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Shoulder injury contributed to Arden Key ‘nerve wracking’ rookie season, says he has hit Raiders weight gain goal

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Oakland Raiders

There has been some contrasting views on just how heavy the Raiders wanted Arden Key to be when they hit OTA’s. Head coach Jon Gruden said he wanted Key at 260 and perhaps ultimately at 270. Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther said he didn’t want Key a “slug” at 260, saying Key was right on track to where he wanted him.

Regardless of the slight differences in where his coaches wanted him, Key was nowhere near it when he arrived at OTA’s last month, but says over the past few weeks he’s gotten where he needs to be.

“I got bigger,” Key said at Wednesday’s minicamp practice. “When I reported for OTA’s I was 245. Coaches expected me to be a little heavier and now I’m at 260.”

Coaches wanted him to come in about ten pounds heavier than he did. Guenther in particular had harped on Key getting stronger. He said several times that Key should have had 8-9 sacks last season, but couldn’t finish the deal. Key finished with just one sack which he got in week 6 against the Seahawks.

The second year edge rusher sees a lot more than 8 or 9 missed opportunities and those moments have stuck with him as well as his new defensive line coach, Brentson Buckner.

“It still means a lot,” said Key of those missed sacks. “And then Buck came and watched film and he had a whole clip of my almost 13 sacks (laughs). Whether I fell, slipped, the quarterback got away... So, it was very nerve wracking because I could have had a better first year, but hey we all learn from those mistakes.”

Key’s rookie performance was especially disappointing because in training camp he looked utterly dominant. He routinely beat his man with outstanding technique and bend.

One area Buckner noted was a major problem for Key had nothing to do with his actual rush at all.

“That’s how Buck’s been teaching me. As far as my angles,” said Key. “He started off with I missed the sack by just my alignment. The ball isn’t even snapped yet, and I just missed the sack already by my alignment. Whether I was too wide, too tight, or I didn’t turn my hips enough. . . I was already done before the ball was even snapped.”

Contributing to his disappointing rookie campaign was a nagging shoulder injury which occurred in training camp. Key would have surgery on the shoulder in January which he described as a “cleanout. Nothing serious.” The rehab from that may have been part of the reason he was unable to get as strong as the Raiders coaches wanted him to be come OTA’s.

Since he arrived at OTA’s, his regimen has been strict combining working out and eating a pretty steady diet of salmon, chicken, steak, broccoli, asparagus, and “a lot of rice.” He eats a regular breakfast and about 2500 calories over lunch and dinner combined.

That seems to have done the trick to pack on 15 pounds in a month to get him up to 260. Now he needs to make sure he isn’t that “260-pound slug” Paul Guenther wants to avoid. From there he just needs to stay healthy and clean up his alignment issues and the Raiders may have the third down pass rusher they drafted him to be.