The skeptics were even louder when McKenzie drafted DT Jihad Ward in the 2nd round. Ward was considered a talented but raw prospect that some had graded in the fourth round. McKenzie doesn’t care – he sees talent, he sees a fit for his team, and he gets his guy.
Well, as JBB’s stalwart editor-in-chief Chase Ruttig outlined here, the Raiders have released their first depth chart. Guess who’s penciled in at starter at DT? Jihad Ward.
A former defensive back and receiver in junior college – the journey of which is a great story in itself – Ward has maintained that athleticism while become a mammoth specimen at 6’5, 297 pounds. He moves with the quickness and grace of a much smaller man, yet possesses the punch and power of a bigger man.
He’s drawn favorable comparisons to Edwards Jr., who welcomes the competition along the line.
“Jihad is good,” Edwards said to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “He is a hard worker and getting better every day. Strong and athletic. … We’re going to have a hell of a rotation.”
He’s owning it in training camp, and turning heads of veteran teammates who have seen a thing or two with his surprising size, agility, and overall humble demeanor. As Donald Penn told Tafur in the same article, “I didn’t know he was that big when we drafted him. I love Jihad. Very quiet guy. Just comes in and works. He’s a big, powerful, strong guy. He moves well. He even has a couple of little pass rush moves, for being a young guy.”
Ward adds a natural 3-technique DT with the capability to move to DE, a rare versatility, to a front seven that already has that versatility in Edwards, and a ton of talent and competition. Ward making the front of the first depth chart means little in the overall scheme, but shows the rookie is getting it quickly and making a strong impression on coaches and players alike.
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