Gibson faces crucial season

"You feel that (there are high expectations) because they took a first round pick on you. But I don't think about that when I'm out there." -- Raiders safety Derrick Gibson

 

There's no better time than now for Oakland Raiders strong safety Derrick Gibson to show that the starting job belongs to him.

            The question is – will he ultimately seize control?

            Not if Anthony Dorsett, who is locked in a fierce battle with Gibson, can help it. The Raiders, who open their exhibition season Friday against St. Louis, selected Gibson with the 28th overall pick in the 2001 draft. While Gibson has played well at times, he has also been slowed by injuries.

Gibson started 11 games but Dorsett replaced him in the lineup after getting hurt. Dorsett, who had been badly maligned in his first two years in Oakland, played so well that he kept the job even after Gibson was healthy enough to return to the lineup.

Since this is Gibson's third season, it's crucial that he justifies Oakland drafting him in the first round or he will hear whispers of that dreaded ‘B' word – bust.

"You feel that (there are high expectations) because they took a first round pick on you," Gibson said. "But I don't think about that when I'm out there."

Gibson will get every opportunity to show that he is the starter but Dorsett will also keep nipping at his heels. At a recent practice, Raiders head coach Bill Callahan was asked if Gibson perhaps felt burdened by the expectations that accompany being a first round pick.

"Burdened? I'd be pretty happy if I was him," Callahan said. "There's expectations for everybody. When you get on the practice field nobody is counting who's who. They just understand that they've got a job to do."

For now, Gibson remains the starter but the fact that the team resigned Dorsett suggests that the team is not sold with complete certainty that Gibson can secure the job. The Raiders released Dorsett in a salary cap move but resigned him a few days before camp opened. Callahan, however, lauded Gibson's progress.

"In the running game, he knows his angles better," Callahan said. "In the passing game, he knows how to play off of (free safety) Rod Woodson). He understands the deep element of coverage. We're changing up our two and three deep package. He's performing much better on the deep ball."

Gibson came into the NFL as a hard-hitting safety from Florida State. While Gibson can still pack a wallop but his biggest challenge has been learning the intricacies of the game. That area is where Woodson, a 17-year veteran, enters the picture.

"I feel more comfortable," Gibson said. "The more you've been in a system the more comfortable you are. In the meeting room, he (Woodson) tells me what to look for. My anticipation is so much better."

 Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com

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