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Alston looks for leading role as the heavy

Time, as well as the ability to shed blockers and make plays during training camp, will determine if Jon Alston is a blown-up safety or a strong sidelinebacker capable of blowing up a sweep to his side.

Although Alston felt the Raiders defense did not perform up to par in Wednesday’s open-to-the-media organized team activity session, his own performance was impressive.

He is one of the most spirited, enthusiastic defenders, playing with a contagious enthusiasm even in the most routine practice sessions. He made a number of plays in the passing game, and positioned himself for would-be stops in non-contact drills against the run.

It is the latter skill which will be tested when the Raiders convene in Napa. In his fourth-year out of Stanford, Alston is a man varied interests. He plays the guitar and has designs on being an actor in his post-football life.

Rather than spend a lot of time with those pursuits, Alston put his mind to packing on some pounds after finishing the season at 214 pounds, making him the smallest strongside linebacker in the league.

At first glance, Alston, with bigger arms and thicker around the neck and shoulders, doesn’t seem to have lost any of his quickness.

Building a body beyond its capacity can have its risks, not only in terms of health but performance. Years ago, the Raiders wanted Lance Johnstone to come in a little heavier so he could advance to something beyond a pass rusher.

Johnstone got heavier all right _ he came in with a gut and a year later he was released and wound up in Minnesota.

A pair of Raiders tight ends, Randal Williams and John Madsen, also got bigger but not necessarily better.

Williams, special teams player and wide receiver, went from a wide receiver in the 200-pound range to a thickly muscled 230-pound plus because Norv Turner wanted him to play tight end. He began to drop passes, experience back trouble and eventually was gone.

The decision with Madsen, a slot receiver at Utah, was to either make him a large wideout in the Ed McCaffrey mold or convert him to tight end. The bigger Madsen got, the more injury-prone he became, and his receiving skills suffered as well.

Alston believes his body has taken to the added weight and thinks he is at an age where he can get bigger as well as better.

Here’s a few questions I asked of Alston as he came off the field Wednesday in a brief interview before Tom Cable went to the podium to address the media:

Q: Is there a lot of difference in what you’re doing defensively this year, or is it just doing things better?

Alston: One of the main things we’re going to be seeing is a strong sense of refinement in this defense. Coach Marshall brings a ton of experience. he’s been in the NFL probably a lot longer than I’ve been alive and one of the things that comes with that is added discipline. We enjoy having him around, and that’s basically what’s going down.

Q: There’s been a lot of talk about how the run defense can be fixed with discipline without a major change in personnel. Is that viable?

Alston: Look at anybody’s life. If you ever want to prove something, you’ve got to know where you messed up, acknowledge that you messed up, then fix those problems piece by piece. Personnel is not going be the issue. We have talent. Everyone knows we have talent. It’s can we play together, can we be disciplined, how much do we care? That’s the test. I think what we have now is a new sense of vigor, especially under coach Cable, in making sure we get stuff done.

It’s not just going to be that we play well once in awhile and that’s good enough. It’s making sure we get this stuff done. It’s got to be every time we play, we play well. Today we didn’t have the best practice, so we have to come out (Thursday) and have a better practice than (Tuesday) _ which was a great practice, especially on the defensive side. Coach Cable let us know, and that’s the biggest part. he let us know we’ve got to go to work.

Q: You were considered a tweener at Stanford, not exactly a safety, not exactly a weakside linebacker. You played on the strong side last year. Is too much made of pigeonholing a player in a certain position or is a football player simply a football player?

Alston: Everybody’s journey in this league is different. I’ve been fortunate enough to put on some weight this offseason. It’s come with age and a lot of hard work, but it’s given me a chance to compete. If they tell me to play SAM, I’ll bulk up and do my best to play SAM. I just want to play.

Q: How much bigger did you get?

Alston: You know what? I probably ended the season around 214 and I’ve gotten up to 235. Right now I’m sitting at 232.

Q: Some players lose their quickness when they bulk up and that’s a big part of your game. But you seem to have kept yours judging from the practice field . . .

Alston: I think it was time for my body to grow a little bit.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • Demon Raider

    It’d be awesome if Mitchell and Branch were the second coming of Atkinson and Tatum…. I think that it’s about time for Oakland to bring back the “Criminal Element” Lol

  • CantstandtheHaters

    Alston had a couple of nice stops vs the run in the backfield towards the end of the year that caught my eye. I think that caught the eye of the staff coming in and looking at film too.

    if he happens to put it together, in year 4, coupled with his athleticism, watch out! he is dynamic.

