Players on the Raiders roster are already being put on notice during the veterans only practices at the Raiders facility. Head Coach Jon Gruden, famous for being incredibly intense and single minded in his passion for football, delivered on that reputation by giving his players “an examination” to end mini-camp.
Gruden said in his Tuesday press conference post practice; “We get a chance to see who can learn this stuff fast, who’s a quick study, and who isn’t. That may impact how we go in the draft.”
This is a departure from the more laid back style employed by Allen or Del Rio in previous years. The difference in approach is palpable when you hear Derek Carr say “He threw everything at me. He tried to get me, see if I was listening to him in the meetings and those things.”
Carr said it was fun to accept the challenge that Gruden brings but the tone of his voice sounded less fun and more tired if anything. Imagine showing up to a grad school class, having a pop-quiz that spans several topics that you’ve only been learning for a couple weeks and taking the test while sprinting at full speed. That’s the level of expectation Gruden puts on his team and more importantly his quarterbacks. By all accounts it seems Carr passed the “exam” with flying colors.
Its safe to say Carr’s spot is secure but don’t be shocked if QB is still in Gruden’s draft plans. It’s clear how much Gruden demands from the position and the NFL saw a team win the Super Bowl with a back-up Quarterback this past season. Gruden’s pop quiz was as much for Carr as it was for Connor Cook and EJ Manuel and depending on how well they did will determine how early Gruden takes a flyer on a QB.
Other positions implicated in this draft plan talk will be the secondary. The Raiders added an astounding number of CB’s to the roster this off-season.
New DB Coach Derrick Ansley coming from the highest echelon of the college at Alabama will be a great resource for Gruden and Reggie when deciding how early to draft new defensive backs. The competition at that position will be as fierce as ever.
Special Teams Coach Rich Bisaccia will be equally involved in evaluating the current roster and in many cases a player’s spot on the roster will hinge on their 4th down ability. These players effort and performance during the special teams phases of these practices could also affect draft plans.
Generally rounds 1-4 are reserved for eventual starters but the later rounds should mostly be depth and special teams players. Don’t be surprised if the draft yields players with return ability or those players who figure to slot into special teams coverage roles round 5 and after.
It’s safe to assume the players that the Raiders target in the draft will be at positions where players didn’t pass Gruden’s test. One thing can be said for sure, no one will be resting on their laurels in 2018. The Raiders players will be prepared to compete day 1 or else they won’t make the team.