Everyone goes through transition periods, whether it’s finding a new job, or relocating to a new city, it can be a bit of an awkward time.
Right now, Oakland Raiders cornerback Dexter McDonald finds himself in a bit of a transition period, but he’s not looking at it as a negative.
In the last few months the Silver and Black have seen a lot of turnover at McDonald’s position after cutting ties with Sean Smith, TJ Carrie, and David Amerson. Following those moves, Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Reggie McKenzie acquired a handful of veteran corners to mix in with the younger players, and McDonald finds himself right in the middle.
“I think it’s a great spot to be in with this being my fourth year, I’m kind of in that area where I’m not a rookie anymore, I’m a vet, but I’m always listening,” McDonald said. “I’ll listen to a rookie if he’s got something to say that’ll help me get better. I definitely think it’s great, and we’re all eager to work and listen.”
It’s because of that mindset McDonald has made an impression on his new Defensive Coordinator, Paul Guenther.
“He’s done good,” Guenther said when asked about McDonald. “I will tell you, the corner job is wide open. It’s wide open. It’s going to be exciting to see who comes to the top of that battle. He’s in it. All of those guys are battling each and every day. It’ll be exciting to see when the preseason games come what happens.”
Last year McDonald saw career highs in both games played (15) and games started (6), totaling seven passes defensed, one forced fumble, and 43 tackles. 2017 was a good start for McDonald, but he knows his work is far from over.
“Last year it gave me a good opportunity to get some time on the field, there was a lot I learned,” he said. “I had some successes, I had some mistakes, and I’m just blessed that I have the opportunity to the have the experience overall, and I know what I have to improve on heading into next year.”
Take a look at photos as the Raiders hit the practice field in Napa, California for day four of training camp practice.
In a new defensive scheme, McDonald is confident he can thrive in Guenther’s system, stating that it allows the group to play without overthinking. When you eliminate the mental aspect of overthinking assignments, it provides the players with an opportunity to play free, and do what they do best.
“It’s been great so far, it’s very clear for me to understand,” McDonald said in regard to Guenther’s coaching style. “He gives you so many examples for you to understand, he puts us in the best position to know everything we have to know about the defense, and know what everybody else is doing, which if I know what everybody else is doing on top of my responsibility it makes it a lot easier for me.”
Fortunately for the former University of Kansas Jayhawk, he has plenty of veterans who have played in Guenther’s system before to help him understand it even better. Cornerback Leon Hall and safety Reggie Nelson both played in the system in Cincinnati for a season (2015), and that will undeniably benefit the rest of the Raiders’ defense as they prepare for the upcoming season.
With veteran players around him, the transition under a new coaching regime has gone smoother than anticipated.
“It’s been great, we have a lot of guys who have been in the league for a long time, and they’re so smart,” McDonald said. “They have a great understanding for the scheme that we in, and it makes it so much easier to go out there, and the guy to the left of your or the right of you knows exactly what he’s doing, and you know you have to be responsible too because you don’t want to let those guys down.”
In the few months McDonald has been with his teammates, he’s absorbed their knowledge, but they’ve also paid close attention to him.
“I think Dexter McDonald comes here every day, works hard, makes plays,” fellow cornerback Rashaan Melvin said. “The guy works hard – extremely hard – and he understands the game of football. He’s always in the right places.”
Ready to embark on another campaign in the Silver and Black, McDonald is ready to embrace the challenge of a new year, and improve his game all-around.
“I have expectations for myself, but at the end of the day I just want to do whatever I can to make the team better. Hold myself responsible, this year I have to improve on my tackling, and just be more physical overall.”
McDonald has all the tools around him for it to be a smooth transition, now, we’ll just have to see what happens.