The Raiders needed Damon Arnette to answer any questions skeptics might have had about his play, and the rookie cornerback did just that throughout training camp.
Plenty of people questioned the Raiders' decision to take Arnette with the No. 19 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Most experts pegged Arnette as a Day 2 cornerback, but coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock fell in love with the Ohio State product. He certainly proved Gruden and Mayock to be right in his first camp, too.
"Damon was exactly what we thought he'd be off tape, which was first of all tough and competitive," Mayock told reporters Saturday, via Raiders.com. "And we use that word competitive all the time. We thought he was one of the toughest and most competitive corners in this draft.
"He was that, and he will be that."
Arnette's toughness and competitiveness were never really questioned going into the draft, but his speed and athleticism were. He ran a 4.5 at the NFL Scouting Combine, which isn't exactly blazing for a top corner. But then in camp, Arnette was seen running stride for stride with rookie speedster Henry Ruggs.
This had Arnette hyped and showed everyone the kind of defensive back the Raiders envisioned. Ruggs ran a 4.27 40-yard dash. There aren't many faster than him in the entire league, and Arnette was right there with him.
Mayock doesn't care if Arnette doesn't have track speed. He knows the type of football player the rookie can be, and that matters much more.
"He's quick, he's fast, he finds the ball in the air," Mayock said. "As he learns how to be a pro and consistently detail every step along the way, he has a chance to be special.
"He's got a long way to go, but he's got a chance."
Arnette was so good in camp that veteran corner Prince Amukamara lost his job and was released by the Raiders. Arnette has been playing with a broken thumb, but he's expected to contribute right away for the Silver and Black. This gives the Raiders two younger cornerbacks that could lead their defensive backfield for years to come.
The Raiders coveted Tayvon Mullen before last year's draft, and the second-round pick looked like a steal for them last year. Arnette has proven Gruden and Mayock right so far, and now the Raiders could have a young, dynamic duo in Mullen and Arnette.