When the Raiders concluded what looks, on paper, like a solid draft, I noticed a strategy change. Granted, Jon Gruden’s approach differed from his predecessors. Despite being known for his strait-laced, overbearing approach, Gruden and Mayock decided to take a different tact in assembling a draft class. The 2020 draft class possess something, through film and interviews that previous classes lack: The Dawg Mentality
The Dawg Mentality is an internal drive, confidence, and aggression that resides within certain players. These players go that extra mile to make a play. Whether shedding a block with no regard for the opponent or manhandling a corner in the open field. That mindset sets apart the solely talented from the uniquely hungry. Dawgs show absolutely no fear of anyone, anywhere at any time on the field. This renovation of the roster started with the drafting of Johnathan Abram and Maxx Crosby. Young cornerstones that will make their presence felt. Although Abram missed the last fifteen games of the season, he set the tone early. These gestures don’t show up in the stat sheet but on film. Look at Amik Robertson’s eyes as he becomes a Raider. That focus is indicative of someone intent on making opponents pay.
Isn’t Every Player a Dawg?
No, many will make business decisions to avoid contact. The Raiders endured years of sloppy tackling cornerbacks that would throw an arm at the ballcarrier, unwilling to initiate force. In 2019, the Raiders’ secondary missed 49 tackles. While we all understand that coverage takes precedence over tackling, defensive backs still need to make stops. Damon Arnette prides himself on the ability to stick his nose into the fray and make the play. Likewise, Amik Roberston enjoys hitting targets. Additionally, each will attempt to jam the soul out of a receiver. That willingness to inflict legal pain isn’t a common trait.
Was Burfict a Dawg for the Raiders?
Yes and no. While Paul Guenther vouched for his signing, Vontaze Burfict ultimately disappointed the team. Whether you agree with his suspension or not, you knew it was coming. Outside of heart and passion, the best ability to be a Dawg is availability. Can’t help the team, if you’re not playing. In the end, the Raiders suffered due to his signing.
Chemistry and Influence
The Dawg Mentality and approach is contagious. Players see that aggression and begin to elevate their game. When teams embrace the aggression, they bond. Teams will come together over a similar thought process. Remember when the Raiders added Donald Penn and Kelechi Osemele? The talent and mood of the offensive line changed. When Las Vegas drafted Lynn Bowden and Bryan Edwards, the toughness of the receiving corps increased. In all honesty, I think the selection of two other wideouts helps Henry Ruggs. While he’s confident, Ruggs isn’t loud. Edwards muscles corners, using his size and strength. When Tanner Muse gets downhill on the ballcarrier, he will not show a scintilla of hesitation.
Unlike years past, the Raiders employed a tough-minded draft strategy. Teams will arrive in Vegas chirping. Yet, from the starters to the special teams gunners, this team, will bring a physical presence and arrive angrily.