ALAMEDA -- There was one glaring weakness on the Raiders' initial 53-man roster when it was revealed Friday night.
REWIND: Raiders cut down roster to 53, make surprising cut
Despite having nine offensive linemen, Oakland seemed awfully thin at tackle. Until Monday, when the Raiders signed Willie Smith, late of Washington, to add depth on the outside."Everything happened so fast," Smith said. "Just getting over here, flew seven hours to go across, and 3,000 miles away from the East Coast. Im definitely liking my opportunity here. Got a good group of guys here and Im excited about what the Raiders are going to do this year."Jared Veldheer is firmly planted in at left tackle, and veteran Khalif Barnes has a hold at right tackle. Among the other O-linemen on the roster, Cooper Carlisle, Mike Brisiel and Tony Bergstrom and Lucas Nix are guards, Stefen Wisniewski and Alex Parsons are centers and Joseph Barksdale is a tackle.So what about Smith appealed to the Raiders?"Athletic, long arms," said coach Dennis Allen. "Comes from the same type of system so the learning curve shouldnt be that difficult. I think hes really an athletic talent at the tackle position."In Washington last year, Smith appeared in four games and started the final three against the sack-happy likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, Jared Allen and Trent Cole. Smith appeared in all four of Washington's games this preseason."I was definitely shocked that they let me go," Smith said. "It was a huge shock to me. But I was like, 'Hey, I know somebody else is going to pick me up because I know I was a great player.' I did some good things last year, and I improved this year. Im just ready to go out there and keep getting better and let these guys know they got a good player in me.
"Every day you go in practice (at Washington) against Pro Bowl caliber guys. I was going against (Brian) Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, and then you get in the game situations and you get to actually go against Jason Pierre-Paul and Jared Allen, it lets you know that, Hey, I can do this. Im good enough to go out there and play. So it was good for my confidence and allowed me to realize that I could go out there."Smith began his collegiate career at East Carolina as a defensive lineman before making the switch."Yeah, you know they get you with that trick," he said. "Come over and play tight end and catch some balls. And then before you know it, youre playing tackle. They got me like that.'He never got into a game as a tight end but it's his versatility on the line that attracted the Raiders to Smith."Yeah, definitely, I feel like my athleticism, my quickness and my feet, being able to get off the ball fast, helps me a lot at tackle versus some of these other guys," Smith said. "Normally when you think of an offensive lineman, you think of a big, fat slow guy. You get an athletic guy like me, it allows you to go out there and run the ball."