One of the more eye-popping moves the Raiders made this offseason was the signing of controversial offensive guard Richie Incognito. Drama surrounding Incognito has been well publicized for years, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a pro bowl level talent. Incognito briefly retired following the 2017 season, but Gruden and company were able to convince him to join the silver and black. The move was met with much disdain.
Despite the backlash, the Raiders continue to move forward with Incognito as the starting left guard. Jon Gruden spoke to the media on Tuesday to address the signing.
“Last time [Incognito] strapped it on, he was one of the best. We need to solidify that position [left guard]. That was a sore spot last year, we played four different left guards and it hurt us. Hopefully, Richie finds his stride like he had a couple years ago because when he’s right, he’s one of the best in football.”
Fifth-year pro Denzelle Good was slated to start before the Incognito signing. Good has never found consistent work as a starter so signing Incognito certainly fills a big need. Bringing on Incognito could pay huge dividends on the football side of the things, but could also have negative PR ramifications if he doesn’t keep his head straight. Gruden was also asked about where Incognito stands from a mental standpoint.
“I’ve spent a lot of time talking with Richie,” said Gruden. “This is not a farfetched comeback that he’s trying to make, this is something that he’s thought a lot about. He walked away from the game for very good reasons. I’m not going to get into to that, but we like where he is, we like what he’s done and we like the potential of what he can be.”
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Gruden also addressed how important mental health awareness is to the Raiders.
“We take a lot of pride in the mental health and physical health of all our players and employees. A lot of this stuff is stuff I’m not gonna talk about here.”
Incognito keeping his head on straight could go a long way in solidifying the Raider offensive line. If second-year offensive tackle Kolton Miller can play up to his first-round potential, the Raiders seemingly will have no weak links along the offensive line. Center Rodney Hudson, right guard Gabe Jackson and right tackle Trent Brown fill out the offensive line and it is one of the most formidable groups in the NFL. The optics of the Incognito signing aren’t great, but he does fill a need and the Raiders will be giving quarterback Derek Carr a clean pocket throughout the season if everybody can stay healthy.
Some of the Raiders’ moves this offseason have received the ire of some publications like Sports Illustrated. A team that has personalities like Incognito, Antonio Brown and Vontaze Burfict can expect some amount of drama. Well, if those players can keep out of the negatives headlines, the Raiders got some serious talent on the cheap.