Jon Gruden, Henry Ruggs on Being an Elite, Complete Receiver
Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr.
Henderson, Nev. -- The Las Vegas Raiders did their homework before the draft. Since General Manager Mike Mayock and Coach Jon Gruden joined forces with the Silver and Black, they have drafted exceptionally well for that reason.
Shortly after the 2020 NFL Draft, I reached out to some longtime friends inside the Alabama Crimson Tide football program to discover what made Henry Ruggs so special.
One member of the staff told me: "He plays with a linebacker mentality." They loved that while he had incredible speed and terrific soft hands, he was an, "Old school baller, who ain't afraid to knock someone on their ass."
Case in point, according to one coach: "We had one of our O-lineman knock a 350-pound DT (defensive tackle) completely out of the box. It was a run play and Ruggs came inside and knocked him right on his ass. That sprung our back for a big gain and eventually the winning score. That (excrement) doesn't show up in a stat line, but we wouldn't have won without Ruggsy being totally sold out to just winning." It's a great example of Ruggs commitment to doing the dirty work. The coach went on: "Mike (Mayock) and Jonny (Gruden) saw that when others didn't. Ruggs makes Josh Jacobs better too."
I asked Gruden about the Alabama comments and what they loved about their new weapon. He told Raider Maven: "A lot, for me, is to be seen. We drafted Josh Jacobs out of Alabama, he wasn't their feature back. We drafted Ruggs III, he wasn't their feature receiver. We have to prove that we made the right pick and to do it today is not really responsible on my behalf. We like Ruggs III. We like a lot more about Ruggs III than his blocking. We didn't take him in the first round to block. That wasn't going to be his primary role, but it is an ingredient that he has. His toughness, his every-down competitiveness, that has a chance to make him a great player in this league."
The Raider way is toughness. Ruggs was the fastest player in the 2020 NFL Draft, but he also is one of the toughest. Not something people are used to hearing about a wide receiver.
I asked Ruggs about those sentiments.
"My commitment is to the team and I'm 100 percent a team player," Ruggs said. "I'm out here to do a job and that's to help the 11 guys on the field get a win. So, whatever my job is, whether it's to catch a screen pass, block for a screen pass, or if it's just to run down the field so somebody can look at me, that's what I'm going to do.
"Like I said, I'm a team player, I'm going to go 100 percent for the team and when my number is called, I am going to do what I need to do to help the team out. But as far as the dirty work and the things people usually don't notice, I don't mind doing it because it's a part of being a team player."
Gruden is right when he says: "We didn't take him in the first round to block." But what makes him potentially more special than the others picked at his position, is that he is the most complete wide receiver in the draft.
Perhaps one day, he could be the most complete receiver in the NFL, and that is what makes him elite.
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