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Head Coach Jon Gruden talks prospect evaluation, free agency, coaching staff additions

Q: Are you seeing any options from this talent pool?

Coach Gruden: "Well, we've been here five days and haven't seen a 40-yard dash yet, so it's been a lot of medical information, a lot of just personal information, first impressions. You get a chance to meet the players and ask them some specific questions and, in some cases, set up a workout down the road, but we're still in the process of prioritizing our board and looking at free agents at the same time."

Q: You have always talked about what you are looking for in football players – the passion for the game. Can that resonate in these types of first-impression meetings?

Coach Gruden: "It's hard to fake that, at least with me and [General Manager Mike] Mayock. We're pretty good at drawing that out of a player. Are you willing to run through the line or not? And a lot of it's evident in their style of play. You might have a few clips that you put on and you ask them specifically, 'Why did you do this?' But we learn a little bit about them as people and we also learn a little bit about where they are in terms of football, so it's a process, but it's only a 15-minute interview and the horn blows every three minutes. So, it's a little bit different but we've got some things done."

Q: How have analytics changed the way you look at players?

Coach Gruden: "It's big. I mean the way we study film is far and away improved from what it used to be. Instead of watching a receiver play every play of every game you can just hit a button and see all his targets and watch 113 plays instead of maybe 1,500 plays. You can see a quarterback, every third down throw just like that. Every red zone throw just like that. You want to see a player's sacks or quarterback hits or pressures, you can put them on a reel. So, it still requires a lot of effort and hard work but analytics and how they are used today is a lot different than what it was two, three, four, 10 years ago that's for sure."

Q: What are your impressions of the receivers in this draft? Is the buzz warranted? Are they that good of a class?

Coach Gruden: "Yeah, it's very impressive. We brought several in back-to-back-to-back the other day just to compare them. They're some real playmakers, big guys, quick, thick, fast-twitch guys. There is a variety of receivers and there are some guys that can return the football as well. So, yes, it's a strong part of this draft. I think it's as strong a wide receiver class as there's been in a while."

Q: How important is it getting that wide receiver one to put this offense together?

Coach Gruden: "Well, I think it's important. Unfortunately, we felt we added one of the best receivers in the league a year ago and he had frozen feet, and then we thought we had the best free agent receiver and he had fried feet from plantar fasciitis. So, the feet were a problem for us last year so we would like to add a great receiver certainly, but we still threw for a lot of yards. As many yards as most teams and if you're into statistics and analytics we threw the ball well. We got a great tight end, we think we got an outstanding young slot receiver. We've got some running backs that can really catch it. There's a lot of ways to throw it these days, but we got to improve our defense. We've got to improve some other areas as well. So, I guess to answer your question we'd love to add firepower to the offense and certainly to the defense."

Q: What have your impressions of LBs Kenneth Murray and Patrick Queen been so far and the linebacker class as a whole?

Coach Gruden: "[Patrick] Queen is interesting. Early in the season, he wasn't starting and then when you watch the championship run that they were on he was a big part of that. Very fast-twitch, athletic linebacker. Impact playmaker. [Kenneth] Murray is a type-A alpha. He's a fun guy to talk football with. Two really good young linebackers. We've met with a couple others. We feel like there is a good group in this year's class as well."

Q: Do you expect to be fairly aggressive in free agency?

Coach Gruden: "Well, first thing we did was we wanted to take [Darren] Waller off the board, and we wanted to take [Jalen)] Richard off the board. Don't let them get to free agency so we locked them up. Guys that we think have a huge upside. We do want to use free agency as a vehicle to continue to get better. We did last year with Trent Brown and Lamarcus Joyner. We found Richie Incognito, Tyrell Williams. So, we want to try to find some young guys certainly in free agency, but we also want to find and address some needs."

Q: Is it important to add a young quarterback this offseason?

Coach Gruden: "Yeah it might be. Mike Glennon is a free agent. [Nathan] Peterman was hurt and unavailable last season, so we're evaluating all the quarterbacks, free agents certainly and the kids in the draft. We met with five or six of those yesterday as well."

Q: Where do you stand with Derek Carr as quarterback?

Coach Gruden: "Well, I can't be more consistent on what I have said. I really think Derek is a heck of a player and I got a lot of respect for what he has done with some tough circumstances. So, I'm not going to answer every media rumor out there. I just can't do it. I'm just going to listen to my Sirius Rock n' Roll classic vinyl and keep working. But I love what Derek Carr brings to our team and anxious to continue to build around him."

Q: What will the new stadium, new training facility, no state taxes, what will all that do for the franchise in terms of alluring people?

Coach Gruden: "It's exciting, man. In previous years the agents don't get up and come across the hallway to see you, you got to go look for them. But players want to come play for the Raiders I think because of the Silver and Black and their tradition to start with, but the stadium, the excitement, Las Vegas. It really gives us I think an outstanding vehicle to recruit players and hopefully it all works out for us."

Q: What do you think of the new training facility?

Coach Gruden: "Unbelievable. It's state-of-the-art practice facility, the training room, the film rooms, the indoor practice site. It's spectacular and you have to see it to believe it. Our players that have seen it are really excited. I saw Maxx Crosby, Johnathan Abram last week and Nevin Lawson. Some of the guys just can't believe it, so it will be a real positive asset no doubt."

Q: Have you been given any kind of voice in that? What you should do and how to go about the new facilities?