    (funny thing is I always got him in Madden and bulked him up to 235 too to be a effective ST and situational player and the other guys in our league would complain “ah man you cant put on 20 pounds over an offseason???”. well YES I CAN MFs HAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!!!!)

    ….but almost never used him in running situations. never thought he can use his athletisicism and be tough enough to make plays in the backfield but there he was like i said a couple of times at the end of the season where he did just that, blow it up behind the LOS. IN RREAL LIFE!!! looks like we got our third man at LB folks…

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  • 4evaRaider

    I hope Frantz Joseph can hang on 2B our future MLB

  • NoMoreFargas

    What’s up 4eva .

  • 4evaRaider

    just reading the morning paper NMF

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  • http://sportmag.us/images/Lester_Hayes_November_1981.jpg RaiderDogg

    Dakota Says:
    June 5th, 2009 at 12:07 pm
    RaiderDogg Says:
    June 5th, 2009 at 11:26 am

    I clearly need new people.
    __________________

    Yes…heads must roll.”

    Heads have rolled.

  • 4evaRaider

    good Saturday Dogg!!!

  • 4evaRaider

    and NMF!!!

  • http://sportmag.us/images/Lester_Hayes_November_1981.jpg RaiderDogg

    Good to see my boy Alston getting some pub, he deserves it. He has been working his ass off all off season and it is paying off.

    I expect to see some big things from this kid, and not just on ST.

  • http://sportmag.us/images/Lester_Hayes_November_1981.jpg RaiderDogg

    Right back at ya forever.

    How was that pork loin yesterday?

  • http://sportmag.us/images/Lester_Hayes_November_1981.jpg RaiderDogg

    why did I type “forever”? Man I am not awake yet obviously.

    What up 4eva!

    There that’s better.

  • http://sportmag.us/images/Lester_Hayes_November_1981.jpg RaiderDogg

    Do you guys remember that fake punt last year when Alston was the up man and he took the direct snap? Not only did he get the first down, but he looked good with the ball in his hands.

    Not only is this kid a LB, he is a FOOTBALL PLAYER.

  • 4evaRaider

    thats ok Dogg

    the pork is killer

    I will never 4get your boy Alston pushing 4 Fargas’s job on that fake punt.I went crazy yelling!!!

    Man if only somebody,who will remain name-less would prepair like your boy we would be unstoppable =)

  • Suspect J

    Why are we talking about a player who started a few games on defense. We should be assesing DMAC. Will he be the next Feature Back or just a bust due to bieng injury prone. I remember back in Arkansas he got into a bar fight and suffered a broken toe. Maybe he has been suffering from a chronic toe injury its probably biting him in the ass now. Which is not good for us. But im pushing for a Pro Bowl season this year.

  • Dude

    When guys work their arses off in the off season its noticeable and you always here people talking about how great a shape a guy is in or how he lost weight or put on some muscle. Which is obviously the case with Alston. On the flip side, when a guy rolls in looking like he sat on the couch all winter long you also hear about it. Case in point: Russell. However Raider fan runs with the story on Alston but screams “Haters!!” about the Russell reports. Its hypocrisy at its finest. Guys like Alston who work their arse off and prepare like a true pro should look at Russell’s lazy attitude as a slap in the face because no matter what the rest of the club does to prepare for the season if Russell stays his current course it will be all for not. Sucks that one guy can bring a whole team down with him.

  • Suspect J

    Russell will be fine. He has all the intangibles to be a great QB. I really dont care if he has an extra few pounds. Have you seen this guy move. With all that size and weight that is unbelievable. He will be great. Just keep DMAC healthy and watch Russell’s stats go through the roof. DMAC will use his superb talents to gain YAC. This will be great when Russell dumps it off alot.

  • Suspect J

    Russell could launch the LASER passes period. Just keep him launching the LASER passes with a few touch passes and we are GOOD TO GO.

  • Dude

    Russell has NONE of the intangibles to be a great QB. Put the beer down and take off your rose colored glasses. He is lazy, he isnt a gym rat, he has a whatever attitude, he isnt a leader, he isnt accurate and he seems to not care whether the team wins or loses. The only thing he has going for him is his big arm. Thats it thats all.

