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Jon Gruden remains coy as Raiders scout Senior Bowl talent

Updated January 24, 2019 - 7:51 pm

MOBILE, Ala. Penny Hart and Andy Isabella are a pair of small-school wide receivers who, despite measuring shorter than 5 feet, 9 inches at Monday’s weigh-ins, have left a sizable impression at the Senior Bowl. Hart, in particular, had a strong week.

“I don’t want to talk about those guys,” Jon Gruden said with a smile. “I don’t like them.”

Dalton Risner, an offensive tackle from Kansas State, possesses a nastiness to his game. He displayed it Wednesday when he rag-dolled an outside linebacker during a pass-rush drill and again in multiple moments Thursday, including a stonewalling of ex-Arizona State defensive tackle Russell Wren in a one-on-one drill.

“I don’t like him either,” Gruden joked of Risner.

The Raiders coach was playfully coy Thursday when discussing the Senior Bowl’s North roster. That followed his staff’s third and final practice of the week. Many NFL scouts and coaches cleared out of Alabama on Wednesday and Thursday, but the Raiders largely remain before they coach the North during Saturday’s game.

This week presents a valuable scouting opportunity. They are intent on seizing it.

On Friday, the Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers plan to swap rosters for a couple hours, Gruden said, to allow both clubs a chance to interview players from the opposing All-Star game squad. For the Raiders, perhaps the greatest benefit to the switch is exposure to the South’s pass rushers, a dynamic crop that includes Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat and Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson.

Both are projected first-round selections on April 25. The Raiders own the No. 4, No. 24 and 29 overall picks.

“There’s no secret that we need pass rushers,” general manager Mike Mayock said. “I think we have one defensive end under contract right now (Arden Key). … Are we focused in on defensive ends at this game? Of course. We’d be dumb if we weren’t. But we need pretty much everything on defense, so we’re looking at every position.”

To that end, Mayock expanded upon the needs he sees on the current roster.

He stressed the importance of all 11 of the Raiders’ draft picks, not just the three first-rounders. A productive free agency, draft and undrafted rookie signing period are required to address the situation adequately.

“I think anybody knows we could use some speed at wide receiver,” Mayock said. “I think defensively, we need speed everywhere. I think our defensive tackles are pretty good; we’ve got a couple young defensive tackles I like. … (Linebacker) Tahir Whitehead is a good football player — really solid. And I think we need to get better on the back end.

“I think (safety) Karl Joseph played well at the end of the year, and they did a nice job finding role for him. Without getting too specific, I think when you’re looking at a team that is 4-12, there are a lot of holes.”


■ Gruden’s father, Jim, Raiders safety Erik Harris and Alexa Stabler, the daughter of franchise icon Ken Stabler, were among the attendees at Thursday’s practice. Alexa Stabler, a certified NFL agent, lives in Mobile. An on-field introduction with Gruden was arranged following practice. The two spoke at length. Gruden insisted on a photo. “I know every organization says they are a family and blah, blah, blah,” Stabler said. “I think the Raiders have such a close-knit, unique culture. I didn’t do anything for them, and they just made things like that happen for me.”

■ Little to no question surrounds whether quarterback Derek Carr will be on the Raiders’ roster in 2019. Mayock confirmed as much Thursday. “When you look at 32 teams in this league and there aren’t 32 starting quarterbacks, yet we have one of them,” Mayock said. “He’s a starting quarterback in the NFL. He can make every throw. We’ve got to do a better job of protecting him and giving him weapons. He played with two rookie tackles last year. We need to get more speed on offense. We need to be more dynamic. Derek Carr, at this point, is kind of the least of our problems.”

More Raiders: Follow at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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