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Prototype or not, Raiders’ J’Marcus Webb in position to seize starting position at right guard

Filed for print . . .

NAPA _ J’Marcus Webb realizes he doesn’t fit the prototype of an NFL guard.

He’s not built like left guard Gabe Jackson, a soft drink machine with feet. His height (6-foot-7) and wing span are classic traits of a tackle, a position he played for all of his 44 starts on both the left and the right side for the Chicago Bears from 2010 to 2012.

Yet there was Webb, continuing to work at the first-team right guard position Wednesday vacated by Austin Howard, who was moved outside to right tackle in the offseason.

“I don’t think I look like a guard, but I feel like a guard,” Webb said.

If Webb can win the job at right guard, it would enable the Raiders to keep veteran Khalif Barnes as a swing player capable of playing anywhere but center, fortifying the line in terms of depth.

“He’s done a nice job,”’ coach Jack Del Rio said. “I think we’re going to have a heck of a line. We have a good physical front, and they’re active.”

The left side of the line, with Donald Penn at tackle and Jackson at guard, is carved in stone, barring injury. The same could be said of center Rodney Hudson.

Webb appears to have the edge at right guard, with Menelik Watson getting first-team work over Howard at right tackle. In one practice sequence, with the offense backed up against its own goal line, inside blocks by Webb and Hudson helped spring Latavius Murray for a nice gain.

Raiders line coach Mike Tice came to Webb with the idea of a position change during the offseason program. Tice was the line coach for the Chicago Bears Webb got all but one of his NFL starts.

His career stalled in the last two seasons in Minnesota, getting one start in 2013 and appearing in a game only once last season before being released Dec. 16. Webb was one of the least talked about of the Raiders free agent acquisitions, signing on April 2.

“It was a great opportunity and I definitely appreciate it,” Webb said. “The move to guard was definitely something I was excited about.. Being a starter is the goal.”

The biggest adjustment for Webb is the increased communication that goes on with Hudson at center, a greater number of combination blocks and very little in the way of the kind of isolation that goes with taking on an outside pass rusher.

“Things happen a little quicker there on the inside,” Del Rio said.

Webb is so far pleased with his progress, particularly since full contact began in training camp.

“I got some time in the offeason to work on my strength and my hands and my focus and I think it’s going pretty good,” Webb said. “You put the pads on and it’s a good time to knock a few heads around and get acclimated to the position.”

Being a guard also means Webb will have farther to go on outside plays, putting a premium on movement.

“Getting out in space and moving around will let me showcase my talents and ability to strike and get my hands on guys,” Webb said.

— Running back Trent Richardson and wide receiver Rod Streater are still on the non-football illness list, and defensive tackle Stacy McGee remains on the physically unable to perform list.

Also out is tight end Clive Walford, who hasn’t been at a full-squad workout, and running back Roy Helu Jr., who missed his second straight practice with an undisclosed injury.

Del Rio didn’t seem overly concerned about the absences.

“I think we’re progressing along just fine with the guys that are hoping to join us,” Del Rio said.

— After a day off, Del Rio said he was pleased with the play early in the session, but that it wasn’t as crisp as the practice went on.

— DJ Hayden had his hands full during one 7-on-7 sequence, giving up three completions in four attempts, with Derek Carr hitting Michael Crabtree twice and Amari Cooper once in his area. On the incompletion, Cooper was open but couldn’t haul in a medium-deep pass.

Hayden had Crabtree closely contested on both completions, with the veteran receiver screening off Hayden as if he were a basketball post player.

Del Rio likes the Carr-Crabtree combination but also said Hayden has been “on point . . .he’s come out and competed and focused really well.”

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Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie:`I knew I had to take some lumps . . . it’s the best I’ve felt going into Napa’

NAPA _ Reggie McKenzie isn’t ready to proclaim the Raiders have arrived, but he feels as if they’re knocking on the door.

After going 11-37 over his first three seasons, McKenzie finally has a roster to his liking as well as an energetic new coaching staff led by Jack Del Rio.

