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Rookie OL Vadal Alexander earning respect with Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. – Some scouting services had Vadal Alexander rated as the second-best guard in the draft coming out of LSU this spring.

So how did he last until the seventh round, and what was he doing starting at right tackle and more than holding his own for the Oakland Raiders last weekend at the Baltimore Ravens?

“I always had confidence I could go out and play tackle,” Alexander said this week, pointing out he played all along the offensive line in college.

“Being here, going in training camp against Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin? They’re rushing as hard as they can. They helped build my confidence, reassured myself to know I could handle my own out there.”

Alexander, inactive for the season opener at the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 11, was forced into action at the Tennessee Titans two weeks ago when starting right tackle Menelik Watson went down with a calf injury.

And while Alexander may have stood out for the wrong reasons on the stat sheet in his first career start against the Ravens – three holding calls and a false start and a 67.5 overall grade from Pro Football Focus with two of the O-line’s four QB hurries allowed – Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was not buying it.

“I don’t know if you guys went back and watched the tape, but those holding calls ... ,” Del Rio paused for effect as he laughed, “there were a couple that were called on him that were, man, it was really tough to see any kind of holding going on there. I thought he did a heck of a job.

“I know that Khalil would love to see all of those types of things get called every time he’s held. You know, it was tough. Anyway, I think the young man played really well.”

So well that Vadal, the fifth player to line up at right tackle already for Oakland this season behind Watson, Donald Penn, Austin Howard and Matt McCants – could conceivably hold onto the starting gig.

Remember, Watson, Howard and McCants are all still nursing injuries, and blocking tight end Lee Smith was placed on Injured Reserve this week.

“The biggest thing that has stood out on film is that this guy moves people in the run game,” Del Rio said of Alexander. “The college tape showed that; a lot of movement and a lot of power with him. We were drawn to that ... the opportunity to grow him at multiple positions, a guy that can play inside or outside.

“Once a guy gets here, it’s up to him to take advantage of those opportunities and compete. That’s what he’s done.”

Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave agreed.

“He’s just very smart, bright,” Musgrave said. "[Vadal] has a lot of football background from both high school and college. He picks it up quick. There’s always going to be a transition period dealing with different defenders at this level.”

Such as on the Raiders’ game-winning drive at Baltimore, when the Ravens flipped Terrell Suggs to the rookie’s side, ostensibly to put pressure on quarterback Derek Carr.

The 6-feet-5, 326-pound Alexander held up and the Raiders drove for the score. And no, Alexander did not ask the officials about his penalties, either.

“I’m a rookie and they don’t really talk to me,” Alexander said with a smile. “I’m not Donald Penn, 12 years in the league. You’ve got to earn that respect.”

Alexander already has in the Oakland locker room.