Arden Key played well in flashes during his rookie season, but the Oakland Raiders need much more from him in year two in 2019.
In Jon Gruden’s first draft back with the Oakland Raiders, he selected edge rusher Arden Key with the 87th overall pick. At the time, it appeared Key would rotate in and out, at the edge rusher and be mentored by Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.
Things changed accordingly, as Key started ten games in his rookie campaign after the departures of Mack and Irvin. Key became a starter as the season moved forward, as the Raiders depended heavily on his ability to get after the quarterback. He flashes raw ability and great potential, but struggled closing in on the quarterbacks. Key finished his 2018 season with only recording one sack.
Key has tremendous upside as a pass rusher, but is still a work in progress. His ability to bend around the edge of the tackle is superior for a player of a 6’5″ stature. Last season, Key was capable of getting to the quarterback, but couldn’t always bring them to the ground.
After a season under his belt, the Raiders front office and fan base are looking for a break through season from the second year player. He showed what he’s capable of doing during his time in college at LSU. In college, Key sacked the quarterback 20 times over his three-year career, as well as dropping back in coverage and playing linebacker.
Gruden spoke on Arden Key’s potential at the owners meetings in Arizona last week. “I want to see Arden Key play better, I want to see our second year players play better,” Gruden said. “They got to play a lot last year, big deal. I want to see them play great this year. I’ll start the conversation right there, Arden’s got to play better, he’s got to get stronger.”
Gruden would like to see Key add some muscle to his game. By doing so, it should help him close the gap and bring the quarterback to the ground when having him wrapped up.
The second year of a player’s career is typically when they let-loose and play with the potential they were built up to be. Just as Myles Garrett, Derek Barnett, and Jonathan Allen improved their sack totals and run stuffing abilities in their second season in the NFL. Gruden is looking to see the same step forward from Key, as some of these other defensive lineman have done in their second year.
The Raiders current depth chart at defensive end is very thin as we sit just under three weeks away from the NFL draft. The only defensive ends on the current roster are Arden Key, Josh Mauro, James Cowser and newly signed Alex Barrett out of the AAF. With the lack of depth and experience at the position, look for the Raiders to draft multiple defensive ends on draft day.