“Nobody likes losing,” McKenzie said Monday. “I knew we had to take some lumps. To see it come together like the way I had planned it from building the roster and getting the team together, it’s the best I’ve felt going into Napa since I’ve been here.

“I’m anxiously awaiting preseason games now. I want to see how they can gel and come together I feel pretty good about this team . . . really good.”

Sitting at a table with beat writers on a patio at the Napa Marriott, McKenzie flashed a big smile when he asked what was different this year.

“Y’all can’t tell?,” McKenzie said. “It’s obvious. I think we’re big and strong. I think we’re fast. I like the way the players are responding to the coaches. The energy is off the chain. It’s looking the way I like it to look.

“Players are flying around, going in the right directions. It’s been a competitive camp. I mean every position. These guys are feeling it. It’s going to bring out the best in each and every one of them.”

Among the other things McKenzie addressed in a 24-minute interview session with local writers:

— The Raiders have likely made contact with recently released Seattle defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, a starter who has experience with defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

Asked if McDaniel could be added to the roster, McKenzie said, “There’s a chance.”

— Recent upgrades to the Alameda facility, even though the team isn’t committed to the Bay Area beyond this season, will send the players a message.

“It’s showing we’re committed to them, and that’s what it’s all about,” McKenzie said. “We’re committed to the players. It’s not about what’s going to happen down the road. This is the NFL and these players are here now. So let’s provde them with the best that we can. And I’m sure they will appreciate that.”

— The future of the franchise is secure with second-year quarterback Derek Carr.

“He’s got all the intangibles to go along with his talent level,” McKenzie said. “You’re talking about a sophomore player, it’s not like he’s a 10-year vet. It’s Year 2 and two systems. I don’t want to put all the pressure on him, but we’re looking for big things. we’re excited about his whole game, from a mental standpoint and physically.”

— A defensive philosophy which will often have Khalil Mack playing more as a defensive end than as a strong side linebacker.

“He’s pretty doggone good getting after the quarterback,” McKenzie said. “He’s just really good going forward and it’s an opportunity to really do a lot of things with him. He’s a dominant defensive player, so let him do what he does best and move him around, play him at different spots and I think that was the outlook for the defensive staff _ to put him in a position to make plays.”

— The addition of wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who has been a bright spot through four days of practice.

“Right off the bat you can tell he’s been working. That part is good,” McKenzie said. “His whole skill set is pretty much what we thought he could be. He can always catch teh ball . . . it seems like he and Derek are trying to get on point. That’s good.”

— The expectations for cornerback DJ Hayden, a first-round draft pick in 2013 who is competing for a starting spot.

“Year three is the year to kind of show who you are as an NFL player,” McKenzie said. “In that regard, this is an opportunity for him to show the league, `This is who I am as a player.’ ”

— The progress of running back Latavius Murray, currently the leader to be the Raiders’ lead runner.

“This is the first offseason he didn’t have to go through (injury) rehab,” McKenzie said. “Coming into training camp he’s 100 percent. Last year he didn’t get his opportunity until Week 10, 11. That part wasn’t his fault. He was ready to play. If he can stay healthy I don’t think anything is holding him back.”

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Crabtree shines on Day 1 of training camp

NAPA — Two throws provided some reason to develop hope and excitement for the Raiders offense on the first day of training camp.

Both were high and along the sideline from Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree leaped to high point the pass over a defender, hauling it in and hanging on as they tried to knock it free.

Following his disappointing final season with the 49ers last year, Crabtree had the look of a potential impact player for the Raiders as the team opened camp in Napa. Continue Reading

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Raiders rave about energy a day before training camp begins

Quick intro here. I’ll be helping out with Jerry on the Raiders this year and handling the first few days of camp solo, but he will be back soon. At that point, I’ll be floating around between the Raiders, 49ers and San Jose State, which had been my former full-time beat during the fall. By my rough count, I think I’m slated to see about 27 live football games this year. You can find me on Twitter at @Jimmy_Durkin

NAPA — Energy was the word of the day for the Raiders as players checked themselves into training camp ahead of Friday’s opening practice. Continue Reading

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