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Raiders ‘building’ for future, could field more than eight rookies ‘before the season is over’

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Pretty early on the Raiders looked like they were in the midst of a rebuilding project. That’s a bitter pill to swallow for many fans because it means admitting the team will not be winning anytime soon. As each week passes and the losses stack up, that reality has been setting in.

Fielding a combination of past-their-prime veterans and rookies is a pretty sure sign of a rebuild. Many of these veterans know a primary function to them being brought to Oakland is to mentor the young players for future success.

“There’s a lot of turnover obviously, not only for the coaching staff, but obviously on the guys that they brought in,” said Jordy Nelson. “A lot of it’s been changing the culture and the way they go about things, so I think it’s veterans who tried to come in and bring what we’ve learned, like for myself from the ten years I had in Green Bay, an incredible organization and a winning organization to bring the little things, not necessarily verbally, but just the way we go about the way we work and the details and everything and that just allows us to start setting that foundation for the rest of this year and then going on into the future.”

This is the oldest team in the NFL, with several players over the age of 30 including a number of starters like Jordy Nelson, Reggie Nelson, Frostee Rucker, Leon Hall and, coming into the season, Derrick Johnson and Donald Penn. The result has been one win on the season.

“Whether you’re a young team or a veteran team, winning one game is no fun. But I think we’re determined to continue building this team. A lot of these veteran players are here for that sole responsibility of laying down the foundation of how we want to play, how we want to prepare, how we want to practice, and how we want to compete. And I’m proud of our team for doing that. We haven’t won a lot of games, but we’ve had our opportunities, we’ve been there. Hopefully we continue to do that and see the emergence of some young Oakland Raiders. . . we’re playing eight rookies right now, and before the season’s over, we might be playing more than that. So, we got a lot to prove, we need to see some people get healthy and help us, but we got a lot to prove.”

No team should be playing eight rookies this early on. At least not a good team. Fans like to think that you can judge a rookie by how many starts they have. But that is not a good way to judge a class. It’s all about what they are able to accomplish with those starts.

Barring a miraculous turnaround by this team, the more rookies the merrier. Only one of the team’s top 7 draft picks doesn’t play significant minutes for this team. Most of them are starters. Fourth round pick Nick Nelson hasn’t seen the field, only being active for one game.

Nelson has sat behind veteran Leon Hall as the slot corner. That needs to change soon. Getting him snaps is good for his development and will allow the team to evaluate him better. Even if Leon Hall is playing better right now, he isn’t the future, Nelson is.

After that there are a few rookies on the practice squad the team could get a better look at including seventh round receiver, Marcell Ateman. The more the merrier for this squad trying to find itself.

“It helps a lot. Just knowing that we’re all trying to grow together and just try to motivate each other to be as great as we possibly can be,” said fifth round rookie defensive tackle Maurice Hurst. “Just trying to get the coaches’ trust, trying to get the players’ trust, that’s a biggest thing I feel like as a rookie is having the other guys on the field trust that you’re going to do your job and do it correctly. That’s the biggest thing for me is making sure that I have my teammates’ trust.”

Sunday the Raiders face the Seahawks in London. Another showing like last week in Los Angeles or really any of their first three games of the season, would mean another loss heading into the bye week where among the team’s self reflection needs to be getting these young players on the field. And that means not just rookies but others as well like third-year safety Karl Joseph and second-year linebacker Nicholas Morrow.