One of the most disappointing first-round rookies from last year’s NFL Draft was Damon Arnette. The former Ohio State cornerback was considered a reach when the Las Vegas Raiders selected him in the first round and he did little to silence those critics. He missed seven games last season due to a hand injury and COVID-19.
When he was on the field, he didn’t play well and was a key reason why the Raiders blew a win against the Miami Dolphins in Week 16. This offseason, the team added several defensive backs, including two-time Pro Bowler Casey Hayward. The Athletic’s Vic Tafur referred to Arnette as an “afterthought” this offseason, which doesn’t bode well for his future. However, Jon Gruden appears to still have high hopes for the cornerback. After the first day of training camp, the coach offered his thoughts on Arnette.
“Well we drafted Arnette in the first round,” Gruden said Tuesday. “He was our opening day starter, so he’s a big part of us moving forward. He had the virus, he had an injury to his thumb, he also had concussion injuries, so he was an incomplete performer for us last year, but he’s as good a corner as we have talent-wise on this team. We think he and Trayvon Mullen and Casey Hayward, some of the other people that are in the mix now give us depth, competition, and some interesting matchups. So, I’m fired up about the secondary.”
Based on those comments, it certainly doesn’t sound like Gruden views Arnette as an afterthought.
ALL the latest Raiders news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on Raiders newsletter here!
Will Arnette Start?
Trayvon Mullen should have one of the starting cornerback jobs locked down. He played well for the Raiders last season and should only get better. The second starting cornerback spot remains unclear. During OTAs, it looked like Hayward had the edge over Arnette.
However, Gruden and company would much rather the former first-round pick grab ahold of the job. They also aren’t going to set him and the defense up for failure. If Hayward outplays him in training camp, he’s going to get the job. As of right now, it appears that Arnette still has a real shot of winning that starting job back but he has to be on his toes as Hayward is still a big threat, even at the age of 31.
Gruden Praises Gus Bradley
One thing that could help Arnette is the hiring of Gus Bradley as the team’s new defensive coordinator. He’s got a completely different style than Paul Guenther and that could be just what the defense needs. Gruden has been a big fan of what he’s seeing from his new defensive coordinator.
“It’s been fun to watch; no disrespect to Paul,” Gruden said. “But we have a completely different group of players, too. Gus, he’s a high-energy coach. He’s upbeat, positive. He’s philosophical. He’s fun to be around. He makes you laugh, but he also pushes you.”
It remains to be seen how Bradley’s system will translate to the Raiders but it’s clear that his personality is winning over the team.