Gruden and Mayock expecting big contributions from the first and second-year players in 2019

We’re one day closer to the full 90-man roster taking the practice field in Napa, Calif., as the veterans were required to report to Oakland Raiders 2019 Training Camp by 11 a.m. Friday. 

Entering the new season, the Silver and Black have high expectations for themselves, coming off a disappointing 2018 campaign. The team finished 4-12, but Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock have completely overhauled the roster in order to remedy some of the issues from last year.

Starting with the addition of several notable free agents, such as Lamarcus Joyner, Brandon Marshall, and Vontaze Burfict, the coaching staff have the utmost trust in the new additions to hold the young players on defense accountable, as well as make game-changing contributions of their own. Perhaps more than anyone, though, the first and second-year players on the roster will be asked to step up.

Maurice Hurst Jr. played an important last year along the defensive line, and registered a team-high four sacks, but the Raiders will need more from him, P.J. Hall, and Arden Key. Gruden and Mayock weren’t shy about presenting a challenge to the young defensive front during their press conference Friday afternoon.

“If we are going to have a chance to compete this year some of those guys are going to have to step up,” Gruden stated. "We need Mo Hurst to step up, we need P.J. Hall to step up. We didn’t see it from them last year, we need to see it this year.”

Hurst, Hall, and Key all reported today, but the rookies have been in Napa putting in work for the past few days now. There’s a major adjustment period for any rookie; from the time they’re preparing for the draft up until training camp they’re preparing relentlessly. They’re asked to memorize a playbook front to back, and adjust to the speed of the NFL, but that’s not enough. The Raiders need impact players, and they need them immediately. The coaching staff won’t get a good look at the players until the pads come on Monday, but through the first week of drills — and the time spent in Alameda during the Offseason Workout Program — Mayock and Gruden are excited about the level of energy they’ve seen from the group.

"I think it’s the energy right now with the young guys,” Mayock told the media. “Jon and I have had an awful lot of conversations about these kids and the passion for the game and setting the foundation and all of that. When you see the fact that they not only show up in shape, but they only show up and they have their heads in the books, man. When Jon starts going quads empty on the first day and the defensive backs know what the proper adjustment is, it’s pretty cool. That’s what we’re juiced about.”

Gruden and Mayock are trying their best to get each player up to speed as quickly as they can, but they’re enjoying the process. Nothing can be rushed when it comes to a player’s development; each player learns at their own pace and through various experiences, and for the football masterminds it’s been fun to watch.

“It’s been fun watching different progressions of different players,” Mayock shared. “For instance, you take Foster Moreau, he came in and we are teaching him different techniques at everything, whether it’s pass protection, whether it’s run-blocking or how to run a route. Jon’s offense, which is a lot different than any college kid got to even begin to assimilate, he’s picked it up. I sat in the tight end meeting room yesterday with Coach Frank Smith. I think Frank has done a great job with both him and Paul Butler, but I think Moreau has come a long way from the guy I saw at the Senior Bowl. 

He went on, “I think Hunter Renfrow is a guy that’s going to come in and not make any mistakes, be very user-friendly for the quarterback. I think Derek is going to have a lot of fun watching him compete. There is going to be a lot of competition at that slot and like Jon, I can’t wait to see some of these second-year players.”

So far, the rookies and second-year players have showed great understanding of the offensive and defensive playbooks, which is a good start. They’re building the foundation for what’s to come because as Gruden pointed out during his press conference, if you’re not prepared to practice someone who is will humiliate you under the bright lights.”

In a 2019 season that must be a marked improvement from a year ago, there’s no time to waste. This team wants to win now, and the young guys need to play hungry during training camp because the competition will be at its highest yet.

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