ALAMEDA -- Willie Smith, the newest member of the Raiders' offensive line, can look back on how college coaches orchestrated his position switch and laugh about it.
Originally a defensive lineman at East Carolina, Smith had visions of being another Antonio Gates.
"They get you with that trick," Smith said. "Come over and play tight end and catch some balls. And then before you know it, you're playing tackle."
A starter for the last three games of the season in 2011 for the Washington Redskins, Smith failed to make the 53-man roster and was a waiver claim by the Raiders. He will compete to back up both Jared Veldheer at left tackle and Khalif Barnes at right tackle.
During his last three games, Smith had starts at left tackle against the New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles, meaning he opposed three quality edge rushers in Jason Pierre-Paul, Jared Allen and Trent Cole.
Each player got a sack, although Smith notes that Pierre-Paul's came when his fullback missed a chip block. Smith drew praise from Redskins coaches for his play.
"It lets you know that, 'Hey, I can do this. I'm good enough to go out there and play,'" Smith said. "It was good for my confidence and allowed me to realize that I could go out there."
Smith is agile at 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds and experienced in zone blocking, a system long favored by coach Mike Shanahan.
"He's athletic, long arms," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "He comes from the same type of system so the learning curve shouldn't be that difficult. I think he's really an athletic talent at the tackle position."
Smith said he was surprised to get cut by Washington and is looking forward to proving himself in Oakland.
"I feel I like my athleticism, my quickness and my feet, and being able to get off the ball fast, helps me a lot at tackle," Smith said. "Normally when you think of an offensive lineman, you think of a big, fat slow guy. You get an athletic guy like me, it allows you to go out there and run the ball."
Wide receiver Juron Criner (ankle) was moving slightly better than during Monday's session. Center Stefen Wisniewski was on the field but isn't expected to join in team sessions until Thursday.
The Raiders are off Wednesday.