Photo by Tony Gonzales
Chimdi Chekwa is only entering his fourth season with the Raiders, but he is already one of the longest tenured players on the Silver and Black's 2014 roster.
Originally drafted in the 4th round (113th overall) of the 2011 draft, the cornerback has bore witness to both roster and organizational change since his career began in Oakland.
"It's kind of a different atmosphere," said Chekwa. "Obviously Reggie [McKenzie] came in and the atmosphere changed. He's also brought in a lot of good players that are good for the team and good for the vibe of the team and I'm excited about playing with them."
|Photo by Tony Gonzales|
Chekwa believes that the veteran presence McKenzie has infused into the roster has provided benefits in a multitude of ways.
"They've brought experience first and foremost," he said when asked about the Raiders veteran core. "They've also brought winning. [Charles] Woodson came in last year and he's used to winning. Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, they've been to the Super Bowl and won the Super Bowl, and they've brought that belief that we can make it to a Super Bowl. That's where it starts; believing in something and having that same goal and the same desire to achieve that goal."
Another change that is occurring in 2014 for the talented cornerback is happening on the field. In seasons previous, Chekwa primarily served as a key contributor on special teams, but this season, in addition to those duties, he figures to increase his snaps on defense.
"I'm just trying to get better," he said. "I'm not giving myself a grade until the season is over, so I'm just trying to get better every day. I have goals set for myself and how I can help this team, and that's what I'm trying to achieve."
The improvements that the former Ohio State Buckeye has made are noticeable, and they have not escaped the watchful eye of Head Coach Dennis Allen.
"I think he's had a good camp to this point," said Allen when asked about the Chekwa. "He did some things in the spring that we were impressed with. He's a guy that since I've gotten here he's continued to get better and better every day…I think just his understanding of what we're asking him to do defensively as well as what the offense is trying to do. I think he's got a good understanding of the offense and how they're trying to attack him."
The Raiders are now less than a week away from opening their preseason slate with a matchup against the Minnesota Vikings and Chekwa says the team is excited, although they know they still have a lot of work to do in preparation.
"We'll be excited when the game comes," he said. "We have a lot of practice in between now and the preseason game. It's crazy, because a week of camp feels more like three weeks, but when that day comes we'll be really excited to hit another team."
Chekwa hopes to fill many roles in 2014 including special teams gunner and cornerback, but no role may be more important to him than that of being a teammate.
"With the younger guys, I kind of take it upon myself to see what questions they need answered and answer them because I was there not too long ago," he said. "It really feels like yesterday that I was in their same position. I try to do what I can to get them acclimated to the process."
At just 26-years old, Chekwa's best football days are still ahead of him, and the opportunity he has earned in 2014 might be perfectly timed.