NAPA -- Gabe Jackson represents a changing of the guard for the Raiders in ways that go beyond inserting the rookie third-round draft pick into the starting lineup.
With general manager Reggie McKenzie on record as saying, "We want to do the pushing around. You do that with big people," Jackson is a mover and a shaker at 6-foot-3, 336 pounds.
In past years, as the Raiders have gone back and forth from zone blocking to gap and power blocking, the guards, including departed players Cooper Carlisle and Mike Brisiel, were more suited for attack from the side rather than head on.
Other starting guards in recent years, such as Robert Gallery, a former tackle, had started at another position or, such as current center Stefen Wisniewski, a guard as a rookie, were on their way to different position.
With the Raiders wavering on what they wanted from their guards, perhaps it's not surprising they haven't sent one to the Pro Bowl since Steve Wisniewski in 2000.
Jackson, if all goes according to plan, will give the Raiders a pure power road grader. He's built like a kitchen appliance, and his forte is forward progress.
A four-year starter at Mississippi State, Jackson made 52 Southeastern Conference starts and seldom took a backward step.
"I feel that was my strength in college, and I'm doing all I can to learn the techniques the coaches teach me, and there are different tips and techniques that can help me improve my strength even more," Jackson said.
Jackson played his entire Mississippi State career at left guard but switched to the right side in a recent practice when Austin Howard left with a minor back issue. Jackson's most likely ticket to the starting lineup is supplanting veteran Khalif Barnes at some point on the left side.
"The biggest thing I like about Gabe Jackson is he's a strong, powerful player," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "He's got to learn to adjust when things move in front of him. It's one thing to be in the meeting room with the X's and O's. It's another when those X's and O's start to move and you've got to adjust and make quick decisions."
Barnes, a former tackle who moved inside last season, could eventually be a utility player available at both guard and tackle spots.
"It's competition and it's been that way every year," Barnes said. "I'll do anything I can to help him. If I'm needed to play someplace else, maybe the things I've told him can help and that helps the team."
Barnes has been impressed with Jackson's power as well as demeanor.
"He's a stocky guy, perfect size for a guard heightwise and has a powerful chest," Barnes said. "He's one of those rookies that gets it. He listens and he's not hardheaded.''
Wisniewski was impressed with how Jackson stepped in on the right side in a pinch and also likes Jackson's power.
"He's very strong. I can see him being a very good run blocker," Wisniewski said. "He's learning how to pass block in the NFL. It's a completely different ballgame, but he's got the ability to do it. I could see him being a starter at some point. He's got that ability."
"Somewhat of an injury, somewhat of a veteran's day off," Allen said.
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