After his 11 tackle performance against the Washington Football Team, a few people were prompted to do some proper research on Divine Deablo. A lot of those people were probably surprised to know that Deablo wasn't a linebacker until he was drafted by the Raiders in May.
That includes his teammate K.J. Wright.
"I didn't even know Divine played safety, I just found that out a few weeks ago," said Wright.
Deablo – who racked up 206 total tackles and six interceptions as a safety at Virginia Tech – transitioned to linebacker after being taken with the 80th pick in this year's draft. So far this season, the rookie has been mainly delegated to special teams duties, something that he is familiar with from his time in college.
"From high school to college, I had to do the same thing. I played nothing but special teams my first year in college," said Deablo. "So I knew that's probably what I had to do playing at a new position. I just want to do what's best for the team at the end of the day."
Injuries to the linebacking corps has put Deablo in a place to see more time on the field recently. After playing 26 snaps on defense through 11 games, he played 38 in last Sunday's game against Washington – not including the 17 snaps he still played on special teams. Deablo credited the veteran linebackers around him for helping him develop as a full-time linebacker, as well as crafting his mindset to always be prepared when called upon.
"I always come in with the mentality of next man up," Deablo added. "Even when I don't play, I'm OK with it. As long as I come prepared, I'm satisfied. I just don't want to let my teammates down if I do go out there, because three linebackers went down this past game. They needed me so I just wanted to be there for them."
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has been pleased with what he's seen from the rookie in his position transition. Bradley also stated that Deablo's lack of playing time so far is due more to the competition at the position and not his talent and ability. The coordinator hinted at seeing more Deablo in the future, with Nick Kwiatkoski being placed on IR and the statuses of Cory Littleton and Denzel Perryman still unknown for this Sunday's game against the Chiefs.
"It's not surprising. I think that we thought that if he got an opportunity he would play pretty well," Bradley said about Deablo Thursday. "It was the poise, I think, is what we recognized with Deablo. That he got out there, wasn't too big for him. We really like his speed. That's kind of what you're hoping for at that WILL linebacker spot. Kind of that converted safety, he's putting on some weight, he's playing more physical."
Wright has also been throughly impressed from what he's seen from Deablo. Wright detailed how attentive the rookie has been since coming in, as they watch film together every Tuesday on their day off.
"To see him come in and play linebacker is pretty cool," said Wright. "He understands all these run fits, he's someone who tackles well, obviously he can cover. So it's pretty cool to see how he stepped in Sunday and just handled business. We [were] out there together, he was handling business, making his plays, making his tackles. And you're going to see him, he's getting his career started on defense. It's been pretty cool to see him have that success in that first game."
Wright has become comfortable in his role as a calming veteran force – not just for his position group – but for the entire team. The linebacker, who is in his 11th season, recognizes he has a lot of wisdom he can impart on his younger teammates, and is glad they're receptive to what he can offer.
"I believe I'm here for a reason. I'm definitely here for a reason," continued Wright. "Everybody kept on telling me that ... and I'm starting to see why. I have a lot of wisdom and expertise I can just share with my guys. And I'm thankful that I'm here to be in this position 'cause it's time to show how well I am as a leader and how my message can come across. And then when I step on the field, just playing really good football.
"So I'm thankful we're in this position and we're just going to show ourselves and how well we can finish this season."