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
“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
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
Vince D’Adamo can be reached at email@example.com