Will Arden Key be the X factor for the Raiders defense this season?
Based on pure talent, the rookie third-round pick from LSU could be one of the steals of the 2018 draft. As a pass rusher, he was at times spectacular in college. This season, he could be a situational player who adds some big-time spice to the team’s mostly bland pass rush of 2017.
In assessing the Raiders’ prospects for this coming season, NFL.com’s Nick Shook this week pointed to Key as a newcomer to watch. Key has first-round talent.
Wrote Shook: “He slid to the third round of the 2018 NFL draft due to questions about his drive and conditioning. Even with those questions, though, Key has the tools to become an effective edge defender. If lined up opposite Khalil Mack, he could make for one half of a menacing pass-rushing duo. Conditioning and effort are always tested in camp, making this one more important than usual for his chances of becoming an effective pro.”
Key is tall and long, at 6-foot-6 and 246 pounds. At LSU he had 21 sacks in his career, including 12 as a sophomore. But in 2017 he was injured and out of shape, and that followed a junior season in which he took a leave of absence from the team in the spring, reportedly because of an issue with marijuana.
Yet head coach Jon Gruden fell in love with his athleticism and says Key can “bend the edge” as a defender.
Veteran Bruce Irvin, who’s moving to defensive end this season from several years at outside linebacker, said recently that Key has been following him around every day, asking questions, learning and paying attention to every detail. Irvin has a good feeling that Key could make an impact as a rookie.
Said Irvin: “He’s coming in there, he’s ready, he’s willing to work.”
Key and the rest of the Raiders are set to report for training camp July 26.