Few rookie players in the NFL know more about learning curves than Raiders undrafted free agent, Chaz Powell. The Raiders held their rookie minicamp this weekend in which all the new rookies were handed their new playbooks for the first time. This is a tough task for any rookie but along with his new playbook, Powell has a position change and a hard fight ahead of him to make the Raiders 53 man roster.
"I'm still learning," said Powell after his second day of rookie minicamp. "Every day's a learning curve. I'm taking a step in the right direction. I still don't have my flow but I'm going a hundred miles an hour. I'm not just giving up on the play if I don't know what I'm doing. I'm studying every day, trying to get better. I'm trying to come out here and compete with my peers and hopefully trying to get this contract done and I can make the team.
"Once you get here you gotta get right in the playbook and understand that ‘listen if you don't know your plays, you're not gonna get on the field'."
The Raiders scouted Powell at the combine and he joined the team thinking that his skills would fit well with what the Raiders are doing. And one would assume that with the changeover, more roster spots were up for grabs and he factored into that as well.
So where does the Raiders new Chaz fit in?
The team has him listed as a safety and had him playing free safety in rookie mini camps. But Powell hasn't actually played the safety position since High School. That was his position when Penn State recruited him. But shortly after he arrived in Happy Valley, they had a change of plans... and another, and another.
"I came there as a safety and once I got there my freshman year, they moved me over to receiver behind Derrick Williams. Then I played receiver for about a year and a half, then I moved over to corner and then I moved back to receiver and then I moved back to corner to finish out my senior year. But it was exciting. I'm excited to be here now and learn a new position."
His experience in college as a receiver and a cornerback allowed him to play in coverage as well as see things from the other side of the ball-- both of which are beneficial skills for a safety. Combined with his physical gifts, make him an intriguing prospect and one worth a longer look.
Just prior to calling up Powell to inquire about signing him as a UDFA, the Raiders drafted two of his teammates at Penn State-- Jack Crawford and Nathan Stupar. They also drafted another of his teammates last year in Stefen Wisniewski. And for an undrafted rookie trying to make an NFL roster, especially one making a(nother) position change, having a few familiar faces is a great thing.
"It makes the process a lot easier. We can talk, you know, there's [Nathan] Stupar and Jack [Crawford] here and it's a comfort level I got someone to talk to and understand. Cory Gatewood, kid from Stanford, I trained with down in Tennessee at D1 Sports, he's playing corner so we're all just hanging out and my roommate's actually from Wisconsin, Aaron Henry, so we're building a relationship and compete every time we step on that field and hopefully we don't make any mistakes but if we do just go fast to the ball 100%."
It was a quick three days and a short time to make a good first impression. But after the second day, things were already getting a bit easier.
"You know, everything was just so fast. The game now is a lot faster than it was in college but everything's starting to slow down a little bit but there's still a lot there to learn to go out and contribute to this team. Hopefully I make it but I just gotta keep competing and stay in that playbook."
That playbook will be prime summer reading for Powell and all the new rookies trying to hang onto their NFL dream. And the two months from now until then is longer than he is used to having to acclimate to a position change. But now the stakes are a lot higher.