Jon Gruden rebuilding Raiders roster with a gaggle of Gruden Grinders?

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- It might be a tad hyperbolic and cliché to say that Jon Gruden, with Reggie McKenzie's blessing and help, is rebuilding the Oakland Raiders roster into a bunch of Gruden Grinders.

But one week into the NFL's new league year, it would not be wrong.

The Raiders have parted ways with big names, big salaries and even popular players in a purge of sorts while acquiring guys known not necessarily for their mellow mien, but for their on-field production being as steady as their locker room leadership.

As such, here’s one reporter’s way-too-early take on what a starting lineup would look like nearly six months before the 2018 season kicks off ...


Left tackle Donald Penn -- Pro Bowler returning from season-ending foot injury suffered in Week 15.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele -- Two-time Pro Bowler a soft-spoken softie off the field, an absolute mauler on it.

Center Rodney Hudson -- One of the smartest centers in the NFL, according to Gruden.

Right guard Gabe Jackson -- Another favorite of Gruden who, two years after making the switch from the left side, is setting in quite nicely.

Right tackle Vadal Alexander -- Clubhouse leader with Marshall Newhouse released, though perhaps David Sharpe and Jylan Ware push Alexander sans another move in free agency or the draft.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper -- How will he respond to not having Michael Crabtree in his ear for the first time in his NFL career?

Wide receiver Jordy Nelson -- Can the veteran free agent signee rekindle that magic he had with Aaron Rodgers with mini-Rodgers, AKA Derek Carr?

Tight end Jared Cook -- Actually led Oakland with 688 receiving yards, though only had two touchdowns.

Quarterback Derek Carr -- Gives Gruden a young, in-his-prime QB for the first time in Gruden’s coaching career.

Running back Marshawn Lynch -- All signs point to Lynch returning. With the Raiders also having signed Doug Martin, perhaps Gruden sees Tyrone Wheatley-Napoleon Kaufman redux?

Fullback Keith Smith -- Gruden's Jon Ritchie 2.0, especially with the free agent signee making Jamize Olawale expendable?


Defensive end Khalil Mack -- Former NFL defensive player of the year will be motivated after being snubbed for All-Pro teams and in line for lucrative contract extension.

Defensive tackle Treyvon Hester -- Was running with first team in training camp until overtaken by Eddie Vanderdoes, who is returning from an ACL injury. Could Ndamukong Suh find a home here?

Nose tackle Justin Ellis -- "Jelly" is nice against the run, not much of a factor as a pass-rushing presence.

Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. -- Gruden loves guys who can stay on the field. Edwards played in a career high-tying 14 games last season with a career-best 3.5 sacks.

Weakside linebacker Tahir Whitehead -- Free agent signee also has experience at middle linebacker, should the Raiders choose to use him there instead.

Middle linebacker Marquel Lee -- Kept the seat warm until NaVorro Bowman showed up in October. If Bowman is not re-signed, perhaps Lee gets another run.

Strongide linebacker Bruce Irvin -- With Gruden saying Irvin might be best used as an edge rusher, what if he puts his hand in the dirt and Edwards moves inside? Then the Raiders need a SAM 'backer.

Left cornerback Rashaan Melvin -- Confidence is not lost on free agent signee Melvin, who said he was "here to dominate the league." Staying away from injury would be a start.

Right cornerback Gareon Conley -- Speaking of confidence, the Raiders' first-round pick in 2017 is marketing himself as "Conley Island" despite only playing in two games last season.

Strong safety Karl Joseph -- Time for the Raiders' first-round pick from 2016 to make his mark.

Free safety Marcus Gilchrist -- Vet free-agent signee should step right in for Reggie Nelson and be an upgrade.


Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio -- Gruden said the Raiders are riding with Tavecchio, though he will have competition.

Punter Marquette King -- The most fit, athletic and visible punter in the league is on the precipice of his first Pro Bowl nod.

Long-snapper Andrew DePaola -- Free agent signee replaces the ultra-popular Jon Condo.

Kick returner DeAndre Washington -- The trade of Cordarrelle Patterson to the New England Patriots makes this a wide-open competition (Griff Whalen, anyone?), and perhaps Washington and Jalen Richard are battling for a roster spot and not just a returner gig.

Punt returner Jalen Richard -- Richard had all but one of Oakland’s punt returns last season and averaged 6.0 yards per return.

Holder Marquette King -- Will have to get used to DePaola's snaps after working exclusively with Condo his entire career.