One of the Raiders’ priorities this offseason is to bring in a high-impact edge rusher.
Oakland’s pass rush was feeble in 2018, so getting a defensive end/outside linebacker to get to the quarterback – with the No. 4 overall draft choice or in veteran free agency – is a must.
But that doesn’t mean the Raiders are giving up on Arden Key.
Key, a rookie in 2018 out of LSU, flashed a lot of potential. He played in all 16 games and started 10. Though he was at times an outstanding pass rusher in college, Key collected just one sack in his first NFL season. But the 6-foot-5, 238-pounder had 11 quarterback hits and plenty of pressures. He often beat his man in pass-rush situations and got his hands on the quarterback, but couldn’t get the sack.
Late in the season, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said Key should have had about eight sacks.
“He’s got his hands on the guy and tends to fall off," said Guenther. "He has had plenty of opportunities. I think he’s understanding what it’s like in there.”
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden believes Key will learn “to be a better finisher.”
Key said one of the factors to improving for 2019 will be to stay in the Bay Area in the offseason to put in the work to gain strength. He and his coaches believe that if he can get stronger – to go with his quickness – that will result in more sacks. In 2019, Key could be a starter on the opposite side from a drafted or signed edge rusher and help the Raiders get to the quarterback more often.
Key said he had a steep learning curve as a rookie. The game was super fast for him, at first, and the players bigger and stronger.
Now, he’s ready for his next step this offseason.
“The game is slowing down for me,” Key told Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m starting to know what I need to do in order to do what I want to do on the field. And I’m still learning more things and how to be a pro.”