Las Vegas Raiders’ GM Mike Mayock said that he senses “a different Arden Key” this season.
Of course, that’s something we’ve all heard before. Everyone is well aware of Key’s natural gifts, but he hasn’t been able to translate his physical tools to success on the gridiron.
A third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Key was seen as a high-upside potential first-round talent who fell all the way to pick No. 87 due to off-field concerns.
Nonetheless, hopes were high that the team could harness Key’s talent and turn him into a star pass-rusher over time. Unfortunately, he was likely thrust into a starting role much too soon.
The Khalil Mack trade meant that Key, a player who ideally would have served as a rotational pass-rusher, was slated to start at defensive end during his rookie season.
The results were underwhelming as the former LSU star managed just one sack despite playing in all 16 games, making 10 starts. But going into 2019, the hope was that the extra year of development would do wonders for him.
He put on weight and looked to be making strides in training camp. Unfortunately, the emergence of fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby pushed him to a reserve role and he would play in only nine games — totaling two sacks — before landing on the injured reserve with a broken foot.
Key hasn’t been able to break through just yet, but there are reasons to suggest that he will this year.
Arden Key could be set for a breakout season with the Raiders in 2020.
The 24-year-old entered camp without a guaranteed roster spot. But given his performance this summer, a spot on the 53-man roster seems all but secured at this point.
Key has flashed his impressive burst and he’s added to his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame that should hopefully allow him to become a more consistent tackler.
General manager Mike Mayock had some high praise for Key — a player who was not drafted by his regime.
"“I think this offseason was different for him. Even though we weren’t in the building, I sensed a different Arden Key. I think his commitment to the organization, and even more importantly, the commitment to his talent he had himself, those were both evident and I think they’re showing up right now.”"
Key has been banged up with an injured hand, but he’s played through the injuries and has made a strong impression on new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.
The Raiders aren’t going to rely on him as a starter, but if Key can develop into a quality situational pass-rusher this season then that will undoubtedly be a win for a guy whose future with the team seemed very much in question following his injury last year.
Key is out to prove that he’s no longer the forgotten man on the Raiders’ defensive line.
He’s out to prove that he’s a different Arden Key.