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 interception.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org