Poll: How much playing time will Oakland Raiders rookie Jihad Ward get in his first season?
The Oakland Raiders wrapped up organized team activities last week, and second-round pick Jihad Ward was one player that stood out during the entire OTA period.
Is Ward really worth all the hype?
Ward’s athletic numbers are nothing crazy. At the NFL Combine, he registered a25-inchh vert, and 5.11 seconds forty-yard-dash. Those are not the most explosive numbers.
After week two of OTAs, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said Ward impressed with his athleticism.
“He [Ward] is probably a little quicker than I anticipated,” Del Rio said via the Raiders website. “I see him flash a little more than I anticipated.”
The 6-foot-5, 297-pound lineman can play inside, outside or as a standup end. His athleticism caught attention right away.
In the first week of OTAs, the Raiders website said he was, “bursting through the offensive line with ease to find himself face to face with the quarterback.”
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Added, Ward started OTAs by getting into a scuffle with recently signed free agent lineman Kelechi Osemele. The incident was nothing out of the ordinary, but it is good that Ward is playing intense early.
Only a few years ago, Ward was playing skill positions at the junior college level. Ward did not play football period until age 14.
Therefore, each repetition is important for Ward to adjust to the speed and physicality of playing defensive line.
Traditionally, success in OTAs does not necessarily translate to success during the season. These summer practices are usually in shorts and without pads. It remains to be seen if Ward’s hype will translate to live football action.
The No. 44 overall pick also said all the right things. He talked about relying on coaching at the beginning of the offseason.
Despite injury concerns and a lack of production, Ward was selected as a raw prospect from Illinois. Ward registered 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in two seasons.
Last month, Ward inked a four-year contract, worth up to $5,539,798 over the life of the deal, including a $2,222,944 signing bonus.
Now, Ward faces an uphill battle to make an impact on the Raiders’ defense.
He will compete with second-year players Leon Orr, Denico Autry and Mario Edwards Jr. for playing time as 3 or 5 technique defensive tackle.
Otherwise, Ward will also have to compete with Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, Aldon Smith, Demontre Moore and Shilique Calhoun for time as a hybrid pass rusher.
Will Ward have a real impact in his rookie season?
Let us know what you think in the poll.