Is Jakorian Bennett ready to be a solution to what many NFL pundits see as a weakness for the Las Vegas Raiders? On the other side of the ball, Austin Hooper is eager to mentor rookie tight end Michael Mayer while still being in his prime.
The Silver and Black’s secondary is one of the squad’s biggest question marks defensively. However, Raiders legend Marcus Allen believes that rookie cornerback Jakorian Bennett has the characteristics to have a standout season.
Speaking of rookies, tight end Michael Mayer won’t have to figure out life in the NFL as veteran Austin Hooper is ready to teach the Notre Dame product the ropes. The 22-year-old has the task of being the long-term replacement for Darren Waller. Having a mentor will go a long way in filling in Waller’s shoes.
Plenty of news surrounds two of the Raiders’ prominent rookies, so let’s dive into the latest.
Marcus Allen has high praise for CB Jakorian Bennett
Any team playing in the AFC West needs a quality secondary, considering the quarterbacks in the division. If the Raiders want to compete against the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, and Kansas City Chiefs, they need to have a unit that can viably defend the passing game.
With a need to improve the secondary, Las Vegas drafted Bennett in the fourth-round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Even though the 22-year-old defensive back is only a rookie, Allen loves what he sees from Bennett at training camp.
“Jakorian does an outstanding job of just really leveraging routes, being in the right place, the right time, making plays on the ball,” Allen said recently on Raiders Training Camp Special. “He has really popped out as a rookie on our football team right now.”
The Maryland product will look to contribute to a secondary that only had six interceptions and 13 takeaways last season. Bennett had five total interceptions in 2021 and 2022 at Maryland. If he can adequately defend the pass and make wide receivers’ life difficult, he will be exactly what Las Vegas hoped for when selecting him.
Bennett and the Raiders will be tested early this 2023 NFL season. In their first four games, the Silver and Black will face Russell Wilson (under new head coach Sean Payton), Josh Allen, and Justin Herbert. If the young cornerback features in the secondary, he’ll begin swimming in the pool’s deep end.
So, Raider Nation, are you buying the analysis from the legendary running back?
Austin Hooper is ready to step in and mentor Michael Mayer
Navigating life as a rookie in the NFL can be a rollercoaster, primarily when tasked with replacing a Pro Bowl-caliber player. When picking Mayer, the Raiders found Waller’s replacement in the second-round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Mayer has big shoes to fill; however, the rookie tight end will have Hooper to teach him the ropes while the 28-year-old remains in his prime. In the meantime, Hooper hopes to get his own career back on track after having quality years with the Atlanta Falcons which led him to get a big-money deal with the Cleveland Browns.
While Hooper has all the reason to be selfish, considering Mayer is competing against him for snaps, that’s not the bond he wants to have with the rookie. Now a veteran, Hooper had to figure out life in the NFL by himself – he doesn’t want that for the Notre Dame product.
Mayer is the future for the Raiders, and Hooper wants to watch him grow
“Yeah, I mean, I feel like that’s just part of being a good teammate,” Hooper told reporters Saturday (h/t SI’s Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr.). “It doesn’t matter what year you are like I’m an open book. Without getting into names, I’ll just say, when I was a young player I wish some things were handled differently with me being a young tight end. So I said to myself, like if I make it that far down the road like it’s never going to be a closed book.”
“By all means, I let [Raiders tight end coach Jerry Schuplinski] coach. I mean, it’s his room ultimately, but if there little tidbits, little things that have helped me that can help him make the jump a little quicker, I definitely don’t hold any secrets, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Hooper’s mentality to put aside the competition and help Mayer shows his character. The young tight end is the future for the Raiders, and if he does go on to have a successful NFL career, it all began with Hooper’s help.
*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images