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Jon Gruden talks firing Buckner, hiring Marinelli

Updated February 27, 2020 - 7:45 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — The Raiders made a significant coaching change earlier in the offseason, firing defensive line coach Brentson Buckner and hiring Rod Marinelli for the same position.

On Thursday, Raiders coach Jon Gruden called the move “a tough one” because he feels Buckner is a good coach.

“But I just happen to think Marinelli’s the best in the world at what he does,” Gruden said.

Gruden praised Marinelli’s leadership, saying he has an “incredible” way of helping players with their techniques.

“I think Arden Key, Cle Ferrell, Maxx Crosby, P.J. Hall, (Maurice) Hurst — all our young guys are really going to benefit from Marinelli just like everybody else has,” Gruden said.

The Raiders will be looking for significant improvement from Ferrell, the team’s No. 4 overall pick in last year’s draft, and Crosby, who was selected in the fourth round.

“They’re going to be stronger, bigger people, and they’re going to be more experienced in the NFL and in our system,” Gruden said. “I just think with Marinelli in the room with those guys, hopefully, Arden Key comes back stronger and healthier than he has been, and perhaps we add another player or two so the competition fuels it all. That’s what I’m after.”

Key, a third-round pick in the 2018 draft, has three sacks in his 23 games. He spent the second half of the past season on injured reserve after breaking his foot against the Lions in early November.

At the podium

Linebackers and defensive linemen had their turn speaking to the media at the NFL scouting combine Thursday, including potential top defensive picks Chase Young and Isaiah Simmons.

Young is widely expected to be Washington’s pick at No. 2 overall. But he’s also regarded as the best player of the class, despite nearly all projections expecting quarterback Joe Burrow to go No. 1 overall to Cincinnati.

“I definitely think I’m the best player in the draft,” Young said. “I think I showed it on my tape. You go to every game, I think I showed it. I definitely think I put my best foot forward this year.”

Despite missing a pair of games, Young set an Ohio State program record with 16½ sacks. He also had 21 tackles for loss.

Given his draft stock, Young decided he’s not participating in any element of the on-field testing at the combine. He said he decided that would be the best way to be prepared for his first day of practice as a professional.

“I don’t want to waste time trying to be a combine athlete,” Young said.

As for Simmons, the hybrid linebacker/safety said he’s the kind of player the NFL needs to help defend against tight ends who can be matchup nightmares.

“The game is evolving. The name of the game now is stopping tight ends. Something has to be done to stop the Travis Kelces and George Kittles out there,” Simmons said.

Simmons, 21, of Olathe, Kansas, named three players he models his game after — each of whom plays a different position.

“If I have to go look at film of somebody to get something, it’d be like Von Miller just for pass rush, Jalen Ramsey just for man techniques and Tyrann Mathieu just because he plays around everywhere as well,” Simmons said. “I take bits and pieces from all them to kind of throw into my game.”

Both Young and Simmons should be off the board well before the Raiders pick at No. 12.

Contact Myles Simmons at msimmons@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @MylesASimmons on Twitter.

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