Before the Las Vegas Raiders hired Mike Mayock to serve as general manager, the team made a number of questionable draft moves. In 2018, Jon Gruden had his first draft since his return and it was without Mayock. While the players are still young, it remains to be seen if any player from the class has a long-term future with the team.
First-round pick Kolton Miller improved after a horrific rookie season and he should be with the team for a while. However, the Raiders picked up three defensive linemen in the 2018 NFL Draft and it appears Gruden might not be sold on any of them.
“They have to prove they belong in this league. They have to prove they can be frontline guys,” Gruden told the media on Thursday. “P.J. Hall, [Maurice] Hurst, [Arden] Key, those are three guys that we used high draft picks on. Arden has to stay healthy, P.J. Hall, I’m anxious to see where his weight is, he came in overweight last year and at that position that can’t happen. Maurice Hurst has had some good moments, but we need these guys to burst on the scene no question. Getting Rod Marinelli is the best thing I can do to allow that to happen.”
The most notable comments from Gruden are about Hall. Mayock called out the 2018 second round at the NFL Combine. The Raiders have made it increasingly obvious that they aren’t sold on him. That said, Gruden used a very high draft pick on him and can’t give up on the defensive tackle just yet.
Are Any of the 3 on the Chopping Block?
Hall, Key and Hurst should all be feeling the heat right now. The Raiders brought in Rod Marinelli as the new defensive line coach and three new defensive linemen in Carl Nassib, Maliek Collins and Daniel Ross. Key’s in a lot of trouble as he’s had a lot of trouble keeping on the weight the team has wanted him to add in the past. He’s also coming off an injury. Key was a sack master in college but only has three over his first two NFL seasons. He’s going to need a big training camp.
It seems very strange that Hurst would be on the chopping block at all. He led the team in sacks in 2018 and still showed good interiors pass-rushing skills last season. Just looking at him, there doesn’t appear to be any red flags. It would be pretty surprising if the Raiders let him go before the season.
However, Hall should be sweating right now. He’s already been called out by his general manager and now the head coach. He’s going to need to prove that he’s in shape and can be a difference-maker. The talent is there, it’s time to show that the work ethic is also.
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Gruden Places His Trust in Young Players
As was the case last season, the Raiders are set to rely on youth this upcoming season. While that would be a concern for some, Gruden isn’t worried about it.
“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 said. “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.”
Relying on youth paid off for the Raiders last season. Perhaps it’s a winning formula under Gruden.