Oakland sees impact in safety from Ohio U.
David White, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, April 20, 2009
There stood Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown, telling Mitchell what an instant difference he'd make in the Raiders' secondary during last week's predraft visit. Making matters all the more overwhelming, Raiders secondary coach Lionel Washington - a former NFL player himself - was reading from the exact same script.
"It was absolutely amazing," Mitchell said in a phone interview. "To have those guys actually speaking to me ... it was almost unreal hearing that from a Hall of Famer."
The message was simple: The Raiders need able bodies at the safety position, and they need them now. That's why Mitchell was brought to Alameda - along with Wake Forest safety Chip Vaughn - last week for a round of tire kicking.
As it stands, the Raiders have three safeties on the roster: Tyvon Branch, who spent most his rookie season on injured reserve; Michael Huff, a first-round pick in 2006 now on the bench; and Hiram Eugene, an undrafted free agent with one year of starting experience.
There used to be more. Rashad Baker led team safeties with three interceptions last year but left for the Eagles. Gibril Wilson was second with two interceptions but was released in January.
To think, Raiders safeties combined for three interceptions in 2006-07. The remaining trio combines for two career picks. So yeah, this has been an ongoing problem ever since new Hall of Famer Rod Woodson retired in 2004.
"Well, it's a concern," Raiders coach Tom Cable said of the lack of depth. "Maybe that's one of those priorities."
Brown and Washington said as much to Mitchell, a late-round candidate who wasn't invited to the NFL combine but wowed scouts with a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash.
He played free and strong safety at Ohio. His ability to hit hard against the run and defend cover well in the pass game makes him a player of interest to a team that could use more of both.
"They want a couple of guys to come in and make an immediate impact," Mitchell said. "They want me to be the guy I was in college and be an impact. It was so cool to hear that word. A lot of teams draft you for depth or special teams. If it all works out, they want to draft me so I can make an impact that first year.
"There's nothing more I want to do."
BRIEFLY: The Raiders have drafted a safety in eight of the past nine years. Huff and Branch are the only ones still here. ... The Raiders brought in another combine snub last week in Texas Christian center Blake Schlueter, another late-round candidate.
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