Filed for print with expanded notes . . .
Gabe Jackson represents a changing of the guard for the Raiders in ways that go beyond inserting the rookie third-round draft pick into the starting lineup.
With general manager Reggie McKenzie on record as saying, “We want to do the pushing around. You do that with big people,’’ Jackson is a mover and a shaker at 6-foor-3, 336 pounds.
In past years, as the Raiders have gone from back and forth from zone blocking to gap and power blocking, the guards, including departed players Cooper Carlisle and Mike Brisiel, were more suited for attack from the side rather than head on.
Other starting guards in recent years, such as Robert Gallery, a former tackle, had started at another position, or like Stefen Wisniewski, a guard as a rookie, were on their way to different position.
With the Raiders wavering on what they wanted from their guards, perhaps it’s not surprising they haven’t sent one to the Pro Bowl since Steve Wisniewski in 2000.
Jackson, if all goes according to plan, will give Raiders a pure-power road grader. He’s built like a kitchen appliance and is his forte is forward progress.
A four-year starter at Mississippi State, Jackson has 52 Southeastern Conference starts and had seldom took a backward step.
“I feel that was my strength in college, and I’m doing all I can to learn the techniques the coaches teach me and there are different tips and techniques that can help me improve my strength even more,’’ Jackson said.
Jackson played his entire career at Mississippi State at left guard, but switched to the right side in a recent practice when Austin Howard left with a minor back issue. His most likely ticket to the starting lineup is supplanting veteran Khalif Barnes at some point on the left side.
“The biggest thing I like about Gabe Jackson is he’s a strong, powerful player,’’ Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “He’s got to learn to adjust when things move in front of him. It’s one thing to be in the meeting room with the X’s and O’s. It’s another when those X’s and O’s start to move and you’ve got to adjust and make quick decisions.’’
Barnes, a former tackle who moved inside last season, could eventually be a utility player available at both guard and tackle spots, but remains currently the starting left guard.
“It’s competition and it’s been that way every year,’’ Barnes said. “I’ll do anything I can to help him. If I’m needed to play some place else, maybe the things I’ve told him can help and that helps the team.’’
Barnes has been impressed with Jackson’s power as well as demeanor.
“He’s a stocky guy, perfect size for a guard height-wise and has a powerful chest,’’ Barnes said. “He’s one of those rookies that gets it. He listens and he’s not hard-headed.‘’
Wisniewski was impressed at how Jackson stepped in on the right side in a pinch and also likes Jackson’s power.
“He’s very strong. I can see him being a very good run blocker,’’ Wisniewski said. “He’s learning how to pass block in the NFL. It’s a completely different ballgame, but he’s got the ability to do it. I could see him being a starter at some point. He’s got that ability.’’
– Defensive end Justin Tuck didn’t practice with a groin injury that Allen said was minor.
“Somewhat of an injury, somewhat of a veteran’s day off,’’ Allen said.
– With Tuck out, rookie seventh-round pick Shelby Harris got some work with the first team. Harris did not play football last season after being dismissed from the team at Illinois State. Allen has seen considerable progress in Harris since the offseason program.
“He was probably a ltitle out of football shape, maybe a little bit heavy, and lost some weight during the time off,” Allen said. “He’s come back at 273 pounds and I’ve seen a lot of improvement out of him. He’s a guy we thought had some explosion and pass rush ability. He’s quietly begun to move himself up the depth chart so hopefully he’ll continue to improve.’
– Running back Darren McFadden did some good things in the passing game, streaking down the left sideline to haul in a perfectly thrown touchdown pass from rookie Derek Carr. The presence of Maurice Jones-Drew could give the Raiders the opportunity to make McFadden a major player in the passing game instead of a check-down and screen presence.
– Tony Bergstrom, who has played guard and tackle since being drafted in the third round in 2012, is now working at center. After an initial practice where he had difficult with his snaps, Bergstrom is playing much better.
“He’s been more consistent with the snaps,” Allen said. “I think that’s something we want to continue to work on and look at. He’s going to need to take some reps at center, and (Kevin) Boothe is going to need to take some reps at guard. We’re trying to work that flexibility as much as we can so when we get to a game day roster, the more you can do as a backup player, the easier it is to get in the game.”
– Free safety Charles Woodson intercepted a Schaub pass for the second consecutive day, this time on a deflection.
Allen consistently brushes off any inquiries about the possibility of Carr competing for the starting job.
“Matt Schaub is our starting quarterback,” Allen said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. I like the way our offense is being run right now and so I think when you have a veteran like that playing that position it makes you a better football team.”