Rookie spotlight: Jonathan Dowling

The Oakland Raiders held a relatively full deck in the 2014 NFL Draft, giving the coaches some young talent to work with and try and develop. With training camp just over a week a way, we’ll take a look at this year’s rookies in a new series of “Rookie spotlight”.

The Raiders selected safety Jonathan Dowling with their final pick in this year’s draft (247th overall). Dowling is a long-armed safety with a large 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame.

Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders front office received glowing reviews from former NFL executive Gil Brandt for their selection of Dowling.

“First of all, I’m gonna open this way; you ought to be put in jail for stealing,” Brandt told Raiders head coach Dennis Allen on Sirius XM Radio in May. “You got Dowling in the seventh round and I guarantee you he’ll be your special teams demon and will be a good safety for you.”

Those are quite strong words from a man that has been around the league for quite some time.

Dowling was considered one of the top prospects coming out of high school and chose to stay local by joining Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators. Dowling appeared in two games with the Gators before being kicked off the team in November for allegedly not complying with the coaching staff and skipping class.

Dowling would then sit out 2011 before joining Western Kentucky in 2012, where he made his presence felt immediately by racking up 68 tackles (2.5 for a loss), two forced fumbles and six interceptions in 12 games. In 2013, Dowling had 67 tackles, three interceptions and a NCAA-leading six forced fumbles.

Dowling had a knack for creating turnovers while in college, something the Raiders likely value greatly after finishing with just nine interceptions in 2013 (31st in the NFL).

Dowling’s size gives him great ability to get up and attack the ball with his long arms where he can use his solid hands to haul in interceptions.

The Raiders coaching staff likely hopes that Dowling can put on some muscle to help build out his frame and make him a more durable safety to play on the defensive backend. Nonetheless, his experience on special teams will likely give Dowling some solid playing time in the NFL as a rookie.

With veteran safeties Charles Woodson and Tyvon Branch already securing up the Raiders defensive backfield, Dowling will have time to learn from some veterans and develop.

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