While Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is getting some of the new faces acclimated to his scheme this offseason, defensive end Arden Key is among those optimistic about a potential resurgence in the 2019 NFL season.
The Raiders selected Key in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft to help address the huge void left on the edge last offseason with the departure of Khalil Mack.
Unfortunately, he was unable to find his footing as a rookie and ultimately finished the 2018 campaign with just 30 tackles and a sack while starting in 10 games.
Despite his struggles, Oakland still seemed to be intrigued with his potential and made it clear where he needed to improve this year. It appears he has managed to follow through on the goals placed on him by Guenther.
According to Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Guenther is impressed with what he has seen thus far:
Raiders DC Paul Guenther pleased with DE Arden Key’s development. Team has wanted him to add strength. That said, not expected to be a true two-way player. More envisioned for third-down rush role.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) June 4, 2019
There is certainly plenty to take away from Guenther’s early thoughts on Key. While he may be pleased with Key’s development, he does not seem to be ready to commit to him as a full-time option just yet.
The second-year man out of LSU was considered to be a bit undersized for an edge rusher going into the NFL, which likely hurt his draft stock. Both Guenther and head coach Jon Gruden have made it clear that they would like for him to put on some more weight before deeming him physically capable of taking on an every-down role on defense.
It is no secret that the Raiders’ pass rush has been virtually nonexistent since the departure of Mack and they are hoping that this year’s first-round pick in defensive end Clelin Ferrell can help fill the huge void that has plagued the defense ever since. Meanwhile, it seems Key will be asked to help shore up the depth on the edge moving forward.
Guenther’s comments indicate that he will likely be utilized more on passing downs than early run situations on defense since he is still considered to be undersized. Although this could lead to a decrease in snaps for Key next season, it may also provide him with better opportunities to take advantage of his skill set as a pass rusher.