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 -- ecstacic.
"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.
Center Stefen Wisniewski: The Raiders' pick in the second round allows the Raiders to do what they did last year with top pick Rolando McClain on defense -- rebuild their offense from the middle with a heady, physical player who should start for a decade.
Wide receiver Denarius Moore: The fifth-round pick from Tennessee may have better natural receiving skills and adjust to balls in flight better than any of the young receivers currently on the roster -- including 2009 first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey.
A closer look at the Raiders' picks:
Round 2/48 - Stefen Wisniewski, C, 6-3, 313, Penn State
The rebuilding process on the offensive line began with the selection of Wisniewski, was immediately named the starting center by coach Hue Jackson. Wisniewski's toughness, intelligence and athleticism is expected to help against 3-4 defensive schemes.
Round 3/81 - DeMarcus Van Dyke, CB, 6-1, 176, Miami
Van Dyke has height, speed and a willingness to hit -- all qualities the Raiders covet in corners since they play primarily man-to-man defense. Impressed defensive backs coach Rod Woodson when the coach worked him out in Miami.
Round 3/92 - Joseph Barksdale, OT, 6-5, 325, Louisiana State
Barksdale has experience at both left and right tackle in college as well as durability (39 straight starts) and will compete on the right side at either guard or tackle. Has the big body the Raiders covet as they transition to more power blocking schemes.
Round 4/113 - Chimdi Chekwa, CB, 6-0, 191, Ohio State
Chekwa's speed, tenaciousness and athleticism gives the Raiders a second rookie corner to put in the mix as they prepare for the expected departure of Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency.
Round 4/125 - Taiwan Jones, RB, 6-0, 194, Eastern Washington
The Raiders were interested observers when 27 teams attended Jones' pro day in Pittsburg, Ca., and his speed (timed between 4.28 and 4.35) opened their eyes even though they are well-stocked at running backs.
Round 5/148 - Denarius Moore, WR, 6-0, 194, Tennessee
Moore's big-play ability (he averaged 21 yards per catch and scored nine touchdowns) is appealing to a team looking to strike vertically. Had a pair of 200-yard receiving games as a senior.
Round 6/181 - Richard Gordon, TE, 6-4, 268, Miami
A project as an athlete who had shoulder injuries in college but has clocked as fast as a 4.66 in the 40-yard dash. Had 10 career receptions for 60 yards.
Round 7/241 - David Ausberry, WR 6-2, 241
Ausberry caught 64 career passes for 700 yards and seven touchdowns for his career and could also be looked at as a tight end or fullback.
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