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Jon Gruden is fired up about his two new starting linebackers

The Raiders hope they’ve addressed one of their biggest weaknesses in free agency

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Jon Gruden was so disappointed in the play of Raiders linebackers last season that the team spent a total of $56 million over the next three years on free agents Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. The two have different skillsets and abilities and Gruden is hoping that they set the tone for the young secondary and defensive line on either side of them.

On Monday, Gruden went on The Game Plan with JT the Brick to update Raiders fans on how things are going as training camp begins. On Littleton and Kwiatkoski, Gruden sounded the most fired up about anything that’s happening right now in Las Vegas.

“They have a presence. They’re different than the linebackers we’ve had here in recent years.”

Gruden said that as far as those changes in the middle of the defense goes, “it starts with Littleton. He’s comfortable in space,” noting that the Chiefs offense can stretch defenses considerably and a linebacker has to cover a lot of different receivers in space. He’s looking for Littleton, a Pro Bowler with the LA Rams in 2018, to do that.

Meanwhile Kwiatkoski is the “straw that stirs the drink,” says Gruden. He’s expecting Kwiatkoski to serve a leadership role, make calls, set up the defense, and allow defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s scheme to take off.

You can listen to the full interview here:

Additionally, Gruden was optimistic about the pass rush, talking about how excited he is to have defensive line coach Rod Marinelli back after the pair had won a Super Bowl together in Tampa Bay. He described Clelin Ferrell as “he’s going to be fine” (in a positive tone, like that he is a talented player on his way) and that Maxx Crosby could be very good “as well.”

Gruden also gave a shout out to free agent signee Carl Nassib and third-year player Arden Key. He did not sound too worried about needing to bring in Jadeveon Clowney or anyone else to help in that area.

The Raiders also announced the trade of P.J. Hall to the Vikings on Monday and Gruden said that Hall “didn’t fit this mission” but wished him well.