Usually, the best news about a 7-6 NFL exhibition opener is
that nobody on either team trips and falls down.
Then again, those games lend itself for taking a closer look at the more
heated position battles. For the Oakland Raiders, who defeated the St. Louis
Rams by the aforementioned score Friday night in Oakland, that competition is
strong safety between Derrick Gibson and Anthony Dorsett. While it’s too early
to declare a starter, Dorsett opened a few eyes Friday night.
Gibson, who entered the game No. 1 on the depth chart, did not
necessarily hurt his cause in making four tackles. Dorsett, however, helped
himself Friday evening in tallying eight tackles, having one pass broken up and
halting a St. Louis drive that went inside the Oakland 20-yardline with an
Gibson, who was a first-round draft pick in 2001, is entering his third
season and faces a crucial year because players of his status normally start
hearing the word “bust” if they do not distinguish themselves. Gibson has shown
promise but has had problems staying healthy.
Dorsett struggled in his first two seasons in Oakland as the starting
free safety. Then, future Hall-of-Famer Rod Woodson joined the Raiders and took
over that job. Dorsett took over for Gibson as the starting strong safety and
kept the job even after Gibson was healthy enough to return to the lineup.
Oakland, however, released Dorsett in a salary cap move in the offseason.
Dorsett visited a couple of teams in the offseason but resigned with Oakland two
days before training camp opened.
The Raiders bringing Dorsett back was not a shock. Gibson will be given
every opportunity to show that he can secure the job but Dorsett is, no pun
intended, an experienced safety net in case Gibson cannot take control.
“You take for granted what happens in football in a lot of cases,”
Dorsett said. “I missed those minicamps. It’s the little stuff. Normally, in the
offseason, I’m watching football and watching tape but I came to the realization
that there is no guarantee that I was going to be on anybody’s football team. I
started doing other things in my life. I didn’t study any tape the whole
offseason. I feel like I’ve put myself in a catchup mode right now.”
Part of that catchup mode Dorsett referred to was his technique. Dorsett
felt like he was merely hanging on to ball carriers.
“I shouldn’t be having to hang on for tackles,” Dorsett said. “I should
be running through people. I know I wasn’t bringing my legs with me. I was
making contact but not driving my legs. It has to come back.”
Vince D’Adamo can be reached via e-mail at