Jon Gruden, Raiders Still on the Hunt for Pass Rush Help

The Raiders are so comically thin at edge rusher that head coach Jon Gruden has made a joke of it.

Just ask general manager Mike Mayock, "Jon tells me every day, it's just Arden Key and me."

Gruden isn't far off. Recently signed run stopper Josh Mauro is the only other edge player on the roster so, yeah, Gruden might be enrolled to take a few offseason practice reps if bodies aren't added soon.

The Raiders don't just need quantity. They need quality, too.

The Silver and Black had just 13 sacks as a team last season. Eleven individuals have as many or more.

Edge rusher was the biggest problem spot heading into the offseason, and remains so to this day.

"We went into free agency, and the names of many expected (to hit the market) were franchise tagged or traded," Gruden said this week at the NFL owners meeting. "We are going to look hard at that position, obviously."

It's customary at this point to mention they had a squeaky clean All-Pro on the roster and traded him to Chicago. Gruden understands that, but is forward thinking and focused on finding another great pass rusher

"These defensive ends, they don't grow on trees," Gruden said. "I know I've been criticized for trading one of the best, but we're going to look hard to address that position. That's for sure."

They should address the position more than once in the upcoming NFL draft. That's an option at No. 4 overall and again at Nos. 24, 27 or 35, depending on how fast a deep and dangerous class of edge rushers fly off the board.

Gruden sees plenty of quality up high, where Nick Bosa, Josh Allen and Rashan Gary reside, and farther down the first round. There is, however, an element of uncertainty with many of them.

"On paper it looks great," Gruden said. "When you start studying the tape, you have to decide for yourself. Some of these guys are a bit mysterious because they're young; they're underclassmen. They didn't play a high percentage of snaps, and a lot of them haven't even completed their pro workout day yet."

Gruden likes to look these guys in the eye after intensively studying their tape, trying to grasp whether he's a Raiders fit.

"We coached the Senior Bowl, so I got to meet (Jaylon Ferguson and Montez Sweat)," Gruden said. "I got to meet a few more of those guys at the combine. Now I'm going to get out on the airplane and go meet some more."

The Raiders are in the unique spot of having a pressing need that simply must be addressed, high and throughout the draft. There's quality down the draft board some – Sweat would require a trade down from No. 4 or up from the 20s – though Brian Burns and L.J. Collier are among some options capable of making a virtually mandatory instant impact.

The Raiders also need more from Key, a third round pick last year who played more than expected and came away with just one sack.

"You would've liked to ease the boat into the water and do with Arden Key like (Kansas City) did with Dee Ford," Gruden said. "They had Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, and then you bring in Dee Ford. We would've liked to have Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack and then bring in Arden Key. You know what? We didn't have Mack nd we didn't have Irvin. We made the decision that Key had to play. It didn't work out the way we wanted it to. So now Arden has some experience, and he has to prove that he's the real deal."

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