Lynn Bowden

Why versatile rookie Lynn Bowden could be Raiders’ secret weapon

Why versatile rookie Lynn Bowden could be Raiders’ secret weapon

Word of warning to anyone wondering how the Raiders are preparing to utilize rookie Lynn Bowden this season: Don’t bother asking him. He isn’t at liberty to say.

“I’m really not permitted to speak about that right now,” Bowden said while taking a break from the Raiders virtual OTA’s.

The mum’s the word response wasn’t relayed out of anger or deceit. The outgoing Bowden can’t wait to get on the field in his first NFL season and is beyond excited to help the Raiders anyway he can. He’s open and frank about all that and doesn’t mind expressing it one bit.

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Jon Gruden lauds Raiders draft picks Henry Ruggs, Lynn Bowden for football IQ

Jon Gruden lauds Raiders draft picks Henry Ruggs, Lynn Bowden for football IQ

One word comes to mind when thinking of Raiders rookie receiver Henry Ruggs: Speed.

Ruggs flew up draft boards after running a blazing 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. For as fast as he is on the field, though, Raiders coach Jon Gruden is just as impressed with how fast his new rookie mentally processes football. 

"We all know he’s fast physically. But when you find out he’s fast mentally, he can handle a lot of stuff," Gruden said to the Mercury News' Jerry McDonald. "We think we’ve got someone with a chance to be great." 

Gruden said Ruggs certainly benefitted from learning under legendary coach Nick Saban at the University of Alabama. He also believes Ruggs has the "it" factor and truly loves football. 

With pro days and traveling shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock were able to really concentrate on certain players. Ruggs was one of those such prospects.

"We even asked him to memorize formations and asked him to regurgitate it to us, and I don’t think we had a receiver or anybody at any position perform better in terms of football intelligence than Henry Ruggs," Gruden said. 

[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

The Raiders selected Ruggs with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to give quarterback Derek Carr the speed weapon he didn't have. Gruden and Mayock didn't stop there, though. They added another intriguing weapon in Lynn Bowden Jr. with their second pick in the third round.

Bowden wasn't able to perform at the combine but has been known to run the 40 in the 4.4-, 4.5-second range. Like Ruggs, Gruden was just as impressed with Bowden's football IQ as he was with his game-changing speed. 

"He sees football. He understands football concepts," Gruden said of Bowden. 

[RELATED: Five reasons Raiders QB Carr primed for career year in 2020]

This shouldn't come as a surprise. Bowden played receiver, quarterback, kick returner and punt returner at Kentucky. He will learn to play running back for the Raiders, but still should get touches all over the field. 

The Raiders badly needed more speed on their offense. They added that in Ruggs and Bowden. They also believe they added two of the smartest football minds in the draft.

Oddsmaker really likes Raiders' NFL draft, chances during 2020 season

Oddsmaker really likes Raiders' NFL draft, chances during 2020 season

An oddsmaker in the Raiders' new home really likes the Silver and Black's chances to prove some of his peers wrong

Ed Salmons, vice president of risk at Westgate sportsbook, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Todd Dewey the Raiders will win seven games "at a minimum" in 2020. Circa and William Hill set Las Vegas' over/under at 7 1/2 (Under -125 and -110, respectively) for next season, while Caesars Entertainment's number is 7 (Over -125).

“They will go as far as the quarterbacks take them this year," Salmons said. "Defense must step up this year, and with [safety Johnathan Abram] back, they can be improved on that side of the ball.” 

The Raiders went 7-9 in 2019, but their Pythagorean win total was closer to 5-11 due to a negative-106 point differential. General manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden revamped the defense in free agency and added speed and versatility on offense in last week's NFL draft, selecting wide receivers Henry Ruggs (No. 12 overall), Bryan Edwards (No. 80) and Lynn Bowden (No. 81). 

Salmons is high on the Raiders' "really good" rookie class, especially on offense. 

“The Raiders really have a lot of weapons going into this year,” Salmons said. “It’s a shame they’re in the AFC West because it’s the toughest division in the NFL. But the team has a ton of speed and will be entertaining to watch. It will be interesting to see how Gruden can sculpt that together. If they can get anything from their quarterback play, (Derek) Carr or (Marcus) Mariota, they should score some serious points from all over the field.”

[RELATED: Raiders rookie Bowden wants to break Honey Badger's ankles]

How the Raiders' rookies acclimate will go a long way towards Las Vegas taking another step forward in the third season of Gruden's second stint in silver and black.

If they hit the ground running, Salmons' belief won't seem so far-fetched.