  • 4evaRaider

    I agree whole-heartedly Dude

  • 4evaRaider

    I got a great idea…Alston should beat the daylights out of Jmac and knock him into shape =)

  • Dude

    Russell COULD do alot of things, but he doesnt.

  • Dude

    Russell was about one thing from the beginning. GETTN PAID. Said so himself. Now that he has, he just dont give a f…

  • Suspect J

    The Colts had won the AFC Eastern Division Championship in 1999 with a 13-3-0 record, second best regular season record in the National Football League that year. The Indianapolis team had one of those rare offensive threesomes that head coaches swear by- and defensive coordinators swear at. Quarterback Peyton Manning, running back Edgerrin James and wide receiver Marvin Harrison are great players, among the league’s very best at their respective positions. All three were first round draft pick choices – Harrison the 19th pick in round one in 1996, Manning the number one pick of the entire draft in 1998, and James the fourth pick in round one in 1999. Manning led the AFC in passing in ’99, throwing for 4,135 yards. James was the top rusher in the entire NFL in ’99, gaining 1,553 yards on the ground, scoring 102 points on 17 touchdowns and rushing for over 100 yards in 10 of his 16 league games. Harrison was second in the NFL in receptions in 1999, with 115 catches and first in reception yardage with 1,663 yards. He had nine 100-yard games last year.

    WE HAVE THE QB; WE HAVE THE RB AND WE HOPEFULLY HAVE THE WR TO AT LEAST GET CLOSE TO THESE STATS.

    The Indianapolis team had one of those rare offensive threesomes that head coaches swear by- and defensive coordinators swear at.

    THE RAIDERS NEED THIS

  • Dude

    Russell will never be anywhere close to Peyton Manning. Manning has ALL the intangibles and skills of a great QB. He is a great QB. Only an idiot would dare mention Manning and Russell in the same sentence.

  • http://sportmag.us/images/Lester_Hayes_November_1981.jpg RaiderDogg

    I just wonder, if Russell excels, if all of you people that have been bagging on him since day 1 will actually have the stones to say “I was wrong”.

    I won’t hold my breath.

    The same goes for all of the DHB bashers in the media.

  • Dude

    LMFAO at the comment about “at least getting close to those stats”.

  • 4evaRaider

    Jmac need 2 step-up or step-out,imo.I was all 4 giving him 3 years.He sat out 1,played last year and now this up-comming season makes 3.Do or Die biotch

  • http://sportmag.us/images/Lester_Hayes_November_1981.jpg RaiderDogg

    Russell – 3 different play callers in a span of one season, not one complaint from JaMarcus.

    Manning – the same play caller his entire career, finally gets a new play caller and he’s b1tching about it in May.

  • Dude

    I hope I have to put hot sauce on and eat every word I have said about Russell. I just dont see it happening.

  • Suspect J

    I GUESS YOU GUYS FEEL THAT THE LAST 6 GAMES RUSSELL PLAYED WERE FLUKES. YOU CANT WIN GAMES ON YOUR BACK. WHEN HENDERSON WAS IN THERE HIS PROTECTION WAS GOOD BUT NOT GREAT. HE HAD TIME TO READ THE DEFENSE AND WAS ABLE TO FIND THE OPEN MAN. ALSO WHEN HE WAS COMING OUT OF COLLEGE THE SCOUTS STATED THAT HE WAS ABLE TO READ AND TEAR UP ZONE DEFENSES. I FEEL RUSSELL WILL BE GOOD ENOUGH TO MANAGE THE GAME. HIS TD /INT RATIO SAYS IT ALL.

  • Dude

    His td/int ratio says nothing. He was handled with kid gloves all year and he is as inaccurate a QB as there is in the league.

  • http://sportmag.us/images/Lester_Hayes_November_1981.jpg RaiderDogg

    Dude Says:
    June 6th, 2009 at 9:18 am
    “I hope I have to put hot sauce on and eat every word I have said about Russell. I just dont see it happening.”

    I will have more respect for you then, cuz now it seems that all you do is talk sh1t based on pure speculation and opinion, not fact. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    I won’t hold my breath.

  • Dude

    Ummm….Russell dznt complain cause he doent CARE. He dont give a f about who his coaches are as long as his check comes every 2 weeks.

  • Dude

    Whats the speculation?

