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Measuring heart as well as speed, size

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, May 1st, 2011 at 10:47 am in Oakland Raiders.

After letting the three-day draft marinate for several hours, here’s what I come up with concerning the Raiders’ Class of 2011:

The most important adjustment Al Davis has made the past two years is in heeding information about a player’s desire and level of commitment to go along with the physical attributes that will always be a big part of the way he selects players.

Davis still wants the Raiders to look good coming off the bus. It’s just that now he wants them to look good while carrying their playbooks.

The Raiders will still miss on occasion, something that happens to every team in the NFL. But at least they’ll miss on someone who appears to care. Say what you want about 2009 first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey and second-round selection Mike Mitchell, but any failure to become a frontline NFL player won’t be because they were lacking in desire.

It seemed to be a common theme among this year’s class, from center Stefen Wisniewski right on through receiver David Ausberry _ the talent to contribute and a willingness to work for it. Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, tackle Joe Barksdale and running back Taiwan Jones, as well as Wiz II, all had an appealing humbleness about them that indicated they were taking their team and their sport very seriously. The same goes for cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, available by conference call.

It was a trait that ran through last year’s celebrated draft class as well. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain could be a bit quirky, but there seemed to be no doubting his willingness to learn and grow in the mental part of the game. Lemarr Houston, Jared Veldheer, Jacoby Ford, Bruce Campbell, Walter McFadden, Travis Goethel, Jeremy Ware, Stevie Brown . . . all appeared to have a grasp on the challenge ahead as it pertained to work ethic and attitude.

That hasn’t always been the case. Maybe it was the legendary indifference of JaMarcus Russell that caused this shift in philosophy, but there were plenty of examples preceding Russell.

Fabian Washington, the first-round pick in 2005, admitted after being traded to Baltimore he was immature and didn’t grasp the concept of being a professional in Oakland.

Going back to 2002 and 2003, I can think of three players who weren’t bad guys but came to the Raiders and conducted themselves as if they had everything figured out _ tight end Teyo Johnson (2003), cornerback Phillip Buchanon (2002) and linebacker Napoleon Harris (2002), the latter two first-round draft picks.

Second-overall pick Darrell Russell arrived in 1997 with a reputation of taking plays off and not being entirely serious about his profession. They got a couple of Pro Bowl years out of Russell, but if a Russell-like player came out now, you wonder if the Raiders would take a pass.

The Raiders traded up twice in 1996 to take tight end Rickey Dudley, who caught 29 touchdown passes in five seasons but never achieved the stardom his skill set seemed to warrant. Dudley wasn’t a head case or a slacker. But after doing a profile on him dating back to his days in high school, it was clear Dudley’s first love was basketball and he admitted as much.

Dudley liked football and appreciated the opportunity, but he loved basketball. It was his passion.

I asked Hue Jackson if there were players taken off the board regardless of their skill set based on red flags gathered through an interview or research.

“There’s no question,” Jackson said. “Obviously the measureables are important. We want the guy to be as big as he can be, as agile as he can be, as fast as he can be. But at the end of the day, he’s got to want to play football. And that’s what it comes down to.

“You’ve got to like the toughness, the physical nature of this sport, and if you don’t do that, you can’t be successful in this league.”

Is combine flash Van Dyke a reach in the third round? Perhaps. He’s alarmingly thin as well, with legs that look like pencils. Rod Woodson signed off on him, however, and that should count for something.

Taiwan Jones, the fourth-round pick, also comes off as earnest and sincere. He’ll be fine about his role and isn’t going to be demanding the ball any time soon. Considering Darren McFadden’s injury history and Jackson’s love for running the ball, Jones could come along sooner than expected.

As for physical “freaks” such as tight end Richard Gordon and Ausberry, taking a calculated risk on a superior athlete is simply the Raider way. The difference is now they’re taking a closer look at the heart to go along with the body.

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  • YoungAmerican

    DHB can block, at the very least they should make him earn his keep on special teams. Still need to restructure that contract, though…

  • RaiderRockstar

    Raiders 2011 OL:

    Veldheer Loper Wisniewski Campbell Barksdale

    Actually we could replace Loper with Parsons (practice squad promotion) and we would have exactly one year of nfl experience on the entire line.

    ***

    and Veldheer played Center, Week 1 of the regular season last year!

