Despite being a member of the media just several years ago, Jon Gruden doesn’t speak to the media very often during the offseason. For the first time since the end of the 2020 season, the Las Vegas Raiders head coach took to the podium. The team had a big offseason and made a lot of changes so there’s been a lot of curiosity about what his thought process has been.
Gruden has a lot of pull in the Raiders organization but a fourth straight year without making the playoffs could lead to significant changes. Fortunately for the coach, he believes the team is heading in the right direction.
“The expectations are rising,” Gruden said Wednesday.
He thinks the Raiders proved a lot last season and needs to take the next step in 2021.
“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.”
The Raiders went 6-2 on the road last season while going 2-6 at home. They were also the only team to beat the Kansas City Chiefs during the regular season in a game that Patrick Mahomes started. They made some major strides last season but it wasn’t good enough to get them in the playoffs.
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Gruden Believes Raiders Are Better
A big reason the Raiders have struggled over recent years is their lack of depth on the roster. Over the last two seasons, the team started off 6-4 with clear paths to the playoffs. In both seasons, they fell apart down the stretch once injuries and fatigue began to pile up. Gruden believes that the roster is in much better shape than it has been in the past.
“I think we’re better,” Gruden said. “I think we’ve got a chance to be much better and a lot deeper and be more competitive.”
The Raiders are in the midst of minicamps and it will be the last significant work they do until training camp. Gruden believes the team has had a productive few days of practice.
“We got better each day,” Gruden said. “We did a lot of strategic things and focused every day, and we got better. I’m very happy about that.”
Last offseason, the Raiders didn’t get to hold OTAs or minicamps. The fact that they were able to hold those practices this offseason already put them at an advantage over last season.
Gruden Can’t Say if This Is Best Roster He’s Had
The Raiders did lose some key players this offseason, especially on the offensive line. However, they added a number of potential difference-makers on defense. Gruden is hyped about the roster’s added youth and depth.
“Well, I’ll have to see when we get to camp,” Gruden responded when asked if this is the best roster he’s coached since returning. “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.”
It’s too early to know if this roster has the best collection of offensive talent since Gruden took over but this should be the best defense he’s had with the additions of Yannick Ngakoue, Casey Hayward and Trevon Moehrig.