Jon Gruden likes Raiders' offseason moves some critics deem as 'questionable'
Jon Gruden is fully aware of how his former media colleagues and critics judge the latest offseason moves of his Las Vegas Raiders.
From signings like Kenyan Drake to shipping out veteran offensive linemen to the drafting of Alex Leatherwood in the first round, the Raiders have raised eyebrows across the NFL landscape yet again.
Gruden knows the perception. He couldn’t give a hoot about it.
Entering his fourth season with the Raiders, Gruden was asked at Wednesday’s minicamp session if he believes it’s his best roster yet.
“Well, I’ll have to see when we get to camp,” Gruden responded. “Obviously, we like it on paper. We made some changes that’re, you know, in some people’s eyes, uh, questionable. But we’re younger, I think we’re faster. I think we do have more depth. It’s hard to update that question right now without seeing everything in pads at full strength.”
On offense, the Raiders signed speedy wideout John Brown and possession receiver Willie Snead. Drake’s addition provides dual-threat depth to a backfield that struggled to find a second-fiddle to workhorse Josh Jacobs. Vegas is betting big that getting younger (and cheaper) on the offensive line will pay dividends after dismantling a veteran core.
Leatherwood, expected to start at right tackle, is key to the O-line revamp. Many scouts — including NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah — didn’t have the Alabama product pegged as a first-rounder. The Raiders cared not for that public perception.
Wednesday, Gruden gushed about his first-round pick.
“Well, he’s very smart. Very athletic. He’s long. He’s a talented player,” the coach said. “And that’s why we took him. We had him ranked high on our board and we’re glad he fell to us. We’re glad he was there for us. Smart guy, very athletic. And he has a lot of experience. So, we’re counting on him being our starting right tackle.”
The defense was the Raiders’ biggest weakness in 2020 and remains a question mark under new coordinator Gus Bradley. Vegas poured more assets into that side of the ball, including pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue and second-round DB Trevon Moehrig. Getting more production out of previous early-round draft picks in the secondary is paramount for the Raiders D to turn a corner finally.
If the younger, faster version of Gruden’s squad doesn’t make the playoffs for a fourth-straight season under the coach, the fan base might start to run out of patience for the man with the decade-long contract. The coach is aware the “expectations are rising.”
“We proved we can compete in the AFC West,” Gruden said. “We proved we can win on the road. Now we’ve got to prove we can win at a much higher level.”
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