    He didn’t become the full-time starter at LT until Week 7 at Denver. He still allowed 8 sacks, had 8 false starts and 5 holding penalties

    Satele & Gallery were the only two players that were consistently good last season imo. Now one is leaving in free agency and the other is benched, even after he got a restricted FA tender in March

  • hellsbells

    Gaither. Barksdale. Wiz. Cambell. Veldherr

    That would be a huge improvement.

  • edward teach

    “Stop wasting money on free agents!!! They’re only in it for the money, and once they get that money they’re useless!!! All the great teams build throught the draft!!!”

    So, we try and build through the draft and all some people can say is that we have too many guys with limited or no experience. Never mind that we aren’t allowed to sign anybody right now that actually does have experience.

    Unbelieveable.

  • YoungAmerican

    Veldheer – Campbell/Loper – Wisniewski – Dahl – Barksdale

    If the Raiders make one signing once free agency starts, I hope it’s Harvey Dahl. By year 2 that right side of the line could be the nastiest in the league.

  • RaiderRockstar

    Corey Liuget
    Marcus Gilchrist
    Jonas Mouton
    Vincent Brown
    Shareece Wright

    ***

    are the Chargers back on top in the AFC West?

  • Twocents

    I like Veldheer and I think Wisniewski and Barksdale are going to be okay. But how in the hell are we going to get through next years schedule while these guys are getting experience?

  • RaiderRockstar

    the Chiefs really boosted their passing game by adding Baldwin & Hudson, too.

    I don’t think we’re going to sweep the AFC West again this season. we’d be lucky to go 4-2

  • YoungAmerican

    Liuget is a questionable fit for the 3-4. They reached on Gilchrist, although he might be dangerous on special teams. Likewise with Mouton. Never thought Wright was that impressive. Brown is the kind of WR that succeeds in SD’s offense.

    Overall I’m not sold on their draft class.

  • Twocents

    Are you experienced? Wasn’t that a Jimmy Hendricks song?

  • YoungAmerican

    Veldheer deserves a shot at LT. Yeah he got beaten, but in every game he got better as the game went on.

    If he doesn’t end up working out at LT, he can fit at OG and RT. Move him to RT, perhaps, and move Barksdale inside. Veldheer’s good enough to be a contributor for years to come.

  • J Hill

    Satele & Gallery were the only two players that were consistently good last season

    ——————————————————-

    Disagree.

    Gallery was an avg OG at best.

    Satele is not impressive.

  • Raiders for life

    Loper will be fine. Remember the fumble recovery and tuck and roll? If Gallery tried that he would have been out the rest of the season with a back injury.

  • YoungAmerican

    Satele had some really solid moments run blocking, but was abysmal in pass protection. Gallery would have been the most consistent Raider lineman if he could stay healthy.

  • J Hill

    Our Oline will be fine.

    If for no other reason, it can’t be any worse.

    Love the fact that we have some big maulers in the mix instead of what we’ve had in the past. Especially for the times when we just need a yd or 2.

    Veldheer-Loper-Wiz-Campbell-Barksdale = fine by me.

    Can we just get a head knocking FB on the roster??!?!

  • YoungAmerican

    Can we just get a head knocking FB on the roster??!?!

    ————–

    Ausberry?

  • Raider 510

    154.edward teach Says:
    May 1st, 2011 at 6:21 pm
    “Stop wasting money on free agents!!! They’re only in it for the money, and once they get that money they’re useless!!! All the great teams build throught the draft!!!”

    So, we try and build through the draft and all some people can say is that we have too many guys with limited or no experience. Never mind that we aren’t allowed to sign anybody right now that actually does have experience.

    Unbelieveable.

    ————————
    Nick Mangold, Alex Mack, and Pouncey are a few rookie centers who stepped in immediately to become really good at their position. I don’t see why Wisniewski can’t do the same thing with the right coaching. I see Barksdale playing right tackle and couldn’t imagine him being any less of a player than Langston Walker. Overall it was a good draft, and since the Raiders will probably never change their philosophy, (love for CB, height and speed) it’s good to see them aggressively look for players to fit in the system. My only complaint is not getting a OLB, or extra Dline player, which can easily be addressed in FA.

  • J Hill

    Another converted WR to FB?

    Well his blocking can’t be any worse than Reece’s.

    Kind looking forward to seeing what Gordon can do at TE!

  • big oak boy

    say hello to chad johnson raider fans that looks to be a strong possibility for 2011 season give him an insentive laced contract and we will be covered

  • big oak boy

    no javon walker money

  • SnB Production

    If you move out Reece from the FB, you also lose his playmaking ability on the field.

