In a time of the game where being younger and attempting to stockpile sure-fire has become the norm, Jon Gruden has decided take a path less traveled.
Throughout this past free agency period, it seemed as if Gruden had a soft spot in his heart for older players whose primes came and went four or five years ago. A good chunk of the players they signed are on the wrong side of 30 years old and everyone in the league has taken notice of the trend. Most find themselves unable to resist cracking the occasional joke that Gruden is attempting to put together a star-studded team.....if it was 2008.
I know a lot of us here at BFTB have seen some of the additions as they happened and immediately cringed out of disbelief. We can’t help but ask ourselves what the Raiders are thinking and feel bad for the fan base.
But then we remember that they’re the Raiders, and this is amazing, and we are actually super excited about seeing Gruden take the team down this path to nowhere.
Let’s focus on the positives, people.
The Raiders came into the NFL Draft with an obvious plan and that was to beef up the offensive line in order to better protect quarterback Derek Carr against several elite pass-rushers that reside in the AFC West. With their first-round pick, they selected uber-athletic offensive tackle Kolton Miller out of UCLA who looks to be slotted in at the right tackle position. With their first of two third-round selections, Gruden selected Brandon Parker, an offensive tackle out of North Carolina A&T who went his entire collegiate career without giving up a single sack.
The wide receiver room got a complete makeover as the Raiders replaced Michael Crabtree with the likes of Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant, and Ryan Switzer. Nelson has arguably been Aaron Rodgers’ best receiver over the last several years and found himself left out in the cold after the team decided to move forward with Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, and a younger receiver group.
Bryant adds an explosive presence that can threaten defenses over the top while Switzer is an extremely shifty receiver who will hang his hat on money-down success while also contributing on kick-returns.
The team also added former-Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin which, quite frankly, goes right along with the acquisitions of players that seem to be spiraling away from their glory days.
This past season, the Oakland secondary found themselves in a weird place before the mid-season mark hit. The Raiders defense became the first unit in NFL history that failed to record a single interception within the team’s first seven games. It wasn’t until the Thursday night showing against the Chiefs that they recorded their first pick of the year.
So what did Gruden do to remedy the issue? Sign 29-year old and former Charger safety Marcus Gilchrist.
Band-aid, meet bullet-wound.
New veteran additions to the defensive side of the ball also included long-time Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson and former Seattle defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin, both 35 and 31 years old, respectively.
I have to admit that the brightest lights within the Raiders’ rookie crop might be their two new defensive tackles, P.J Hall from Sam Houston State and Maurice Hurst out of Michigan.
Hall, a rather unknown prospect for most of the draft process, is an athletic phenom at the position. At his pro-day, Hill went 4.83/4.71 in the 40 at 310 pounds. He also jumped 38 inches in the vertical and 9-8 in the broad.
The most surprising statistic of them all? The man blocked 14 (!!!) kicks in college.
And he’s about to be paired with Hurst, who was arguably the best interior defensive lineman in the entire draft. His draft stock took a major hit, however, when he was diagnosed with a heart condition following the combine in Indianapolis.
It’s crazy to imagine, but the defensive line talent in the AFC West might have taken another leap forward.
The Raiders have had one of the more popular, and talented, special teams units in the NFL over the last 15 years. Longtime kicker Sebastian Janikowski was relegated to the sidelines after a back-injury landed him on injured-reserve for the entire 2017 season. Janikowski was later told by the team he would not be brought back after 27-year old Giorgio Tavecchio had a solid year in his place.
The next piece to fall was fan-favorite punter Marquette King. King was well-known for being an excellent punter while bringing a level of swagger not usually seen at a position known for just kicking the ball to the opponent. However, King’s style of play and attention he brought to himself was deemed more of a negative than a positive to the new head coach.
He has been replaced with rookie punter Johnny Townsend out of the University of Florida, whom the Raiders selected in the fifth round of this year’s NFL Draft.
What are your guys’ expectations of the Oakland Raiders this season? Let us know in the comment section.