  • 4evaRaider

    I will gladly be the 1st 2 say I was wrong Dogg,but like Dude said:It’s a cold slap in the face 2 your boy Alston and the Fargas’s of the team who would DIE 4 the chance 2 play 4 Da Raiders.I mean I just dont understand Jmac’s attitude.Hell you would,I would,Dude would we ALL would be like Alston,I mean 2B the very best,what other way is there???

  • Suspect J

    WE WILL WIN AT LEAST 9 GAMES THIS YEAR AND IM NOT DRINKING THE KOOL AID. WE WILL WIN AT LEAST 5 GAMES ON DMAC’S TALENT ALONE AND THE REST OF THE 4 WILL BE WON BY ABOVE AVERAGE DEFENSIVE PLAYS AND DECENT GAME MANAGING PASS PLAYS BY RUSSELL.

    AS LONG AS LAZY RUSSELL IS SITTING ON THE COUCH WATCHING GAME FILM ALL DAY THAT GOOD FOR ME.

  • http://atm Raider O

    Good Morning gents.

    The last 7 game he played well.

  • http://sportmag.us/images/Lester_Hayes_November_1981.jpg RaiderDogg

    4eva

    I can see you being accountable, you seem like a stand up guy.

    But how do ANY of you know ANYTHING about JaMarcus’ work habits? You guys see a guy partying at an after party and all of a sudden he doesn’t work hard? Come on now.

    You mentioned Fargas earlier, I see him making videos with Yukmouth and a bunch of weed.

    Maybe you guys should focus more on the game itself, instead of the players life outside of football. Ken Stabler drank whiskey DURING GAMES!

    In this age of information too many people take speculation and claim it as fact.

  • 4evaRaider

    Well maybe after playing 1 year in the NFL,Jmac see’s he’s not in Kansas(or where-ever)anymore.I was waaay excited over him at the end of the year.But then he comes into camp,and as the leader of the team,he would come in like Alston,but no.Like I said I dont understand this,but I am 4 Jmac 1000%

  • http://sportmag.us/images/Lester_Hayes_November_1981.jpg RaiderDogg

    Later gents, have a good day. I’m off to go sailing.

    Good luck with all of your JaMarcus bashing, many of you be ready to eat your words.

    Sometimes it feels like some of you ARE ROOTING for Russell to fail. Like the media with DHB, all because everyone just wants to be able to say “I told you so” or “I was right”.

    Maybe it’s because the Raiders have been awful for 6 years and some of you have been wrong too many times in the past.

    Whatever it is, GET OVER IT and maybe actually root for your team to succeed. What a concept.

    The bottom line is I ain’t mad at any of you.

    Have a good day

  • 4evaRaider

    WOW thats an excellent arguement Dogg.I must admit I know NOTHING of Jmac’s work ethic.But 2 me it dosent look like Alstons,of which I know nothing of his work ethic either.Sometimes 1 picture can say 1000 words,and I got nothing against parting,smoking what-ever or even being drunk in the huddle:

    JUST WIN BABY!!!

  • Suspect J

    I believe Russell love to play the game and he will be fine come week 1 verses our arch NEMESIS LADANIAN TOMLINSON.

  • http://sportmag.us/images/Lester_Hayes_November_1981.jpg RaiderDogg

    4eva

    Like I said, you are a stand up guy and I appreciate that. It’s rare on this blog when someone at least takes a look at another perspective. People don’t always have to agree, but when someone takes the time to try to understand where another is coming from it is refreshing.

    Have a good day and have a daquiri for me bro.

  • http://Raiders.com RaiderTW

    RaiderDogg Says:
    All you do is ASSUME you know what you are talking about. Are you close to JaMarcus or anyone else on the team for that matter? NO you are not. So how would you have any idea what really goes on behind closed doors.

    You have no idea and you are just talking out of your ass.
    In this age of information too many people take speculation and claim it as fact.
    ——————
    Here here, Dude just incites & runs, thinks his opinion is fact. Thanks for stating it for all to see, Dogg. He sounds more like O’Reilly everyday.

  • Suspect J

    9-7 BABY

  • http://atm Raider O

    Later Dogg.

  • 4evaRaider

    Sailing Away you make sure you come back 2 us Dogg!!!

  • Suspect J

    DOES ANY ONE HAVE FAITH THAT THIS IS THE YEAR WE AT LEAST GO OVER 500