Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Arden Key is ready to put his past struggles behind and finally live up to his potential.
When the Raiders selected Arden Key in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, they hoped that they were getting a pure pass rusher could make an impact on obvious passing downs. The knock on Key, aside from some off-field concerns, was that he was too small to make the transition to the NFL and unfortunately for Key, that has been the case.
Since joining the Raiders, Key has played in 23 games in two years and has recorded just three sacks and six tackles for loss. It may have been unfair to place the Raiders’ pass rushing hopes on him in 2018 after the team traded away Khalil Mack and released Bruce Irvin, but he was thrown in to the deep end and could barely tread water.
2019 was supposed to be his breakout season as he would be able to focus on just rushing the passer but his season ended after just seven games after he broke his foot. Now his career is at a crossroads as he enters his third year in the NFL and could see himself on the outside looking in if the Raiders choose to bring in a more accomplished defensive end.
Looking ahead to 2020
Key’s struggles, according to many experts, is his inability to put and keep on the weight necessary to be an effective pass rusher in the NFL. In an interview with The Athletic’s Tashan Reed, Key refuted that and believes he is ready to be the impact player he was in college.
"“That’s the thing that I changed: I came in with problems coming out of college and I let that affect me when it came to trying to walk a straight line and trying to do everything that was asked of me. No, I’m not doing that no more. The sky is the limit for me. I’m tired of these limitations and I’m not listening to them no more. I’m doing it the Arden Key way.”"
Key’s weight is irrelevant at the end of the day if he can perform at a high level. As Reed mentions in his piece, there have been several pass rushers like Von Miller or even Lawrence Taylor that have performed at a similar weight to Key’s of around 240-250 pounds. Perhaps the emergence of Maxx Crosby and the addition of Carl Nassib will free up Key to do the one thing the team will ask of him, get to the quarterback.
Key is another player who may be impacted by the lack of preseason as he won’t be able to show off his new attitude and bag of tricks anywhere but training camp. He is currently listed as the fourth defensive end on the depth chart and he will have to hope that the Raiders don’t add another pass rusher that may spell the end of his tenure in Silver and Black.
Raider Nation is certainly rooting for Key to finally come good and show that he was worthy of the third round selection because if not, he will be yet another pass rusher that just couldn’t hack it at the top level.