Oakland Raiders: Where does Gruden start first?

Nothing says hype like the Oakland Raiders right now. The team is still at least a season away from relocating their franchise to Las Vegas but with their recent signing of Jon Gruden, the hype train got chugging along. Even the 55 year-old Jerry Rice joked about a return to football on the Adam Schefter podcast. Whether or not he can still play is a different story but it goes to show the star power and respect Gruden commands.

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Hopefully that respect turns into many free agent visits and some great signings for a team a year ago was on the rise. After a 6-10 finish last season, it was a wake up call just how far the team has still to go. The team didn’t have the swagger they had a season earlier and looked a mess more often than not. A lack of direction was the biggest hurdle for the team which makes the Gruden hire so important. Jon Gruden is the old school football type. He demands discipline and poise out of his players and isn’t afraid to get loud. So just where does he start to right the ship?

Oakland has a young and promising offense under quarterback Derek Carr but the QB took a step back last season. Gruden is a coach who knows his quarterbacks landing him the cushy job at ESPN with the Quarterback Camp program. However, taking over the Oakland Raiders offense shouldn’t be his focus. If you go back to his successful years as a coach of the Raiders the first time around and his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gruden’s success was in large part due to having dominating defenses.

Gruden needs to go out and find his defensive anchor like he did with Warren Sapp all those years ago. Oakland can have as promising of an offense as they want but in today’s passing league they’ll need the old school bruising defense to match. Free agency needs to be dominated by bruisers on defense while the draft strengthens their weapons for Carr. Smash-mouth football is what the Raiders hope Gruden will re-establish with the team so expect defensive players to be brought in early and often.

The Oakland Raiders aren’t too far off from being a force to be reckoned with. However, they’re also not far off from being at the bottom of the league either. Gruden has a head start with a hard runner in Marshawn Lynch, speedy receiver Amari Cooper, and a big target tight end Jared Cook. Drafting a wide receiver to compliment Cooper should be the primary concern. Gruden should look to move current #2 receiver Michael Crabtree, but if no one bites cutting him is probably on the horizon. If the Raiders can nail down solid defenders in free agency then they can focus a little more on their offensive line. Building a unit that will let Derek Carr grow return to his pre-injury form should be a priority after a defense is in tact. Gruden loves guys with a mean streak so expect the Raiders to be in attack mode both on and off the field this year.

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