Headed into the first week of the 2020 regular season, Las Vegas Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock is pleased.
One week out from the Silver and Black's matchup with the Carolina Panthers, Mayock has completed the team's 53-man roster and vastly improved all three phases of the game through free agency and the draft. This offseason, Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden set out to get faster and more dynamic, and they've done that, despite the challenges evaluating players without live reps.
"First of all, as far as the overall roster, I think one of our goals in the offseason and we talked about it with you guys, was we needed to get faster and more dynamic on both sides of the ball," Mayock said via conference call Sunday afternoon. "We hope we've done that and obviously with no preseason games or any kind of inter-squad scrimmages with other teams we're not going to know until next Sunday. But, we feel like we've gotten faster and a little bit more dynamic."
Mayock might be content with the look of the Raiders' roster on paper, but he had to make some difficult decisions this weekend to complete it. Widely regarded for years as one of the best talent scouts in the business, Mayock shared that this year has been difficult to evaluate players admittedly.
For the most part, Mayock's been able to gauge each position group fairly well with the limitations of COVID-19, but when it came down to the defensive backs there were a lot of tough calls to make.
"We have so many young guys there that we think are pretty talented, competitive kids and I think that's been a really difficult position to evaluate without preseason games," he said. "And to be honest with you we are going to continue evaluating everywhere, but I can't wait to see how our young guys respond against a really talented Carolina skill-position group."
Next Sunday, the new-look Raiders will face an explosive Carolina Panthers squad, but the offseason additions have the team ready to compete. Everywhere you look, Mayock and Gruden improved nearly every position by adding speed and depth. Henry Ruggs III, Cory Littleton, and Nick Kwiatkoski instantly change the way opposing teams game plan for the Raiders week-in and week-out, and will be a vital component to winning ball games in 2020.
The veteran additions should prove fruitful for the Silver and Black, but it's going to take some time for the rookies to find a rhythm. Without Rookie Minicamp, Organized Team Activities, and Mandatory Minicamp, the 2020 Draft Class missed out on valuable practice and preseason reps. When they take the field under the lights next week, Mayock is going to see keep a watchful eye on how the rookies adapt to the NFL.
"I think what you want to see is just business as usual," Mayock said when asked about his expectations for the rookies. "You don't want rookies to go out and think they have to win the game by themselves. Just go out and do what God gave you, with the gifts that you have. Obviously, honed by what the coaches have taught you and just go out and be you. Really more than anything, and it's what [Head Coach] Jon [Gruden] and I stress and we have since Day 1, just go out and compete. Compete your tails off. That's what we ask from our rookies."
Mayock may be pleased with the current 53-man roster, but the work is never done. This year especially, there's reason to believe it could change frequently, as more tape is gained on players throughout the season; however, for now, the Raiders are confident in the players they'll put on the field next week.
View photos of the Las Vegas Raiders 53-man roster as it currently stands.