With minicamp now in the books and players in vacation mode before the start of training camp, there’s no better time to look back and talk about a few players who really impressed to start the offseason.
Since we’re now officially through offseason practices, OTAs and minicamp, the coaching staff has gotten a pretty good look at the bulk of the players. Obviously, that’s pretty important since not only is nearly the entire Oakland Raiders coaching staff new, but there are a massive number of players in their first season with the Silver and Black as well.
To this point, there’s been a nice mixture of veterans and young players who have stepped up and impressed the coaching staff. Specifically, both head coach Jon Gruden and offensive line coach Tom Cable offered up rave reviews about third-round pick Arden Key this past week.
As Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal revealed, Cable compared Key to Bruce Irvin, stating that he has “so much hand speed and quickness” while calling him an exciting talent. Gruden echoed a similar sentiment, while also sending some praise in the direction of first-round offensive tackle Kolton Miller, as The Athletic’s Vic Tafur quoted.
Gruden: “We like them both. We like Kolton Miller a lot. What we’re doing with him right now with all the audibles, all the check-with-me’s, the different speeds we’re playing with, it’s taxing on a young guy. He’s an underclassman out of UCLA and hasn’t really been in a huddle very often. He is a great athlete. He’s done a hell of a job for us. Arden Key has got some special pass-rush ability. We expect those guys to make each other better as we move forward. We like both those players.” Tafur revealed.
Miller has earned his fair share of love this offseason, and this just adds to that, but there wasn’t much heard about Key after OTAs. With that said, he must have really left an impression during minicamp.
The former LSU pass-rusher fell to the third round after a tough final season with the Tigers. Key’s on-field production took a hit due to shoulder surgery and knee injury, which resulted in him playing in just eight games.
But the bigger concern is what happened in the lead-up to the season. The talented defensive end opted to step away from the team before the year and voluntarily enter himself into rehab for marijuana use. He returned to the team overweight and didn’t look like the same player who had racked up 55 tackles, 12.5 for loss and 11 sacks in 2016.
Fortunately, it seems that Key showed up in shape and ready to work for the Raiders’ offseason program. If Gruden and company get the 2016 version of Key, there’s no denying that this is a player capable of making an impact right out of the gate during his rookie season.