With their final pick of the 2014 draft, the Oakland Raiers took a gamble and drafted former Hilltopper safety Jonathan Dowling to, hopefully one day soon, take the reigns in the defensive back field from NFL great Charles Woodson, and anchor a historical tough defense. Once we had time to breathe after the draft, I reached out to Just Blog Baby’s editor, Chase Ruttig, to get his thoughts on the Dowling selection, and see how soon we can look forward to watching J-Dowl down after down.
Wave The Red Towel: When a player is drafted in the middle/late rounds, it’s hard to gauge whether or not the team needs help in that spot, or if they’re taking a gamble and simply getting the player that, they feel, is the best available. Which did Jonathan Dowling fall under when the Raiders took him with the 247th overall pick (and, subsequently, the final pick of 2014)?
Chase Ruttig: The Raiders needed a rookie safety to come in and potentially learn under Charles Woodson before the legendary safety hangs up his cleats, a need I believe they feel can be achieved with Dowling, who was the best available safety in the seventh round. Something that bodes well for Dowling’s chances of succeeding in Oakland because his selection was definitely made to address a need on the roster even if it was in the seventh round.
WTRT: The one thing that almost everyone will bring up is the age and veteranship of Charles Woodson. Do you see the posibility of a Woodson/Dowling mentoring program to help him quickly become a better NFLer?
CR: Absolutely, and the veteran leadership of safety Tyvon Branch adds to that “veteranship” (love the term by the way, I might steal it) the Raiders have in the defensive backfield. If Dowling can learn the ropes from two NFL veterans, particularly one of the best defensive backs of the modern era in Woodson, he quickly could become a part of the Raiders future.
WTRT: While Dowling is from little ol’ Western Kentucky, what did you know about him coming into the draft, and what was your reaction when it came across that Oakland had selected him?
CR: I loved the pick. Dowling had some exposure thanks to WKU making a bowl game and with the team needing a safety, at some point in the seventh round he was atop of my list of players the Raiders needed to take a look at grabbing.
WTRT: What do you see Dowling’s immediate role with the Raiders being?
CR: I think he has a good shot to make the 53 man roster given the fact that the team is looking to find that next player in line to fill Woodson’s footsteps, but if he does make the team it will be as a rotational piece. With Woodson, Branch and Usama Young all looking to be the cornerstones at safety Dowling will be learning from the sidelines more often than not.
WTRT: How will Dowling’s ball-hawk hunger help the Raiders secondary?
CR: That is something that defensive coordinator Jason Tarver loves to see out of his defensive backs and something that Dowling has shown he can succeed at while playing on the college level. If those ball hawking instincts and abilities carry over to a step up in competition it would be a huge part on him making his footprint on the Raiders defense.
WTRT: In your opinion, where do you see Dowling as the season rolls around?
CR: Practice squad/late on the depth chart. The Raiders need to develop a safety this year and I truly believe that head coach Dennis Allen, as well as general manager Reggie McKenzie, know that which is why the front office took a shot on Dowling. Currently, the Raiders do have three quality safeties in Woodson, Branch and Young who have all shown they can play for the team in 2013. That means snaps are unlikely for Dowling, but if the team does keep a rookie safety on the roster, he has the inside track. If not a clipboard and practice squad wouldn’t hurt either for the seventh round pick.
There you have it, from the man who knows it all! Seems like Dowling was a 7th rounder that addressed a need, and it’s going to be all sorts of fun to watch him demolish expectations.
If you want to learn or know more on the Raiders, be sure to pay Chase a visit over at Just Blog Baby, and they’ll be a key site to have an eye on once training camp rolls around.