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Youth movement in Oakland will have Raiders relying heavily on veteran leaders

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Taking young players under their wings will require a big nest and a large wingspan this season.

NFL: Preseason-Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In a very un-Jon-Gruden-like move, the Raiders are suddenly quite a young team. They are one of the ten youngest in the league, in fact. That’s rather shocking for a coach like Gruden who is notoriously a fan of veteran players. And this youth movement isn’t just the backups and special teamers, it’s the starters and major contributors too.

The average age of the Raiders 53-man roster is 25.6. That’s 9th in the league, after being the NFL’s oldest in 2018 with an average age of 27.4.

When you look at just the projected opening day starters and major contributors on the team, the average age doesn’t change. It’s exactly the same (25.6). With an average NFL experience of just four years.

Among them is as many as six rookie starters and five second year players. There are also 13 major contributors under the age of 25.

On offense, the skill positions are the youngest. With a rookie running back (Josh Jacobs), rookie fullback (Alec Ingold), rookie slot receiver (Hunter Renfrow), rookie blocking tight end (Foster Moreau), and starting tight end with just 22 game appearances in three seasons.

Derek Carr is obviously the leader of the offense and they will lean on him to get his young weapons up to speed and performing at a high level in this offense.

On the other side of the ball, there is a rookie starting defensive end (Clelin Ferrell), rookie safety (Johnathan Abram), second year edge rusher (Arden Key), second year defensive tackle (Maurice Hurst), and linebacker Nicholas Morrow with just ten career starts in two seasons.

For that leadership, they will look to middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

“Certainly we’re going to be young,” said Gruden.

“To have a signal caller on both sides with the charisma, the leadership and the experience of Burfict and Carr, helps us.”

There is someone for young players to turn to at basically every position. really.

On the offensive line it’s Rodney Hudson, who is the glue of the team and just signed an extension making him the league’s highest paid center.

In the secondary it’s Lamarcus Joyner, who signed with the team this offseason and despite playing nickel corner figures to be on the field for somewhere around 70% of the defensive snaps.

On the defensive line there’s 7th year defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins who Gruden calls the most improved player, and recently added veteran nose tackle Corey Liuget.

On special teams — where the Raiders have a rookie punter (AJ Cole), a second year kicker (Daniel Carlson) and second year long snapper (Trent Sieg) — there is 9th year return man Dwayne Harris and 8th year captain Kyle Wilber.

That’s not to say these veterans are leaders merely by virtue of having played in the league a while. But they are a resource from which the young players can draw should they feel uncertain about things. And with basically half the key contributors on this team either a rookie or second year player, the Raiders will need these veterans to have some big wings.