8 days after the long awaited 2014 NFL draft, the Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allan appeared on SiriusXM NFL Radio's Late Hits with Howard David and Gil Brandt. During the interview DA fielded a range of questions about the new players the Raiders had accumulated during the draft. In case you missed it, you can listen to the full interview on the Raiders website here: http://www.raiders.com/media-vault/audio/Coach-Allen-Gets-Sirius/ab90edab-74ba-4dd4-9fc3-60d3cdef521
During the interview Gil Brandt drew an interesting comparison between Oaklands new Offensive Guard Gabe Jackson, and Tennessee Titans Offensive Guard Chance Warmack. "Jumping to another player Jackson, tell me the difference between Jackson and Chance Warmack who was the 10th player selected last year. "
Dennis Allen’s response demonstrated that he was on board with Reggie McKenzie’s draft strategy of picking up some big bodies for the trnches."Well, I’ll tell you, I think there are a lot of similarities. I know what we liked about Gabe Jackson. We felt like this was a big, powerful man that fit the scheme of what we want to do. We want to be a big, physical team, we want to be able to knock people around and we feel like he’s able to do that and the fact that he played in 52 games, he’s durable player. You know that’s hard, to find those kind of guys that have played at that level of competition in the SEC and can play 52 straight games. I think that’s a testament to him and the way that he is built; I mean he’s built to last."
Allen’s response provides a good insight into Gabe Jacksons strengths as a player, but Allen failed to address the comparison between Jackson and Warmack. Can we expect Jackson to have similar production to Warmack? That’s next to impossible to know, but if we take a look at the number and scout analysis, it may provide us with an idea.
4 year starter, Mississippi State
Arms: 33 ¾ in
Hands: 10 in
40 Yard Dash: 5.51s
3 Cone: 8.25
Vert: 29 in
Broad: 9 ft 0 in
Bench: 30 Reps
Strengths: Exceptional girth with long arms and a thick lower body. Fundamentally sound with advanced technique. Quick out of his stance. Good anchor. Strong, efficient punch (can pop and recoil). Keeps his hands inside and controls defenders. Mirrors in pass protection. Walls off running lanes. Understands positioning and angles. Athletic enough to short pull effectively -- nice balance and body control for a big man. Good eyes, awareness and reactions. Smart and tough. Durable four-year starter. Professional makeup.
Weaknesses: Lacks explosive power to shock defenders. Does not blow defenders off the ball in the run game. Average overall athletic ability and lateral agility. Is unsudden and lacks elite recovery quickness. Occasionally fails to dig his heels in and gives ground vs. strong bull rushes. Stressed to cut off fast-flowing linebackers. Recorded the slowest 20-yard split (3.28 seconds) and tied for the slowest 40 time (5.63 seconds) of any player at the combine. Could require some patience with complex playbooks.
*Source – NFL.com
3 year starter, Alabama
Arms: 34 ¾ in
Hands: 9 5/8 in
40 Yard Dash:
Broad: 9 ft 2 in
Strengths: Thick interior player. Possesses a strong punch to shock oncoming defenders and consistently extends his arms to keep them at bay in pass protection. Strong lower half helps his anchor against bull rushes. Mobile enough to effectively trap and pull, regularly negates targets coming into the hole and flattens defensive backs in his path. Practiced fitting on linebackers on combo blocks. Brings attitude on every play, constantly keeps his hands and feet moving when drive-blocking, rolling his hips through contact, and looking to pancake his man whenever possible. Doesn't have the quickest feet, but is very technically sound and uses his strong punch to stop defenders and his length to mirror. Drives interior defensive tackle off the ball on base blocks. Has handled a number of dominating college defensive lineman with ease.
Weaknesses: Pops straight up out of his stance at times, losing leverage battle against better tackles on occasion. Has foot speed to get out in front of screens but will miss targets and lacks the short area quickness to adjust to defenders on the move. Will stop his feet after first contact at times. Does not have elite recovery speed to stop secondary rushes from quicker defensive linemen. Not asked to be a puller for Alabama's zone-heavy run scheme.
*Source – NFL.com
When comparing the two player’s side-by-side a lot of similarities emerge. Both were big, mauling SEC linemen coming out of college that displayed good punch and technique. Both struggled at times to latch onto moving targets when asked to get to the second level due to a lack of quickness. Does this mean we can expect Gabe Jackson to have a similar rookie season to Chance Warmack?
Chance Warmack started all 16 games as a rookie after being named the Titan’s starter from day 1. Jackson’s first job is to crack the starting line-up, stay healthy and finish the season. Unlike Warmack, Jackson hasn’t been presented the starting job on a silver platter. To earn the starting job Jackson will face his strongest competition from veterans Khalif Barnes and Kevin Booth. This is a positive for Jackson as he will be required to push himself to become a better player and win the strting job out of training cmp.
If Jackson does win the job, what can Warmack’s rookie season can teach us about how big SEC linemen transfer to the NFL? After a number of poor seasons, Chance Warmack was expected to be a catalyst for Chris Johnson to transform back into his old alter ego - CJ2K. In order to get Chris Johnson in space on the outside where he could use his 4.28 speed to punish defenders, Warmack was asked to run a number of pull blocks resulting in a -2.0 PFF run blocking score. Not bad, but not what was expected from a player that was considered a ‘mauler’ in the run game. Warmack struggled in pass protection, particularly against bull rushers giving up 37 total pressures, 7 sacks, 4 hits and 26 hurries on his way to posting a poor PFF score of -9.3.
So what does this mean for Gabe Jackson, or should the question be what does this mean for Offensive Co-ordinator Greg Olson? It means Greg Olson is going to have to play to Jackson’s strengths. Jackson works best when asked to block in small spaces where he doesn’t have to move around a lot and can focus on shifting the man in front of him. Olson has been recognized for tailoring his play calling to the strengths of his players. Hopefully Olson won’t fall to the same temptation that the Titans did by trying to get Darren McFadden on the outside with Jackson running pull blocks. If Jackson proves himself to the team by winning the starting job out of training camp and is asked to play to his strengths , there is no reason why Jackson couldn’t outperform Warmack’s rookie season.
After years of neglect and failed draft picks, the Raiders desperately needed to beef up the offensive and defensive lines this offseason. It was refreshing to see McKenzie and his staff identify this need, and address throughout the offseason via free agency and the draft.
Raider fans have been calling for big bodies to be added to the offensive and defensive lines for a number of years. The 2009 NFL draft saw the Oakland Raiders draft the infamous Darius "Drops Hella Balls" Heyward-Bey while fans pined for Eugene Monroe and B.J Raji. In the 2010 fans took a liking to big boys Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati before begging Reggie to draft the big defensive tackle from Utah Star Lotulelei in the 2013 Draft. Until this year, these calls had mostly fallen on deaf ears, but with a renewed commitment to building the trenches, Raider fans should be excited.