Guard Gabe Jackson
Gabe Jackson certainly isn't the loudest member of the Oakland Raiders; heck, he probably isn't even the most outspoken member of his own position group, but the big, offensive guard sees everything.
He's seen the Silver and Black grow from a team residing in the cellar of the AFC West, to a group that now has serious postseason aspirations, and he's also seen firsthand the development of quarterback Derek Carr.
Jackson saw No. 4 start all 16 games as a rookie, and he's had a front row seat to watch Carr mature into one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL.
"He's a winner," said Jackson. "No matter what it takes, he always sacrifices things, and sacrifices himself, and puts other people before him. That's just speaks for him as a person."
Jackson has been a key cog along the Raiders offensive line since General Manager Reggie McKenzie drafted him in the third round (No. 81 overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft – just one round after Carr was selected – but the pairs relationship actually precedes their time as Raiders; it began on a football field in Mobile, Ala.
After their respective college careers wrapped up, both Jackson and Carr participated in the Senior Bowl, and as fate would have it, they ended up on the same team. Even then, Jackson was struck by the quarterback from Fresno State.
"He [Carr] was the quarterback for our team, and even then he showed leadership ability, the winning attitude, and a winning mentality," Jackson explained. "He showed all those characteristics leading up."
Fast forward a few years, and both Carr and Jackson have received new deals to remain Raiders long-term, and for Jackson, that new contract serves as not only validation of years of hard work, but a motivator as well.
"From all the hard work that I've put into it, and the sacrifices, and just giving it all I got, and it's finally paying off, and stuff like that," Jackson said. "It's also hit home for me to work even harder to make sure they gave it to me for a good reason. It's a real good feeling that I got that."
Throughout the offseason, General Manager Reggie McKenzie spoke about how extending Jackson was paramount for the continued success of the team's offensive line, a group that was statistically one of the best in the league in 2016.
And each member of Offensive Line Coach Mike Tice's group brings something special to the table, seemingly fitting perfectly together to make one, cohesive group.
So what role does Jackson play? How about the quiet, cerebral one.
"I guess I'm more the – I wouldn't say calm – I'm more quiet than the rest of them, I like to say," Jackson said. "I have to be dependable and make sure that I do what I have to do for them, especially on the away games. I have to make sure the timing and everything is right for everyone, but other than, I just go out there and play ball. Everybody do what they have to do."
But just because he's quiet, that doesn't mean he's not an absolute mauler between the hash marks.
"If someone gets me going, and they keep poking me a little too hard, I have to do something about it," Jackson said.
Jackson routinely brings up the importance of balance, for the Raiders as a whole, but in particular for the offensive line, and he believes that balance has been integral in helping shape the success the big fellas up front have found as of late.
"In everything you do, you have to have some balance because if all of us are at that high [level] every day, then it wouldn't be too good," he said. "We all balance each other out, when one needs to be picked up, or one needs to be brought down a little bit, we all have that mixture to accomplish that."
-Once again, rookie cornerback Gareon Conley was unable to practice, as was the case for several other Raiders including wide receiver Amari Cooper, defensive end Khalil Mack, safety Obi Melifonwu, and a handful of other members of the rookie class.
-Per usual, Hall of Famer Willie Brown was in the house Tuesday, and he took some time during practice to sign autographs for a few kids in attendance, much to the delight of the fans at the team's Napa Valley Training Complex.
-Jethro Franklin typically spends his days working with the Raiders defensive line, but he spent a few minutes Tuesday working with the team's defensive backs on their tackling form. His advice for the players? "You have to strike him!"
-Running back Marshawn Lynch has delivered a few, eyebrow-raising runs so far during training camp, and he was back at it again Tuesday, bursting through the offensive line, before tossing away a few would-be tacklers en route to galloping into the defensive secondary.
-Wide receiver Jaydon Mickens has quietly put together a nice training camp. The speedy wide receiver has been a factor both on special teams and on the offensive side of the football, and during one of the team's seven-on-seven sessions, he connected with quarterback EJ Manuel for a good-looking touchdown.
-Towards the end of the afternoon session, the Silver and Black took a practice period to work on tackling/evading defenders in the open field. With daylight in front of you, elusiveness is the name of the game, so it was good to see the team working on just that.
Song Of The Day:
"Joker And The Thief" – Wolfmother
This one brings me back to being a college student, hearing this before kickoff at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.
'He's a guy that we really liked coming out. He's got some juice. He runs compact and is not always easy to get down. We think he's having a real good camp. As we went back and reviewed what he did last year when he got the ball, he did some nice things with the ball in his hands. We're excited for DeAndré to continue to grow."
-Head Coach Jack Del Rio assessing running back DeAndré Washington.
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