In his press conference to kick off reporting day for training camp, Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden was his typical excited self.
Gruden praised many players on the roster in order to express his hope for the 2021 season. However, one area where his optimism and excitement was most evident was the secondary. It is clear that Gruden has high hopes for a unit in which the team has major draft capital invested — and he is basically saying it is time for the group to come together.
“I’m fired up about the secondary, it should be a strength of our team,” Gruden said. “If it isn’t, it means we have made some real mistakes ... I’ll be really upset if it’s not worth the price of admission.”
The Raiders have taken three defensive backs in the first round since 2017 (the pick for that year, Gareon Conley, is no longer on the team) and they drafted safety Tre’von Moehrig in the second round this year. Gruden knows it’s time for these investments to pay off. While he seems optimistic, it’s clear he’s going to be frustrated if it doesn’t work out.
He praised fourth-round pick safety Tyree Gillespie and said he is in the “picture.” There has been some thought that Gillespie — who Gruden also said could play some dime linebacker in the future — could be an option at strong safety if 2019 first-round pick Johnathan Abram fails.
Also, Gruden said 2020 first-round pick Damon Arnette still has a chance to develop. He said Arnette is as talented as any cornerback on the roster.
Other highlights from Gruden’s press conference:
- Gruden is high on first-round right tackle Alex Leatherwood.
“We love Leatherwood.” Gruden said. “He’s off to a great start ... I have no doubt about him as a football player.”
- Third-round pick, linebacker/safety Divine Deablo had a knee procedure and Gruden expects him to be out a couple of weeks. Undrafted free agent defensive tackle Darius Stills has a back issue and may be back next week, Gruden said.
- Gruden said his entire coaching staff has been vaccinated and only “four or five” players have not been. He also noted the team has hired Tim Harkins on their medical staff to lead the way against the coronavirus.
- Gruden said every player has reported to camp and at their desired weight.
- Gruden said linebacker Nicholas Morrow and new defensive end Yannick Ngakoue may be ready to become team captain. He said Morrow’s time is “now.”
- Third-round pick, pass-rusher Malcolm Koonce, has made an “impression” on the coaching staff, Gruden said.
- Gruden is excited about defensive tackle Darius Philon, who reported at 296 pounds. He hasn’t played in the NFL in three years, but he is someone to watch in camp.
- The coach is also pumped about second-year wide receivers Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards, and veterans Zay Jones and Keelan Doss. There should be some good competition at wide receiver where undrafted free agent Dillon Stoner is also in the mix to make the 53-man roster.
- There were no questions about Carl Nassib’s announcement, coming out as gay, last month. Perhaps it is a sign the defensive end may have some normalcy as he prepares for the season and that’s exactly what he deserves.