This time next week, the Raiders will be taking the field for their first training camp practice. And next thing you know, they’ll be taking the field for their season opener. That’s 50 days away and time flies. For instance, it seems like just yesterday this next guy was a rookie.
LB Ben Heeney
Chosen in the 5th round of the 2015 draft, out of Kansas, this childhood Chiefs fan, couldn't have been more excited the Raiders took a chance on him in the draft.
He was a tackle machine for the Jayhawks, racking up 127 tackles (88 solo) as a senior making him a unanimous selection for the All Big-12 First team as well as Honorable Mention Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
This 6-0, 231-pounder, was a reserve weakside backer as a rookie, but was told by the Raiders coaches upon his drafting that he was always pegged as a middle linebacker for them. They gave him that chance coming into his second season, but it lasted just two games. Rookie Cory James was given the starting job at that point and two weeks later, Heeney’s season ended with an injury.
The injury was serious enough to have him eased back into things this offseason; first not practicing at all and then sitting out team sessions, before finally seeing reps with the third team at the end of minicamps. With free agent addition, Jelani Jenkins and fifth round rookie Marquel Lee joining the mix and James and Tyrell Adams running first team, Heeney will have to fight to climb the depth chart in camp.
Who wore it best: C Dave Dalby
When Dalby joined the Raiders in 1972 as a fourth round draft pick, only one center had ever started a game for the franchise - Jim Otto. After three seasons as Otto's understudy, Dalby took over the job. And for the next 11 years, the Raiders would have their second ever starting center.
Dalby spent 14 seasons in the NFL, all with the Raiders. He was the man who snapped the ball to Ken Stabler for the Raiders first Super Bowl and Jim Plunkett for their second and third Super Bowls. He anchored that legendary offensive line and in turn was overshadowed by Hall of Famers Art Shell and Gene Upshaw to his left.
Dalby himself would make just one Pro Bowl in 1977, but he was a steady hand whose job was invaluable to those teams’ success. If you doubt how crucial having a great center is to winning a Super Bowl, just ask Rich Gannon.