How did the Las Vegas Raiders’ 2020 rookie class look in their debut performance?
The 2020 NFL season is finally here! And Las Vegas Raiders fans will not only be happy about football being back, but also the fact that the young team was able to secure a Week 1 victory, on the East Coast nonetheless.
Despite not having a preseason to at least get warmed up and find some live-action chemistry, the team played smoothly and efficiently on the offensive side of the ball. The defense, however, was reminiscent of last year, which is not a good thing.
Three rookies saw significant playing time which isn’t much compared to last year where many rookies played big roles throughout the season. This shows that the team is in win-now mode and that Jon Gruden believes they have a chance to make a playoff push.
Because only one game has been played, this week’s edition won’t be as detailed as usual, as some guys are still working their way up the depth chart while others are just getting their feet wet.
With that being said, let’s get into it.
Raiders’ Rookies: Stock up
Henry Ruggs may not have lit up the box score, but he did show his ability to stretch the field and get open deep which is something the team lacked last season, and why the Raiders made him the first wide receiver taken in the 2020 NFL Draft.
On the opening drive, Ruggs ran a route deep towards the middle of the field. He was tightly covered and the ball was slightly overthrown ending up as an incompletion. It was still good to see Derek Carr go deep so early, however.
Later in the first, Ruggs was lined up in the slot and ran a deep crossing route again towards the middle of the field. He was wide open, brought it in, and took it to the one-yard line for a 45-yard gain which set up the first touchdown of the day for either squad.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Ruggs took his first career carry for four yards. His second carry came late in the second and went for seven yards.
On that same drive, he would get his second and third career receptions — one went for four yards and the other for six.
He came up hobbled after falling awkwardly on his third reception, but thankfully he returned to the game with a non-serious knee injury. However, he would not see a single target, reception, or carry for the remainder of the game.
Another thing I wanted to mention was a nice block he made in the second quarter. Ruggs’ blocking ability wasn’t talked about as much as it should of been as a prospect but it was one of his strengths despite him not being the biggest receiver.
After Hunter Renfrow hauled in a bubble screen, Henry Ruggs put fellow rookie Jeremy Chinn on the ground with a pancake block which allowed Renfrow to pick up the first.
The injury may be concerning but his toughness certainly isn’t. With the way he was targeted early and even given the ball out of the backfield I foresee a lot of opportunities for Ruggs to put himself in the Rookie of the Year race and as a result, see his stock as going up.
Raiders’ Rookies: Stock neutral
Bryan Edwards started on the outside due to the absence of wide receiver Tyrell Williams. Edwards played 75 percent of the offensive snaps but finished with only one catch for nine yards on a single target.
He will need to get open more often and not replicate this non-impactful performance next week if he is to stay off of the stock down list.
He is a first-year receiver which is a position that typically develops slowly, even among first-rounders, so despite the lack of numbers, I still wouldn’t say his stock is down yet considering he was a third-round pick.
Tanner Muse is currently on injured reserve with a toe injury but may return in a few weeks. Muse struggled in camp and is transitioning to a new position so he may not see much playing time outside of special teams when he does return, but that is yet to be seen.
Offensive guard John Simpson was inactive and as a backup behind starters Richie Incognito and Gabe Jackson, will likely not see the field much this season, and may be left off these articles in the future since there will be nothing to evaluate.
Cornerback Amik Robertson is on the same boat. He was active but saw no snaps.
Robertson was on the field for a single play but a timeout was called and he didn’t return to the field as the play was changed. Lamarcus Joyner struggled in the nickel reminiscent of last year so Robertson has a good shot of seeing more playing time later on in the season.
Raiders’ Rookies: Stock down
The Raiders second selection in the first round, cornerback Damon Arnette, struggled in his rookie debut. He was by no means picked on throughout the game, but one of his bad plays could have changed the outcome of the game.
While Arnette finished the game with five total tackles, he also whiffed on a couple due to going for the big hit instead of wrapping up. He is aggressive and willing, plus, run support was one of his strengths as a prospect, so I’d expect that to be cleaned up.
With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, Arnette was burned after losing his balance and falling to the ground due to a double move by wide receiver Robby Anderson. Anderson was wide open and took it for a 75-yard touchdown that gave the Panthers a 30-27 lead.
Cornerback is one of the hardest positions in the league, so early struggles should be expected. I said something similar about Bryan Edwards and how receivers typically develop slowly, but Arnette was a first-round pick who many believed was over-drafted.
So while I am not personally down on him yet I’d say his stock is still slightly down.