Coach Gruden: "Not really. I don't want to dabble in anything I don't know much about. I'm not a person to design anything really. I just am very thankful for what [Owner] Mark Davis, [president] Marc Badain, our people have done to set us up in a place where we have a home like that. So, I'm just very excited and looking forward to getting settled and making some friends and continuing to improve the Raiders."

Q: Why make the change to Rod Marinelli as defensive line coach and what do you expect him to bring there?

Coach Gruden: "You know that was a tough one because I think [Brentson] Buckner is a good coach, really good coach, but I just happen to think Marinelli is the best in the world at what he does and having worked with him and seeing him with players. We have a lot of young guys. He's a Hall of Fame coach if you ask me. He has a great presence about him, he has a great leadership trait. His technical way to help players is incredible and I think Arden Key, [Clelin] 'Cle' Ferrell, Maxx Crosby, P.J. Hall, [Maurice]'Mo' Hurst, all our young guys are really going to benefit from Marinelli, like everybody else has."

Q: Specifically, with Crosby and Ferrell, those are two guys that developed over the course of the season. Where do you see that they need to improve the most and how do you see them developing in their second year?

Coach Gruden: "Well, we expect Maxx to improve and 'Cle' to improve in every area. They are going to be stronger, bigger people and they are going to be more experienced in the NFL and in our system. I've always said year two players make the most jump. That's when you see the greatest progress, so I just think with Marinelli in the room with those guys, hopefully Arden Key comes back stronger and healthier than he has been and perhaps we add another player or two, so the competition fuels it all. That's what I am after."

Q: Is there a biggest need on defense right now?

Coach Gruden: "We got to improve all three levels. We've got to get faster, we got to create more turnovers. I'm not going to state anything else. We've got to get better and better and better, and that's what we're set out to do."

Q: Where do you see things standing with Karl Joseph?

Coach Gruden: "Well, it's a process. You've got to obviously see where the market is, weigh all the options. He's weighing them, we're weighing them. It's a tough part about this business no doubt. But good young player, he's a hitter. Made an impact for us this year. Really improved in year two of our system and closed out the Charger game with an interception. I think he closed out the Lion game with a big play but unfortunately he's a guy we really missed down the stretch."

Q: Are you confident Tyrell Williams is back and healthy now?

Coach Gruden: "I did talk to him recently. He feels like he's almost 100 percent, back to his old self and if you remember training camp, he was an impressive performer. He had over 100 yards his first game and then in the second game of the year unfortunately he really had a problem with his feet. Missed two or three games and really was never the same again. But if we can get him back, a healthy Gabe Jackson, a healthy John Abram, those are three guys that I think can really, really help us."

Q: What do you expect from Abram after what was sort of a redshirt year?

Coach Gruden: "I think he leads the league in interviews right now. I don't like Abram, I love Abram. I think Raiders fans are going to love him, but he's got to be on the grass. The most important ability is availability. I know its cliché and corny, but we got to have him out there, so he's got to learn to do that and he's a complete deal. I think he has a playing style that is perfect for the Las Vegas Raiders and I'm confident he'll prove it."

Q: Is there a way he benefited from sitting back and watching last year?

Coach Gruden: "I think he gained confidence. Without having to play I think he gained confidence, he knows he can play, and he learned the system. That's what he says in all the interviews I'm reading anyways, but I'm just being sarcastic. I got a great amount of confidence in him and we've got to surround him with a couple more alphas and we will."

Q: Do you think putting the right pieces around Carr will be the key to taking his game to another level?

Coach Gruden: "I think you never stay the same, you either get better or worse, and at quarterback sometimes you get better because of your experience in the system. Sometimes you get better because of your supporting cast and sometimes you get better because the play calling is better. So, we've got to continue to improve at that position and we're set out to do that no matter how we do it."

Q: Can you talk about how different the draft in Vegas is going to be?

Coach Gruden: "I used to broadcast the draft and I thought it was really cool when they started to move it from city to city. I got a chance to do it in Philadelphia. I got a chance to do it in a couple cities and it was really neat, but Las Vegas will hit this thing out of the park, man. It's going to be a must-see event and I don't know maybe I'll just show up and hang out at the Bellagio and watch it, who knows. But I can't wait to see what it looks like. It will be really cool."

Q: What was the most fun about the different events you are going to around Las Vegas?

Coach Gruden: "Well, I liked when Mark Davis calls and says, 'Come to Vegas, we have a meeting.' So, I do have a lot of meetings with the owner and he did invite me to go to the Golden Knights game, which I got to tell you I had no idea that you could do that at a hockey game. They have more fun there. The pre-game show, just the whole scoreboard thing, it really was awesome. They come out there and fix the ice between the periods, between timeouts. I just had a blast and just meeting Raiders fans was really fun. I'm not going to be shy about it, I love Steven Tyler, my wife loves Steven Tyler, and if he was playing here in Indianapolis I'd be there tonight, too. But I did get a chance to go see the boxing match and we're trying to become a heavyweight champion, the Raiders, so what better way to do that than to learn from (Deontay) Wilder and (Tyson) Fury. That was a helluva fight too."

Q: Are you a big Tyson Fury fan now?

Coach Gruden: "Yeah, I like fights period. I like guys that compete. I got to see Conor McGregor fight. My son is a fighter. Just being honest, my son Jason, he's a UFC wannabe fighter. He's 2-0 in fighting amateur boxing matches and I like to share some time with my son. Vegas, there is always something going on. It's pretty cool."

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