Despite an 8-8 record in 2010, and a perfect 6-0 mark in the division, the Oakland Raiders almost certainly will have a revamped offensive line in 2011. And while there's only so much that can be discerned from the team's workouts this week in suburban Atlanta, where most of the work was devoted to conditioning under the watchful eye of trainer Chip Smith of Competitive Edge Sports, and to seven-on-seven drills, a couple of rookies could play key roles.
Center Stefan Wisniewski and tackle Joseph Barksdale, the Raiders' second- and third-round picks, respectively, were impressive from a football acumen standpoint, rarely being confused by play-calls, and mentally into things. Wisniewski, the nephew of new Oakland offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski, will have a tough time ousting incumbent starter Samson Satele (15 starts in 2010), but he'll probably be given the opportunity. And while there are no projected plans to do so right now, the Raiders could plug him in at guard, especially with Robert Gallery expected to depart in free agency.
Said Wisniewski: "There's only so much you can do physically in work like this, but you don't want to get (overwhelmed) mentally, and so far it seems like we're at least treading water."
--The Raiders had the longest wait of any team in the NFL, picking No. 48 in the NFL draft.
They in essence went all the way back to 2001, which is the last time when someone named Wisniewski wore a Raiders uniform.
Stefen Wisniewski, the nephew of Raiders assistant line coach and former Pro-Bowl guard Steve Wisniewski, was the not overly surprising pick of Oakland, the last team to select a player.
Oakland traded its first round pick to New England for Richard Seymour in 2009 and didn't trade up into the first round, the first time the Raiders haven't picked in Round 1 since 1989.
Although there were no deals to get into the first round, Oakland added an additional third-round pick at No. 92 to go along with their pick at No. 81. The additions were Miami cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, a long and lean corner who posted the fastest time at the NFL scouting combine, and Joseph Barksdale, who started 39 games on both the left and right side for Louisiana State.
Coach Hue Jackson was—surprise—ecstatic.
"I think Stefan Wisnewski is going to be a special, special player for us," Jackson said. "We all know what Van Dyke can do—cover and run. And to get another big body who is tough, tenacious and loves to play the game, I'm very excited."
At one point, Jackson even proclaimed, "Merry Christmas to the Raiders."
Wisniewski will play center for Oakland after being mostly a guard at Penn State. The incumbent center, Samson Satele, is a four-year veteran and free agent who was given a second-round tender and awaiting a collective bargaining agreement to see if it is binding.
At cornerback, Van Dyke's selection comes as Oakland is bracing for the probability of losing Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency.
Day 1 of the draft ended up with the Raiders operating on hamster wheel in the draft room, with plenty of activity but nothing to their liking.
"There were a lot of opportunities but nothing that really fit for us," Jackson said. "Obviously the player has to be there when you want to trade with somebody, and there were several phone calls that were made. But they weren't right for us."
Jackson said he enjoyed the experience of working in a draft room with owner Al Davis, with the owner and the coach eliciting opinions and Davis having the final say.
Jackson said he spent much of the first day contacting players for the first time since the league imposed a lockout. A few arrived Friday and did little more than meet and greet with those in the building.
Players weren't working out, and tight end Brandon Myers said playbooks weren't to be issued until Monday, but that process halted when the lockout resumed late Friday night.
"There's not been one player that I talked to that even mentioned the lockout," Jackson said. "The players I talked to are excited and 'Coach, I am there. I'm all in. When do you want me to be there? When can I get there? What do I need to do? Who do I need to talk to? Let's schedule a flight, and get me there.' And I think that's what's most important. I think all of our players are very excited about where we're headed."
Everything changed on Day 2, when the lockout was reinstated with a temporary stay, putting all communications off limits with players.
--Defensive tackle Richard Seymour will be paying for teammates to come to Atlanta next week for a conditioning camp that will include swimming, weight lifting and nutritional counseling.
Seymour sent an email to teammates that said, "Men, I hope everyone is well and is staying in shape because we are going to out-work everyone we face this season, and it starts right now in the offseason."
--To all those that said the Raiders selected cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke in the third round of the draft only because of his speed, coach Hue Jackson said that's simply not the case.
Jackson told Sirius NFL Radio, "(He) obviously was the fastest young man at the combine and people believe that's why we took him. That's not the reason why we took him. We took him because I sent (cornerbacks coach) Rod Woodson down to the University of Miami to work this young man out. The speed at the combine got our attention, watching video got our attention, but Rod went down and came back and said, 'Hue, this guy can do it.' He said, 'This guy has the hips, he has the feet, he has the wherewithal, and he has the smarts to go cover receivers, and he understands the game.'
"So I'm taking this advice from a Hall of Famer, somebody who has done it in this league at a very high level, who told me without a shadow of a doubt that this young man can get it done. I believe in our coaches and so that is the decision we made. I know people think we made it for other reasons, it just happens that this guy can run in the 4.2s. So it added up for us and we think we're getting a tremendous player."
Jackson also said Van Dyke can do more than cover. He said, "The thing I like about him is that he's feisty. I mean, this guy will stick his body in there. He's not afraid to tackle. He played on special teams and made numerous plays. I'm very excited about him, what he'll bring to the table."
--Second-round pick Stefen Wisniewski isn't daunted by the legacy of his uncle Steve Wisniewski in Oakland because he's already gone through it in college.
"That's exactly the kind of situation when I came to Penn State," Wisniewski said. "I was coming to a place where my father and uncle had left quite a legacy, and there's expectations behind that. To be honest, I like that.
"The bar was set high, and I made it my goal to exceed those expectations and be better than they were at Penn State."
--Raiders coach Hue Jackson began Day 2 of the draft talking to a few players and eagerly getting the offseason underway, only to have a court ruling reinstate the lockout at least temporarily.
"You get excited one moment and you've got to back down the next moment," Jackson said. "We have to abide by the rules. It's unfortunate. I want our guys as fast as I can get 'em here, but there are rules in place and we have to abide by them."
--Chemdi Chekwa, the first of two fourth-round draft picks, wasn't about to speculate regarding the possibility of being part of the solution to replace Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
"I'm not getting ahead of myself right now," Chekwa said. "Really, at this point I'm just trying to go out there and compete for a starting position, continue to work on my craft and be ready to play once I go there and it's time top lay in the NFL.''
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Jackson said the Raiders have been mulling personal groupings and alignments but with veterans not around, did not say what they were nor would he divulge them.
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
--LB Kamerion Wimbley (re-signed).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
--RB Michael Bennett: Potential UFA ; $865,000/1 yr.
--QB Kyle Boller: Potential UFA; $1.25M/1 yr.
--RB Rock Cartwright: Potential UFA; terms unknown.
--S Hiram Eugene: Potential RFA; $10.25M/4 yrs.
--OG Daniel Loper: Potential UFA; $3.9M/2 yrs.
--CB Stanford Routt: Potential UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--DT Richard Seymour: Potential UFA; $30M/2 yrs, $15M base guarantee 2011/$7.5M 2012 base guaranteed for injury/$7.5M RB 2012.
--LB Kamerion Wimbley: FFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: None.
PLAYERS LOST: None.