This week, Arden Key, Maurice Hurst and the rest of the rookies have been watching tape of the Los Angeles Chargers… Again.
The Silver and Black take on Philip Rivers and the Bolts Sunday afternoon at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in their third division game of 2018, but their second of the year against the Chargers.
And because of that, Sunday’s game will mark the Raiders rookies’ first chance to go against an opponent twice in one season, something that Hurst and the rest of the Silver and Black’s rookie class is looking forward to.
“It’s helpful,” said Hurst. “I think, just understanding o-linemen, and understanding their scheme, what they’re trying to do.”
Things have certainly changed since the two teams squared off Week 5 at StubHub Center; the Chargers still haven’t lost since the pair last met, and the Raiders conversely are looking for their first win since Week 4.
However, records aside, Sunday’s matchup at the OACC provides a unique experience for the team’s rookies, one they likely haven’t dealt with in their football careers.
So, what can you learn from taking on the same team twice in a month-and-a-half.
“You kind of know their tendencies,” Arden Key said. “Looking at film, they haven’t changed much from when we played them until now. They pretty much do what they do. They don’t care what the other team does. They’re going to do what they do, and a lot of the stuff is the same thing, so it’s kind of good, because that’s one game I felt more comfortable at, so now I’m playing them again, so now I’ll be able to play more comfortable and free.”
With the roster moves the team has made over the past week, much more will fall on the shoulders of Hurst and Key in particular, but for No. 99, he’s looking forward to the opportunity that a likely increase in reps will afford him.
The Raiders get ready to face the LA Chargers in a Week 10 matchup at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
“It’s very exciting,” Key explained. “It’s a big opportunity, and I take it as a challenge. Friday, [Coach] Gruden had a rookie meeting with all the rookies, and he told us what he wants from us, and what he’s expecting. It was a challenge – I took it as a challenge from him, so it has woken me up, and I’m starting to do things differently now.”
“There’s a certain maturation process with rookie players that I’ve been through since I’ve been in the league. You take certain steps but here it’s a little bit different because these guys have been thrown into the fire since the beginning,” added defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. “Maybe we’re asking more of these rookie players than we would typically when you had a veteran team that was in place. Those guys have to understand that. We’re treating them like veteran players. They have to step up and play for us. Hopefully they will.”
Any player’s rookie season is a sixteen-week collision course in Pro Football 101, and as such, things change. Whether its preparation, little tricks of the trade, or things in between, a rookie season is a fluid one, and Key’s first few months as a pro have been no exception.
“Being a rookie, following some of the vets, and doing things that they do – sometimes it might not fit what I do,” Key said. “I just take a little piece from everybody. I really follow [Frostee] Rucker the most, just because he’s been in the league 13 years. He knows the right way to do it, and things of that sort.”
Key has not only been consistently in Rucker’s ear, but he’s been an eager pupil as well, milking all the knowledge that he can from the veteran defensive lineman.
“Being a professional. Taking care of your body. Get here early,” Key said when asked his big takeaways from Rucker. “We have to be here at 8:00 a.m., try to get here an hour, hour and a half early. Work on your body. Get your body loosened up and things of that sort. Study. Watch film, because the eye in the sky don’t lie, and on Sundays, just go out and ball. Be you.”
Key, Hurst and the rest of the Raiders will get their chance to do just that Sunday afternoon when they welcome the six-win Chargers to town, in what will wrap up their first of many annual AFC West series.
“Those are guys we’re going to play every year,” Hurst said. “Just being a little bit more ready, you can focus on the finer details now, and I think it’ll be really helpful. For every year we’re going to have to play them twice, so it’s really beneficial for us.”