Raiders

How Raiders' Nick Kwiatkoski showed his value with Bears last season

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How Raiders' Nick Kwiatkoski showed his value with Bears last season

When opportunity knocked last year for Nick Kwiatkoski, the Chicago Bears’ four-year reserve linebacker, he answered.

With free agency looming, he was put in position to show the rest of the NFL what the Bears privately knew about the high-motor, highly athletic 26-year-old: It wasn’t a lack of ability that prevented Kwiatkoski from being a full-time starter, it was that the Bears had some of the best players in football at his position.

In Kwiatkoski, the Bears’ depth chart was hiding a starting caliber linebacker. And not just a situational one, but the highly coveted three-down kind who can play the run and the pass.

All of which he showed in an eight-game stint at the end of the 2019 season. He had 50 tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss and four pass breakups to firmly establish himself as a valuable free agent target.

READ ABOUT KWIATKOSKI AT REVIEW-JOURNAL

 

Raiders' Rodney Hudson ranked among best interior linemen in ESPN poll

Raiders' Rodney Hudson ranked among best interior linemen in ESPN poll

The Raiders have seen massive roster turnover over the past few seasons since coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock took over control of the organization.

But one stalwart throughout the adapting lineup has been veteran center Rodney Hudson. And with good reason, as ESPN recently ranked Hudson as the sixth-best interior offensive lineman in the NFL.

Anyone who has followed the Raiders over the past half-decade can tell you that Hudson has been an impeccable leader of the team's entire offensive linemen, helping run the offense along with quarterback Derek Carr.

[RELATED: Bill Callahan's 'dumbest team in America' rant sealed his Raiders fate]

Hudson has been especially proficient in pass protection, where he ranked either first or second every season in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking grades from 2014-19. The Florida State product also came in at No. 99 on PFF's All-Decade top 101.

Hudson signed a three-year, $33.75 million extension with the Raiders in Aug. of 2019, making him the highest-paid center in the NFL. Given all the evidence above, Hudson clearly has earned it with his play for the Silver and Black.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Raiders' Henry Ruggs had lowest drop rate among first-round receivers

Raiders' Henry Ruggs had lowest drop rate among first-round receivers

Henry Ruggs had plenty of qualities that warranted being the first wide receiver off the board in April's draft.

Top-of-the-line speed, eye-popping athleticism and solid production at one of the nation's best collegiate programs made Ruggs an easy choice for Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden.

Pro Football Focus provided more evidence to support Ruggs' case, as he ended his time at Alabama with the lowest drop rate among the six wideouts taken in this year's first round.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

The speedster averaged 19.5 yards per touch over his junior season, making the most of every opportunity with the Crimson Tide in 2019. Although he caught just 40 passes last season, seven went for touchdowns, with Ruggs adding a 75-yard touchdown run (pass was caught behind the line of scrimmage) during a win over New Mexico State.

[RELATED: Would Raiders have won SB XXXVII if Robbins had played?]

Over his entire career in Tuscaloosa, 24 of his 98 receptions resulted in touchdowns.

The Raiders will need Ruggs' sure hands right away, as quarterback Derek Carr hopes to get the Raiders off to a strong start in the franchise's inaugural season in Las Vegas.