It should have come as no surprise when Jon Gruden took over as coach of the Raiders, that soon after the Raiders roster became the oldest in the league. Throughout his coaching career Gruden has favored veteran players as the foundation to his teams.
Now, eight games into his second stint with the Raiders his philosophy has changed slightly and is putting more responsibility on the rookies. After last week’s embarrassment on Thursday night football Gruden held a meeting with his first year players before excusing them for the weekend.
“Obviously, the big part of the message is what a big part of this organization they will become and they are. They must handle that responsibility and take advantage of it,” said Gruden.
It’s a difficult task for a rookie to step in and make an immediate impact in their first season, especially those selected outside of the first round. Like any new job, their is a learning curve in the NFL.
“We have five linemen that are starting and playing a lot of football. We have a nickel corner in Nick Nelson and Jason Cabinda, a linebacker, that are going to play critical snaps for us. We have a kicker, a punter and a snapper that are rookies.”
When the Raiders selected two offensive tackles in the first three rounds of the draft the plan was to gradually, ease them into the rotation. Kolton Miller has played 93.8 percent of the snaps and the last five weeks, Brandon Parker has played in 86.7 percent. With Donald Penn on the injured reserve it’s likely Parker remains the starter at right tackle for the remainder of the year.
Arden Key (57.5%), Maurice Hurst (61%), and P.J. Hall (37.4%) have all played significant snaps due to trades, cuts, and injuries to other players. And as Gruden mentioned, Nick Nelson and Jason Cabinda will have larger roles going forward.
“He has a lot of confidence in us, but he wants better,” said Arden Key of the meeting with Gruden. “As a rookie class, we are doing well, but he doesn’t want us to think of ourselves as rookies. He wants us to play like vets, to play like we’ve been in the league five years. We took it as a challenge, and we have to step up to that challenge.”
It’s obviously not ideal but the Raiders have no other choice. The next eight weeks will continue to give the rookies valuable learning experience as they are now the building blocks for the future success of the organization.