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Gruden wants to ‘continue to raise the bar’ for this historic rookie class

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Gruden explains the Preston Brown signing and talks about Sunday’s win

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Raiders Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Mondays in the NFL are either glorious or dreary depending on the result of the previous day’s game.

For Raiders coach Jon Gruden, it was the former. Despite being relatively calm by his standards, Gruden was in a good mood on Monday during his day-after press conference.

Some fans may have been disappointed that the Raiders only won by seven points against a winless team in the Cincinnati Bengals. Gruden, though, stressed how tough it is to win a game in the NFL.

He was in a good mood, even joking about how old he’s become, now wearing glasses during this presser. He pointed out that he likes to join Raiders fans in the parking lot after a big win and did so yesterday.

He called those people who stay to celebrate “nuts, like me.” And so he joins them.

It wasn’t all story time, however. Gruden opened with the announcement of the team signing linebacker Preston Brown, stating they loved his intangibles and his track record, dating back to the 27-year-old’s time at Louisville. On Brown:

“We really liked him coming out of Louisville. He had three 100-tackle seasons with the Buffalo Bills...He has all the intangibles you look for in a middle linebacker. He’s charismatic...he’s a football junkie...we’re going to fast track him.”

Much like with Dion Jordan and D.J. Swearinger this past week or receivers Zay Jones and Trevor Davis previously, the position coaches and coordinators will have to put in extra hours getting Brown up to speed on the defense so that they can get him involved in the game plan as soon as possible.

The coach spent time praising Maxx Crosby — he of the four sack game on Sunday. He said that many didn’t notice when Crosby was merely batting balls away or getting pressures. But he stressed the coaching staff was already very high on the rookie’s performance.

Without saying it outright, Gruden made a claim for Crosby as potential Defensive Rookie of the Year. More importantly, he stressed how proud he is of the growth — literal and figurative — that Crosby has shown coming from a Group of 5 school to the NFL.

On Maxx Crosby, and the other Raiders rookies:

“Success is a great confidence builder. And when you can have success and win as a rookie in this league, it goes a long way...Some guys don’t get to play till their second or third season.”

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In fact, he praised all his rookies and encouraged all Raiders fans: “We have five picks in the top 90 next year.”

“We’ve been getting lots of production, it’s been pretty well documented, from our rookie class. And we’re going to continue to raise the bar for them.”

Gruden acknowledged that he’s known for preferring older players, but then referenced the drafts he had early in his first Raiders tenure, naming Charles Woodson and Jon Ritchie as “some pretty good players we drafted.”

He talked about how the Raiders’ early season road trip was “almost unprecedented in NFL history.” He is happy with how his team handled it and he’s ecstatic with his how team played in its three-game homestand.

All around, the mood at the Raiders’ facility in Alameda on Monday was joyous. Why shouldn’t it be after a third straight win, further solidifying the teams’ chances at a postseason berth?

He did acknowledge the Bengals’ defense was difficult to prepare for because:

“Their defense, although they had a struggle against the Ravens, everybody struggles against the Ravens. When you study Cincinnat’s defense, they’re playing against the Ravens twice, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, quarterbacks that run around. They’re not going to play us the same way. So you’re not quite sure how to prepare.”

We’re not quite at ESPN analyst Jon Gruden level — there’s still his famous, or perhaps infamous scowl on the sideline and the bitten lip, “Come on man” in some press conferences.

But Raiders coach Jon Gruden is feeling good. His team is good.

And they’re only getting better.