    His strength is his versitility…if you only bring him in for “passing downs” you lose that versitility.

    I like things that work. Reece worked out well last year and the running game did well.

    Shake it up…put some 1 dimensional fullback in there and what more do we get? Were you guys not happy with the running game last year?

    The smart adds on the offensive line will do a lot for the running game.

  • SnB Production

    No to Chad Johnson or any other veteran at this point. Just roll with the roster now. Invested a lot of time and money into this crew.

    If Schilens can stay healthy…the receiving corps will be fine….got Ford and Murphy who demand snaps and DHB will be given every chance to succeed. Add in another draft pick…..no more snaps to go around

  • J Hill

    Reece’s strength is his pass catching abilty against LBs and Ss. Moving him to TE does not get rid of his playmaking ability.

    There were so many times last year when we simply couldn’t run for 1 yd. Yes, we have a dynamic RB who can make something outta nothing.

    Excuse some of us for simply wanting a FB who can handle his #1 role which is blocking!

    Did Reece even avg 1 catch a game?

  • big oak boy

    SnB Production Says:
    May 1st, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    No to Chad Johnson or any other veteran at this point. Just roll with the roster now. Invested a lot of time and money into this crew.

    If Schilens can stay healthy…the receiving corps will be fine….got Ford and Murphy who demand snaps and DHB will be given every chance to succeed. Add in another draft pick…..no more snaps to go around

    no vet reciver are u crazy thats all we screamed for last year now we have faith in chaz screw chaz get plex from the pen

  • J Hill

    Reece’s job 90% of the time is to block. He’s TERRIBLE at it and should be replaced.

  • big oak boy

    i have more faith in a guy who was out of football 18 mo than i i do in chaz and those bad wheels

  • Raiders for life

    Reece’s job 90% of the time is to block. He’s TERRIBLE at it and should be replaced.

    ###################

    Yep, on any other team. Raiders don’t use him for that. I like Reece alot but like I’ve said before…I would like the Raiders to get another Jon Ritchie type of FB to mix things up.

  • hendu

    POST 173,J Hill,not sure about youre age,but I go way back to Tom Flores and Cotton Davidson,I mean into the 60s,this team needs a NAILS fb,clearing the path for all running backs,DM,Bush and the new kid just drafted,see, getting senile already! RAIDERS!!!

  • 504 Raider

    68.Guy Says:
    May 1st, 2011 at 12:35 pm
    Does anyone watch any LSU games? The Barksdale scouting reports are all so different.

    http://walterfootball.com/scoutingreport2011jbarksdale.php
    This one has him as an athletic technician who doesn’t really maul in the run game.

    Most of the other ones I read such as the one from nfl.com have him as a mauler that may not be athletic enough to play tackle in the NFL.

    ————————————————————————————————————–

    I watched plenty of them. Put it this way. In the recent Cotton Bowl, Von Miller was irrelevent. I’m still scratching my head as to why Miller is so highly rated. Barksdale will start day 1 on the right side and could be there for ten years even though he really is a left tackle also. If Veldheer can’t gain weight and gets beat often, Barksdale will man the left side for 10 years.

  • SnB Production

    Well,

    Al Davis loves speed and playmaking from all his positions.

    On the fullback situation….I side with Mr. Davis 100%

  • priesttj

    Marley

    I agree with most of your assesment at #4 post all except Ausberry he was left on the board because he hardly played on team with a pedestrian passing game we saw that here with Kiffin. But Ausberry can play and if the guys in front of him aren’t busting there butts he see pplaying time we need a kid like him because Chaz just cannot stay healthy.

    This was a good draft solid throughout, we desparately need a big body at WR and he provides that and will make tough catches this WR corp will look castly different from last year……..trust me.

  • priesttj

    SnB
    You side with Mr Davis ? someone hit you on the head??

  • priesttj

    If you think they put Reece at FB for his blocking prowess I have news for you, this offense has himm there for his playmaking ability. His blocking will come in time. Blocking takes a year or two and a lot of desire he’s learning but in the meantime and between time he makes alot of big plays.

  • Raiders for life

    176.big oak boy Says:
    May 1st, 2011 at 7:30 pm
    i have more faith in a guy who was out of football 18 mo than i i do in chaz and those bad wheels

    ##########################

    Al kept Chaz on the roster all of last year because he couldn’t imagine the thought of him being picked up from another team. Nobody really knows what his potential is….but if he stays healthy for an ENTIRE season?????? I’m sure he has already tripped over his shoe laces and has sprained his ankle.

