Pre-Season Watch: Demarcus Van Dyke
Dr. Nick Chicoine – Aug 8, 2012
A week into training camp and one player that has stood out so far is none other than Demarcus Van Dyke. Yes you read that correctly, Mr. “call me DVD because I burn so easy,” Demarcus Van Dyke. Now I joke of course, because this is excellent news!
Demarcus Van Dyke was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2011 NFL draft out of Miami. This pick raised many eyebrows to those outside of the Raider Nation, but for those familiar with Al Davis, this was just another day at the office. Despite his lack of collegiate statistical relevance, Van Dyke punched his ticket as a Raider the moment he posted the fastest 40 yard dash time (4.28 seconds) at the combine.
Van Dyke began his career as a Raider with a rocky pre-season in 2011. Despite getting torched regularly, and being a weak tackler, Van Dyke always seemed to be in position to make a play on the ball, but lacked the awareness to do so. As a rookie last season, Van Dyke had a Raiders cornerback-best burn rate of 43.8, per Stats Inc., giving up 14 receptions on 32 targets for 167 yards, and a touchdown. DVD was also recognized for 4 passes defended.
My theory as to why DVD earned the best burn percentage was because Oakland’s defense was awful last year. Van Dyke played much less than most of the defensive backs, and he likely covered the worst Wide Receiver on the field when he did get in the game. Given those circumstances DVD was able to put up a respectable burn percentage. This proves that even if he wasn’t making a play on the ball he was at least good enough to occasionally “get in the way.”
DVD often looked timid in 2011, and at times lost or confused. Van Dyke was more or less a jogging buddy, rather than a defender at times. Even Van Dyke's mother suggested that he step up his game.
Fast forward to 2012 and Van Dyke has been working out with receivers such as Antonio Brown of Pittsburgh, Chad Johnson from Miami and Cleveland’s Greg Little in an attempt to perfect his craft. DVD is now in prime position to make a push for a starting spot on the depth chart.
With Ron Bartell resting a hamstring injury the first week of camp, and Shawntae Spencer having an unimpressive camp thus far, Van Dyke has not only been getting more first team reps, but he’s looked good while doing so. Van Dyke’s ball awareness skills, timing, and confidence have all improved since last season. This combined with an 8 lb weight gain, and some relatively weak competition, DVD gets more interesting by each practice.
Monday is Oakland’s first pre-season game against the Dallas Cowboys, and I suspect Van Dyke to see a lot of playing time. If Van Dyke can carry his training camp praise into the pre-season, he will have a shot to earn a spot on the first team defense.
DVD will have to show an overall improvement in consistency, ball awareness, and open field tackling in a game to have me sold. Currently Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer are listed as Oakland’s starters, but a couple solid pre-season performances is what DVD needs to show he has what it takes to be a starter in the NFL.
I’m hoping Dennis Allen will play Van Dyke against Miles Austin, or Dez Bryant for a couple starting reps for the simple fact that he’s earned them in camp. Personally, I’d like to see how well DVD handles Dez Bryant on a fade rout, or Austin on a quick slant, or even just an opportunity at an open field tackle. Time will tell if DVD earns a starting position, but one thing is for sure the circumstances couldn’t be more favorable.
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