Linebacker Cory James
Making the leap from college football to the NFL can be a major transition for players entering the league. The speed and intensity of the professional level can be overwhelming at times, leaving rookie players in the dust.
This is not the case for Oakland Raiders rookie linebacker Cory James, who's been adjusting nicely to tempo of the big stage. "At first the speed was going pretty fast, that was during OTAs and everything," said James. "Now after we just finished training camp, the games been slowing down a lot for me."
The state of Texas native was drafted by the Raiders in the 2016 NFL Draft and was taken in the sixth round with the 194th pick. He was a member of the Colorado State Rams for four years and was voted Mountain West second-team All-Conference his senior year, after he accumulated 10 tackles for loss.
James' ability to hunt the ball carrier and awareness of the opposing offensive scheme has earned him significant playing time this preseason. Over the course of two games, the middle linebacker has tallied 74 snaps on the defensive side of the ball, adding 21 reps with special teams.
He's taken advantage of his time on the field and has emerged as one of many solid contributors in the Raiders linebacker corps. Against arguably two Super Bowl contenders, the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers, James has totaled 9 tackles, with two of them being tackles for loss.
His performance thus far has caught the attention of defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. "Cory James is a really good football player," said Norton. "Those kind of players make us a better team. As long as he keeps playing good, we like him."
One player who has taken James under their wing is former Super Bowl MVP linebacker Malcolm Smith. "I really try to ask questions to Malcolm," noted James. "He's the one who's got the most experience and everything, I would try to watch what he does."
The influence of his peers and desire to continue developing has lead James to keep a grinder mentality. James says, "I'm trying to stay on the field and get that extra work that I need, just focus [and] watch more film and focus on my technique a little bit more."
While James is working hard to have an impact under the lights, he enjoys having some down time to hit the sticks. "I'm a gamer, I love to play [video] games," said James. "I'm always [trying] to get a game in everyday; whether it's 2K, FIFA, Madden."
This is the first time he's appeared in a Madden video game and is currently rated as 61 overall. If James continues to exhibit play making ability, maybe his rating will increase, but more importantly he'll help the Raiders succeed as a team going forward.