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NAPA Craig Smith Jersey , Calif. (AP) Since Jon Gruden last coached in the NFL a decade ago, the league has undergone a youth movement.

Thanks to a collective bargaining agreement that limits salaries for players in their first four years and a more spread out game that places a greater premium on speed, teams have relied more than ever on young players.

Gruden still is showing the same kind of preference for experience that he did when he first took over the Raiders back in 1998, signing 11 players this offseason who are already in their 30s.

”We’ve added a veteran presence,” Gruden said. ”Some people don’t like it, but I like Derrick Johnson, I like Marcus Gilchrist, I like guys that know what the heck is going on.”

That’s the opposite direction most teams have gone since Gruden last coached in Tampa Bay in 2008. The youth movement hit high gear following the 2011 collective bargaining agreement and the average snap weighted age for NFL players fell to 26.46 years last season, according to Football Outsiders, the lowest since the website began tracking that number in 2006.

The average age has been falling gradually each year since 2008, with players about a half-year younger now than they were a decade ago.

But Gruden is bucking that trend, signing players like Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Frostee Rucker and Leon Hall.

”Heck yeah that’s a positive,” tight end Jared Cook said. ”It helps the maturity of this team. When you got young guys, especially nowadays, these young guys just don’t get what the NFL is about. Even something as simple as veteran presence and veteran leadership Authentic Customized Buccaneers Jerseys , they don’t understand that. Veteran respect, they don’t necessarily get that. So, having vets in the locker room and having vets around you that know the role, know how things go and that hold other people accountable … is huge. You can’t buy that anywhere, because vets know how it’s supposed to be done, and they’re going to get it done the right way it’s supposed to be.”

Gruden took a similar tack in his first stint in Oakland, bringing in players like Eric Allen, Jerry Rice, Rich Gannon, Andre Rison, William Thomas, Trace Armstrong and Anthony Newman to help turn the Raiders from a losing team into a playoff participant his final two seasons.

Several of the older players have ties to either defensive coordinator Paul Guenther or special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, giving the coaching staff some proven players who are able to help teach the new systems.

”It’s very important,” Guenther said. ”I always say this, but it’s a player’s game. So when you have guys that really understand the details of everything. Obviously, we haven’t been through a season with some of the guys who were here last year. Some of the things that come up, whether it be in the locker room or in the meeting room. I may say Da'Shawn Hand Color Rush Jersey , `Hey, remember when this happened two years ago against Atlanta?’ We recall those things. So it’s very helpful to have guys that are in the infantry line there to help us out.”

The Raiders made an effort to add players like that in every position group on defense with Rucker on the defensive line, Emmanuel Lamur at linebacker, and Reggie Nelson and Leon Hall in the secondary all familiar with Guenther’s defense and able to serve as sounding boards for their teammates.

Rashaan Melvin said he frequently turns to Hall, who spent nine seasons in Cincinnati when Guenther was a defensive assistant or coordinator.

”Any time we’re putting in a new defensive scheme or whatever it might be, he’s been in the system for a long time,” Melvin said. ”If it’s a nickel position, he knows it. If it’s the corner position, he knows it. So, whatever questions we might have to ask or to ask coach, he’s like another coach for us in the room.”

But as much as the older players were brought in for their knowledge, it won’t matter at all if they still can’t play at a high level. They need to be much more than unofficial coaches on the field.

The next few weeks will show what these veterans still have left. The 33-year-old Nelson, who has already impressed his coaches and teammates, is trying to prove that his dropoff last season had more to do with Aaron Rodgers‘ injury than his advancing age.

”The thing that you hear about that he can’t run anymore, that’s false,” quarterback Derek Carr said. ”I can tell you, he’s one of the fastest skill guys that we have still. He can run. You see that by his route running. If he can win on underneath routes that means DB’s are scared about what he can do over the top. He’s still Jordy Nelson Mark Walton Color Rush Jersey , that’s for sure.”




FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Vic Beasley had a season to mostly forget last year.

Now that the Atlanta Falcons have put him back full-time at defensive end, he’s looking to regain the form that made him the NFL sacks leader two years ago.

Beasley, though, isn’t making big promises in the second week of training camp. As much as he wants to get back to the top, he says the best approach is to stay humble, fill his role and let everything else work itself out.

”I know the guys have a lot of faith in me and the coaches do also, so we’re just going to go out there and give our best effort and do what we can to get where we want to be,” Beasley said Wednesday.

The Falcons had solid results last season under first-year defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel. They improved 17 spots to a No. 9 ranking in points allowed. They were among the top 10 in total yards, yards rushing, red zone percentage and scoring.

But Beasley was a small part of the story. He had just five sacks, 10 1/25 fewer than during his first season under coach Dan Quinn, and he wanted to produce more.

Moving to outside linebacker on 30 percent of the snaps didn’t help. Beasley dropped some weight to play the new position and he ran so much in coverage and in defending the run that his energy level sometimes lagged when he lined up at end. He didn’t have the same explosiveness coming out of his stance and beating blocks.

”He was always a nickel defensive end,” Quinn said. ”We played almost 70 percent of our snaps in nickel, but in the base one, due to injuries, that’s why we moved him there. He was there a little bit by necessity Joel Edmundson Jersey , and sometimes that’s the best thing to do. For us it was in this case.”

Not anymore. Quinn wants to unleash Beasley exclusively at end with Takk McKinley starting on the opposite side after a promising rookie season.

”That’s where he’s best,” Quinn said, ”playing defensive end all the time.”

Beasley took some pointers Wednesday from former Falcons ends Patrick Kerney and Chuck Smith, who combined for 141 NFL sacks. He got two different perspectives in technique. Kerney played long and rangy. Smith was more compact. Both gave Beasley a few ideas about timing, footwork and hand placement.

Beasley gets daily suggestions from his position coach Bryant Young, the former San Francisco star tackle who finished a 14-year career in 2007 with 89 1/2 sacks.

Young believes Beasley’s time at linebacker will benefit him long-term because it’s made him better against the run.

”He’s a very strong individual, plays with good technique, and I think a lot of times he doesn’t get credit for his run game, which is really important in this league as well,” Young said. ”The big, pretty numbers are in the sacks, and we understand that, but it’s also important that you stop the run.”

Beasley is eager to show what he can do. He played end exclusively throughout his career before last year.

”As a linebacker you normally drop into coverage and you dial up blitzes every now and then, but as a defensive end you’re pretty much a straight-ahead guy,” Beasley said. ”Just get after the quarterback.”



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