Raiders' Rookies Usher In New Gruden Era

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not going to lie, it was pretty cool seeing Jon Gruden back on the sidelines on Friday night -- and this is coming from someone who grew up in Tampa, and will always remember Gruden as a Buccaneer.

Gruden's Raiders were victorious in Friday night's game against the Detroit Lions by a score of 16-10, but more important than the win and the score might have been the way it came about, specifically from the younger guys. Last time Gruden had a headset on, albeit in Tampa Bay, Gruden was known for having a team full of veterans that he got to produce in their later years. On Friday night, it was instead an extensive 2018 rookie draft class that was not only getting playing time but impacting Gruden's gameplan in a big way.

Kolton Miller, OT

It was not an ideal start for the Raiders' first round pick, offensive tackle Kolton Miller, as he was the subject of the very first "Gruden stare" of 2018 -- not in a good way. Miller had a holding penalty that negated what would have been the play of the night, a 60-yard run by Marshawn Lynch.

According to practice reports, it has been an up-and-down camp for the Raiders' first round pick. Rookies tend to take their lumps early on, especially on the offensive line, so last night's shaky start doesn't call for the sounding of the alarm, but it did fulfill some early concerns people had of Miller during the draft process.

P.J. Hall, DT

When it happened, I thought Hall going as high as he did as pick No. 57 in the second round was a stretch. This was a guy who was playing DII ball at Sam Houston State for the last few years. Hall had some crazy stats and some eye-popping plays in his tape, but when you transition to the NFL, other than quarterback, trench play usually holds the biggest skill gap, especially when you're coming from the level of competition Hall was.

Hall didn't look overwhelmed at all in his first game. In fact, he was the first rookie making plays for the Raiders with a sack in the first defensive series. Hall finished the game with a sack, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit and a pass defended.

I have to say, Hall's off to a better start than I thought he would be.

Maurice Hurst, DT

For many draft analysts, Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was a Top 25 player in the class. But when medical tests at the NFL Combine last February diagnosed Hurst with a heart condition, some teams took him off their board altogether. That pushed a once sure-fire first round pick in Hurst all the way down to Day 3 of the 2018 NFL Draft, where the Raiders took the chance on him.

Hurst played into the second half on Friday night against the Lions and looked like the Hurst of old. He had a handful of snaps where he was the quickest defensive lineman off the ball getting into the backfield, and he recorded one QB hit on the stat sheet. Let's hope his heart condition isn't something that keeps him off the field. If it isn't, boy, do the Raiders have a potential steal on their hands.

Azeem Victor, LB

Victor, the sixth round pick out of Washington, played a good chunk of the second half in last night's contest against the Lions and looked fast going up against second and third-team players. Victor finished his night with two solo tackles and two QB hits. Right now he's listed as the third-string weak side linebacker.

Marcell Ateman, WR

Ateman finished Friday night's preseason game tied for the team lead in receptions with four, but had just 22 receiving yards to show for it. The 6-foot-4 big man from Oklahoma State got most of his action late in the game with quarterback E.J. Manuel as the signal caller, but he did play some in the first half with quarterback Connor Cook, too.

Johnny Townsend, P/Eddy Pineiro, K

You knew you weren't going to be able to get out of this article without me raving about the former Gators special teams duo now joining forces in the NFL.

Townsend had his number called fives times on Friday for punting duties with 199 total punting yards, a 39.8 yards-per-punt average and three punts landing inside the 20 yard line.

Pineiro was called on three times for field goals against the Lions and was perfect on all three, the longest being a 48 yarder. Pineiro was also 1-for-1 on his lone extra point of the game.

Written By:

Trevor Sikkema

Chief Digital Officer

CDO & Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-Host of the Locked On NFL Draft Podcast.