Panthers.
It took the Raiders a while to jump-start their rebuild
The Raiders relieved Jack Del Rio of his head coaching duties following a 6-10 record in 2017. They subsequently hired Gruden and gave him a 10-year $100 million contract. In his first year back at the helm, they went 4-12, which was a step back from the season before. One of the reasons for such the mark was the lack of good players the team had.
The Raiders traded EDGE Khalil Mack before the start of the 2018 season, devoiding the defense from its best player. Moreover, they relied on over-the-hill veterans such as wide receiver Jordy Nelson and NaVorro Bowman to fill key roles in the team. Once the year finished, the Raiders decided against bringing either of them back and a few more. It could be argued that it was then when the Raiders started their rebuild.
With the assets the Raiders gained from the Mack trade, the Raiders brought in plenty of young players via the draft. That’s how, from one day to another, the Silver and Black oversaw a youth movement. Rookies such as running back Josh Jacobs, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, cornerback Trayvon Mullen and defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby became staples of the team.
The Raiders didn’t stop last year, as they kept using the draft as the principal means to acquire talent. 2020 draft picks Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards and Damon Arnette will join last year’s impact rookies in the starting lineup ahead of the Panthers. All in all, up to nine first or second-year players could start in Week 1.
There is a nice mix of veterans too
While the Raiders have moved from aging players, they do have the right amount of veteran talent on their roster. Quarterback Derek Carr, center Rodney Hudson, tight end Jason Witten and defensive tackle Maliek Collins complement the roster to form the right mix of young and veteran players.
Gruden is pleased with the group he and the team’s brass have put in place. He feels confident enough to let 2020’s rookies take the field against the Panthers. Via The Athletic, the head coach says there is evidence of progress in his third year with the team.
“We’re starting to see the products of our labor. We’re hoping that Arnette, Ruggs and Edwards are up to the challenge because Carolina is going to be a challenge.”
We don’t know how the Raiders 2020 season is going to play out yet. However, we know that even with the mistakes and success the team has gone through these two years, they are in a better place than they were when Gruden took over.
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Top Photo: D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press