NAPA — Several rookies on the new-look Raiders’ roster have been compared to iconic members of the NFL fraternity.
Most might see a comparison to Lawrence Taylor, Clay Matthews, Richard Sherman or Brandon Browner as a nice thing. But a few don’t want it.
That’s certainly the case with rookie cornerback Keith McGill, who, at 6-foot-3, has been compared to certain members of the Seahawks secondary.
It didn’t help that Raiders owner Mark Davis began the offseason by sharing his admiration for Seattle’s domination of the Denver Broncos during the Super Bowl. Perhaps McGill said it best:
“For me, I want to be me. I’ve been compared to players my whole life. High school, and college, even now I’m getting compared to players. I’m just trying to get to the point where everybody knows me.”
McGill has a rare size and speed advantage the Raiders hope can upgrade their roster on defense. He played one year at the cornerback position, recording one interception and 12 passes defensed for the Utah Utes.
His flair for competition was evident even after Tuesday’s practice, as McGill jazzed a reporter for wearing an Oregon cap, then aimed a zinger towards Berkeley. The playfulness McGill shows is mixed with competitiveness, a welcomed trait for a rebuilding franchise.
McGill is one part of a unit head coach Dennis Allen considers the deepest since he’s been in Oakland. And beyond the distinct humor McGill offers, there’s also a work ethic even Ray Charles might be able to see.
Following Tuesday’s practice — while a good portion of the team headed for the showers — McGill was catching passes from a Juggs machine, which simulates a quarterback throwing passes.
He dropped what looked to be a sure interception earlier in the day, though he denied that particular play had anything to do with the added reps.
According to McGill, it was something extra. He’s focused on one thing at a time, and is willing to let the big plays come to him.
That’s not to say a dropped interception doesn’t motivate him to work on ball skills:
“I’m not out here catching balls like receivers every day, I’m a defensive back. So when they come, I got to capitalize on them. Getting a good 30 balls after practice helps catch up to those receivers, and that’s all I’m trying to do.”
McGill’s story is not the typical one. He didn’t get heavily recruited out of high school, and paid his dues at junior college before transferring to Utah.
He played safety at Cerritos Junior College in Norwalk and his first season at Utah before moving to cornerback for his senior season, starting 22 games at safety and only 12 at cornerback. Yet the Raiders saw enough that they knew they wanted him.
Perhaps they saw his incredible size for the position. Perhaps they found themselves lulled by his soft-spoken demeanor. Smart money, though, is that it’s a combination on the two, and the added fact that Denver was dominated by large corners.
Just don’t let McGill know it:
“You don’t want to be a sleeper, you’d rather be a riser. I want people to know I’m good. And when everything comes out, everything will show.”
What makes something of a stronger case for McGill, free agent addition and former 49ers CB Carlos Rogers has been everything but visible during Raiders practices.
The 33-year-old corner signed a $2.5 million contract, with $1 million guaranteed during the first month of the offseason. Yet, his practices have been void of big plays, and Rogers has been out-paced by several Oakland receivers.
On one route Monday, Rogers was so far burnt in the middle of the field, that any pass thrown towards the receiver would be like playing catch.
While Tarell Brown and DJ Hayden figure to be the top corners in the bunch, it feels like a tight race for third. Any of the rookies can earn the job, as can Taiwan Jones, who converted to corner from running back last season and has shown explosiveness in press coverage.