Sliding through the wind and rain at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., Jonathan Dowling made his first career interception Saturday night, albeit it in a preseason game.
With 6:30 left in the second quarter, Dowling dropped back in coverage, and after reading quarterback Shaun Hill's eyes picked off an errant pass before tumbling into the sideline.
"I just saw the quarterback drop back and throw a quick, deep route," said Dowling. "I was just running to the ball and just made a great play."
The Raiders were able to capitalize on the turnover, adding a Giorgio Tavecchio field goal to give the Silver and Black a 9-6 lead heading into the two-minute warning.
"It felt really good," Dowling said when describing the play. "I'm just finally glad I got that first interception out of the way, so now they'll come like water."
His interception now brings the second-year pro back into the limelight and begs the question: what will Dowling's role be on the Raiders defense heading into 2015?
After being selected in the seventh round (No. 247 overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft, the rangy safety played sparingly during his rookie campaign, appearing in seven games, primarily on special teams, before being placed on the Reserve/Injured list with a back injury in early December.
Coming out of Western Kentucky, Dowling's NFL.com draft profile praised his natural ability and pro potential, saying, "Has a rangy frame with room for added bulk. Excellent height and long arms to contend in the air and play the pocket. Good hands to snatch interceptions. Nice linear fluidity. Covers ground with long strides -- rangy off the hash to get over the top. Flashes striking ability when his shoulder blows connect. Playmaking ability -- 9 INTs and 8 FFs in last two seasons. Has special-teams experience covering kicks."
Dowling has flashed his ability to make big plays in practice, but currently sits third on the Raiders depth chart at free safety behind veterans Nate Allen and Brandian Ross, although he did run with the second-team defense during Saturday's matchup with the Vikings.
Game action photos of Raiders at Vikings during Preseason Week 2 August 22, 2015.
As it stands, the Raiders are relatively secure at both safety positions, with future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson and the newly-signed Nate Allen roaming the defensive backfield, but Dowling possesses all the intangibles to be a ball-hawking safety -- just look at his nine interceptions during his final two seasons as a Hilltopper.
In some senses, Dowling has become a forgotten man in the Raiders secondary, so as the team progresses through the preseason, and position battles continue to heat up, seeing if Dowling earns more time on the field will be something to keep an eye on.
He'll have his next opportunity Sunday night as the Raiders take on the Arizona Cardinals at O.co Coliseum. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00 pm.