Jon Gruden looking forward to 'really special' Raiders homecoming

Jon Gruden looking forward to 'really special' Raiders homecoming

OAKLAND -- Jon Gruden has experienced several milestone since returning as Raiders head coach. Getting re-fitted in Silver and Black. That first offseason practice back. His return to Napa and training camp. The preseason stroll of the sidelines at Oakland Coliseum.

They all meant something to Gruden, who at times can be a nostalgic. He’ll have all the feels on Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams. These games, the ones that truly count, are why Gruden returned to coaching in the first place.

Raider Nation loves Gruden, especially in the East Bay. They should welcome him with open arms on Monday night, even after he traded a certain All-Pro edge rusher.

“This is really special for me,” Gruden said. “I know there’s been a lot of news this week with what has happened, but I want to do everything I can to help bring the Raiders back. I really like the effort that our team has put forth, our coaching staff. It will be special going out there Monday Night that’s for sure.”

Gruden spent his last nine years as Monday Night Football color analyst, and it’s no coincidence he’ll be featured in the show’s opening week. The Raiders and Rams play the second half of a doubleheader, with the full crew of analysts broadcasting live from Jack London Square.

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This has all the big game feel you’d expect from a celebrity head coach as popular as any player on the roster. Gruden will match wits with Rams head coach Sean McVay, a longtime family friend and protégé. The game’s on in primetime out west.

Storylines heading into this game are plentiful.

None are bigger than the news Gruden referred to above. He referenced a controversial decision to trade Khalil Mack for a compensation package that includes two first round picks and plenty of scrutiny. The Raiders shipped their best player and got nothing that can help the 2018 squad, suggesting Gruden is building for a better future at a short-term cost. Doing so just days before the regular season has left a sour taste with many astonished Mack is wearing Bears blue and burnt orange.

Mack didn’t take away the sting on Sunday night. He added to its intensity, adding a sack, a forced fumble and an interception returned for a touchdown in his first game with the Bears.

Monday night’s result will be questioned, including how the Raiders could’ve done with Mack in the trenches. A loss will fuel that speculation. A win will push it farther in the rearview and kick the season off with a bang.

The Raiders could well come out and control this game. They could get smoked. There’s a lot we don’t know about these Raiders and how Gruden will coach them. He was as vanilla as possible during a preseason where regulars barely played. We have an idea of the team’s depth chart and who fills what role, but several spots will remain up in the air until the game starts.

The Rams have also played things close to the chest, meaning teams will have to adjust as the game moves along.

“It will be a challenge,” Gruden said. “We are going to have to make some adjustments to what they are doing. I’m sure they have a lot of secrets up their sleeve that they haven’t shown. That’s why we have the Microsoft tablets on the sidelines, so we can make the adjustments as soon as possible.”

The biggest mystery, however, centers around Gruden himself. His scheme is well known from previous stints in Oakland and Tampa Bay but it has evolved after spending the last nine years studying offenses and working with coaches around the NFL as a member of the media. Gruden will have some tricks up his sleeve that will be unveiled as the season progresses. That will be a huge asset for the Raiders, if they can capitalize on the element of surprise.

“That’s the advantage the Raiders have going into this Week 1 matchup,” former NFL quarterback and current NBC analyst Chris Simms said on NBC Sports Bay Area’s “Raiders Central.” “Nobody knows what to expect from Jon Gruden’s offense. I think he’s going to unleash the kitchen sink, all the things he has stolen from the Sean Paytons, Kyle Shannahans and Sean McVays of the world that he has accumulated during his 10-year vacation he had with ESPN. I think we’re going to see all of them unveiled here over the first few weeks of the season. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but it’s not going to look like (Gruden’s offense) in Tampa, and it’s definitely not going to look like what he ran last time in Oakland or what we saw in the preseason.”

Raiders training camp questions: Can Antonio Brown set new standard?


Raiders training camp questions: Can Antonio Brown set new standard?

Antonio Brown talked a good game at his Raiders introductory press conference. He vowed to set a new standard within the Silver and Black as a prime example of work ethic and accountability and, of course, by putting up crazy stats often under pressure.

He has only been through an offseason program since being traded from Pittsburgh, without much chance to back all that up. He has been excellent in spring opportunities to do so, showing great work ethic in private, behind closed doors as he does so often on social media.

The man practices so hard and so fast on every play that receivers can’t help but notice. He talks serious trash during drills, but has gained the respect of Raiders cornerbacks by helping them at times and always raising the level of competition.

Fans attending Raiders training camp in Napa starting this week will see incredible work rate firsthand.

He’s steady, dynamic and shockingly durable, the first Raiders offensive superstar since Jon Gruden’s previous head-coaching stint.

Superstars produce. If healthy, Brown will do that even in heavy coverage. He has six consecutive seasons with at least101 receptions, 1,284 yards and eight touchdowns, all of them played with the spotlight shining bright. He has had more than 100 catches, 1,499 and 12 touchdowns in half of those years.

The best superstars also lead. That’s what Brown said he wants to do here. That effort ramps up in training camp. He shouldn’t play much, if at all, in the preseason. Risking his health is foolish in meaningless games. He should push his teammates, and his quarterback for better throughout this summer stint in Napa.

Brown is an eccentric. Lots of players are. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if the leadership by example trend continues and he helps elevate teammates by more than just drawing coverage.

The main question from now on is that effort’s sustainability through training camp’s dog days. And, what if the Raiders stumble out of the gate and struggle mightily through a grueling schedule? How will be react then, or if Carr struggles some finding Brown as well or as often as he did with the Steelers? While it didn’t end well with the Steelers, Pittsburgh never finished below .500 while Brown was there and averaged 10.4 wins per season. We simply don’t know how he’d adapt to steady losing if that happens because he hasn’t been through it as a pro.

Brown will set a new standard for work rate and production around here, but maintaining it through tough times might be equally important.

Is Derek Carr too sensitive? Raiders QB bashed by NFL coaches, exec

Is Derek Carr too sensitive? Raiders QB bashed by NFL coaches, exec

Derek Carr is entering a critical season in his second year under Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. It could be make-or-break for the QB as the Silver and Black head into their final season in Oakland. 

After looking like an MVP candidate in 2016, he's been trending down in the eyes of many. The Athletic's Mike Sando presented his Quarterback Tiers survey Monday after talking with fifty-five anonymous coaches and executives who rank the QBs from Tier 1 to Tier 5. 

Carr was voted into Tier 3 as the No. 20 overall quarterback, one spot behind 49ers starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo. And the comments on the Raiders' signal-caller aren't too pretty. 

Voters brought up three specific plays that show the kind of quarterback Carr was last season. One was him throwing the ball away on fourth down, another example was him looking scared in the final minutes of the Raiders' Week 8 loss to the Colts, but the final example is what really stands out. 

“The Chiefs game, he throws a pick-six and the guy (Jared Cook) isn’t even running the route. It was, ‘What the f--k?" the voter said to Sando.

Carr's ability to handle Gruden's style has been questioned ever since Chucky signed his 10-year deal with the Raiders. Through one season, those questions aren't going away. 

“He is sensitive and needs encouragement, and that is not the style he is going to get,” an offensive coach said to Sando. “When someone shows disappointment in him, he shrinks. The head coach not coming out and completely endorsing him has to be eating him alive."

[RELATED: Five bold predictions for upcoming Raiders season]

If the Raiders endure another losing season and Carr doesn't significantly improve, he could be looking for another job when the team moves to Las Vegas. It sounds like plenty of people around the league believe that could easily be the case.