Offensive line still a focus in Oakland

Even with the signing of Jeremy Newberry and the promises of position swapping along the offensive line, the Raiders remain intent on adding talent to the line.

Other than quarterback, no position is more vital to the success of an offense than left tackle. Not only must the left tackle be nimble enough to protect his quarterback's blindside, but he must be strong enough to generate movement in the running game. It takes a rare talent to be able to excel at both tasks – a talent like Ryan Harris.

While the Raiders were in South Bend looking at Brady Quinn, Harris did not escape notice and the team got a chance to talk to him after the workout. One of the top offensive tackle prospects in the country, Harris was dominant as a collegian at Notre Dame. He started every game between 2004 and 2006 at left tackle after starting eight games at right tackle as a true freshman.

Harris' strong play was instrumental to the success of both Brady Quinn and Darius Walker, who became just the fourth running back in the history of Notre Dame to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing in back-to-back seasons while running behind Harris in 2005 and 2006.

"I definitely want to prove that I'm a top talent in the country and that when I'm with the best of the best, I perform at the highest level," Harris said.

Harris went a long ways toward proving exactly that with his performance at the Senior Bowl. He showed himself to be an excellent technician, utilizing good leverage, quick feet and strong hands. He also showed some versatility, lining up at both tackle positions.

The biggest knock on Harris is his inconsistency. At the Senior Bowl, he struggled at times against speed rushers and his ability to recover was found wanting. Also, his limited athleticism results in his getting overextended on occasion.

However, he is extremely confident that he can better whichever team drafts him this April.

"I'm a hard worker, an intelligent player, a player who can adapt to different positions or different schemes and who has faced top talent all throughout his college years," he said.

Several teams at the Senior Bowl took notice of those qualities. The Green Bay Packers, St. Louis Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings all met with Harris on the very first day of Senior Bowl week.

Despite his status as one of the draft's top players at his position, Harris knows he is far from a finished product.

"Overall strength and size – I can always be bigger and stronger," Harris said. "That's something I'll have time to work on."

Meanwhile, Harris is studying some of the top tackles in the NFL to take away what he can from their games. The two he works to emulate most are Walter Jones of the Seahawks and Chris Samuels of the Washington Redskins.

Although he learns from them, Harris refuses to compare himself to them.

"I wouldn't put myself on any level with the tackles in the NFL. I respect all of them," he said.

But come next season, he will be on the same level as those elite NFL players. He may not be ready to immediately dominate like Pro Bowlers such as Jones and Samuels, but getting to watch and learn might be the best way to get him to that point.


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