OAKLAND – Jon Gruden gets asked about the Raiders' rookie class almost every week.
Those questions don’t get old, and they’re always relevant.
This isn’t just the Josh Jacobs show. At least a few are making positive contributions each Sunday. That was the case again Sunday when rookie contributions were vital to a 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Coliseum.
Fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby had four sacks, including a strip-sack where the Raiders recovered. Tight end Foster Moreau, also picked in that round, had a key touchdown catch. Second-round pick Trayvon Mullen had two pass breakups and his first NFL interception iced victory. Undrafted fullback Alec Ingold blocked well as always and converted a key fourth down set up to a field goal.
Oh, and Jacobs posted his fourth triple-digit rushing total in 10 tries.
All that comes two weeks after fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow caught the game-winning touchdown late to beat Detroit. It also came one week after first-round pick Clelin Ferrell’s breakout performance, where he had 2.5 sacks and six(!) run stops against the Chargers.
We could bloat the internet with this season’s Raiders rookie contributions, but you get the point. This year’s class has been awesome, truly making an instant impact.
Jacobs tweeted, ‘best rookie class since…” after Sunday’s game. The ellipsis is appropriate because you have to stop and ponder that one. That's a tough ranking in league history but it does seem appropriate to say this year’s crop is arguably the greatest collective effort by a group of rookies in franchise history.
Gruden isn’t into bold proclamations like that, but he loves what the young players have provided his ascending team.
“The poise and the production and the professionalism that they play with and come to work with,” Gruden said, “is something everybody would be impressed with.”
The stats have been impressive, to say the least. Some numbers for support, via ESPN:
The Raiders have the most rookie sacks (10), touchdowns from scrimmage (14), scrimmage yards (1,676), rushing yards (937) and receptions (73). They have the second-most receiving yards (739).
Per the AP, the Raiders are the first team to have 10-plus sacks and 10-plus touchdowns over the first 10 games of the season since the sack became a stat in 1982.
Odds are more superlatives will come next week and the week after that, with the Raiders so reliant on rookies who have grown up fast.
"We just bought in,” Jacobs said. “Like I said when we came in, the rookie class came in together and we came to an agreement that we were going to do things the right way and build this program. We wanted to try and shape it back to the Raider culture and back to what we feel like dominating football is. Just to see how we are all coming in and trying to keep that promise and execute every week has been huge."
Jacobs is a frontrunner for Offensive Rookie of the Year and was one of three Raiders first-round draft picks. Ferrell just now is coming on, and Johnathan Abram is missing from the equation after being lost to injury in the season opener. The Silver and Black are receiving key contributions from mid-round picks and undrafted guys alike, with most everyone asked to step up and play.
This group’s confidence is growing by the game, which will help push for a playoff spot this season and set the Raiders up for sustained success when they move to Las Vegas in 2020.
“It comes down to preparation,” Mullen said. “All of us young guys put the time in and pay attention to details during the week. That allows us to come in on Sunday and play free.”