  • priesttj

    I’d like Reece to be more physical at the POA but he’s learning and we need ZMiller on the field at the same time…………….period.

  • aig-raiders

    I dont like to post politics but this is something for all of us to cheer.

    Osama Bin Laden is a dead mofo now. Good luck to his 72 virgins (sarcasm)

  • YoungAmerican

    I heard he choked on a pretzel.

  • aig-raiders

    Watching the tapes of Taiwan Jones and you see him break a lot of tackle for his size, granted his level of competition is not high. I have a hunch he is the Nap Kaufman replacement Al has been looking for.

  • hendu

    tj,does Reese have the desire tho? Not sold that he does,do love his own play making ability,we just need a TRUE FULLBACK W/Stones Raiders!!!

  • big oak boy

    Al kept Chaz on the roster all of last year because he couldn’t imagine the thought of him being picked up from another team. Nobody really knows what his potential is….but if he stays healthy for an ENTIRE season?????? I’m sure he has already tripped over his shoe laces and has sprained his ankle.

    i know so lets get a real pro not a project like chaz

  • Raiders for life

    Raiders for life Says:
    May 1st, 2011 at 2:25 pm
    Hopefully Hue and Kelly Skipper can coach up TJ. That would be fun to watch….He looks scrappy and fast kind of like Kaufman was

    ###################################################
    Yep.

    aig-raiders Says:
    May 1st, 2011 at 8:06 pm
    Watching the tapes of Taiwan Jones and you see him break a lot of tackle for his size, granted his level of competition is not high. I have a hunch he is the Nap Kaufman replacement Al has been looking for

  • aig-raiders

    Cant wait to see Taiwan Jones in camp. Jerry is going to be in awe of his speed. I saw a report that he fumbled 17 times in the last 2 years. Gotta be an area of concern.

  • YoungAmerican

    Someone give Taiwan some stickum.

  • armond

    aig lets not forget that dmc had the same issues and only fumbled a couple times last year. i dont count the 1 fumble on the reverse to ford as his fault considering the defnse got to him right when he got the handoff. that was just a good defensive play.

  • phatcable

    breaking news=Osama Bin Laden Dead the u.s, is in possesion of his body

  • aig-raiders

    @armond,
    I doubt DMC had 17 fumbles in 2 years though at Ark. That is alot of fumbles. Dont get me wrong. He’s a young kid and hopefully better training. Dude breaks tackles for his size and it’s almost comical to see how he ran through an entire team in one video.

  • armond

    reece may not be in for his blocking but he will have to do it. dont see why a another fb getting in a few plays per game is a problem. its about options. btw moore is going to kick azz. our passing will get better this year. dhb has to make that jump to being a playmaker. we also better make dmc option #1, 2 and 3 inside the redzone. that will force teams to overplay him and loosen things up for every1else. cant wait to see our offense and special teams return unit.

  • armond

    aig dmc had 23 in 3 years but u get the idea. it is funny watching jones run loose like that.if only jc can see whats in front of him and take it. jc and heybey are the 2 most important players this year. if they have big years there is no telling how far we can go. i wish we took ellis instead of 1 those corners. he could be that young john hendu type weve been needing.

  • priesttj

    I honeatly couldn’t answer that Hendu but I’ll say this if he wants to keep that job he better get the desire. He has way too much ability to sit for a rockhead who just blocks as was mentioned we had the #2 rushing attack so he did something right.

    Our needs are elswhere it’s obvious that Nnamdi is history so the focus is on these youn g corners we drafted last year and this year. The sam e is true with the Oline talent we addded. 4 in two years should strengthen that line. We just a bit young and if we add vets I say we add them there. Bringing in Chaz IMO is a waste we have way too uch talent at WR now young guys that can play. They’ll get it done this year D Moore is good enough to start IMO. Just wait til you see him play.

    I’m very happy at this point sure we still need to add to the defense and mayb e even the Oline but that’s about it.

    Oh ! we could use another QB for sure….

  • Guy

    Hey 504 what do you think of LSU’s Terrance Toliver?

    Also, if we move Reece from FB to TE we will lose a big dimension of the offense. I am sure the defenses are more worried about Reece catching a ball when he splits out wide than when he is in the back field.