It's no secret now the Las Vegas Raiders have decided to rely heavily on a young group of players to lead the secondary this season.
"We're going to be young," Coach Gruden said on Wednesday. "I've been criticized for being too old, we're going to keep the best players and try to continue to develop them."
A prime candidate to take the mantle for the young secondary unit is second-year cornerback Trayvon Mullen, who has the potential to be a star lockdown corner.
Mullen is no stranger to producing under the bright lights, as he won two national championships at Clemson under coach Dabo Swinney and was the 2019 CFB National Championship Defensive MVP. After an impressive combine, the Raiders selected Mullen in the second round of the 2019 season and he saw action in all 16 games, totaling 42 tackles and an interception as a rookie. Mullen is excited to take the field this year and show how much he's improved from his debut campaign after an offseason that saw him workout with legendary NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.
"I'm more comfortable than ever and I just have a different edge to me and a different mindset," Mullen said Thursday. "[It's about] just being able to be comfortable and more confident in myself and to go through one year with a lot of experienced guys; just my mentality through the offseason, what I was grinding for and what I knew what I wanted."
The release of veteran cornerback Prince Amukamara on August 31 showed the Raiders were going in a younger direction in the secondary moving forward. Along with Mullen, a lot will be expected from Mullen's draft classmate, 2019 first-round draft pick Johnathan Abram, who missed all but one game of his rookie season with a torn labrum.
"(Abram) has a really good communication level and he practices very hard," Mullen said. "His edge is just there, and he brings his guys up and he asks a lot of questions. With John, he just continues to grow and he's gotten a lot better, and I have a lot of confidence in him as well."
And it's impossible to forget about 2020 first-round draft pick Damon Arnette from Ohio State, who grew up with Mullen in South Florida.
"I've known Damon (Arnette) forever," Mullen said. "We grew up together, same area and we're from the same city. He's always been a good guy, always been a good player. He's just got a lot a talent. Just seeing him out here everyday and the way he grind, he's just a different dude. He's going to be a hell of a player."
Coach Gruden is set on sending out his young secondary core into battle this season and hopes they will benefit from facing the pressures that come with it.
"We're hoping we have the makings of a good, young secondary that can be great someday," Gruden said. "They're going to get tested we know that, but we didn't draft these guys to stand on the sideline."
Get an inside look at photos from the Raiders practice at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center.