The Oakland Raiders’ DeMarcus Van Dyke has great speed and a good college pedigree.
What he doesn’t have yet is a starting job in the NFL.
The former Miami Hurricanes standout – who was drafted in the third round by the Raiders in 2011 – has good size for an NFL corner at 6-foot-1 and 187 pounds, and ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine after his sophomore season at Miami, a mark that tied him for the third-fastest 40 ever run at the Combine.
Yet last season as a rookie, Van Dyke couldn’t crack the Raiders’ shaky secondary. He played 14 games as a backup, recording 12 tackles, four passes defensed and one interception.
Following last season both starting cornerbacks – Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson – went elsewhere, leaving the door open for Van Dyke to jump up and compete for a starting corner’s spot.
So far, however, Van Dyke hasn’t taken advantage of the opportunity.
With two games remaining in the exhibition season, it appears veteran free-agent acquisitions Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer will be the starting corners when the regular season opens Monday night, Sept. 10, against the Chargers in Oakland.
As safety Michael Huff noted this week, Bartell (from the Rams) and Spencer (from the 49ers) have come together well in their first camp. That's good for them and the team, not so good for Van Dyke.
“They’re complete corners,” Huff told the San Francisco Chronicle. “They’re physical, they’ll come up and hit you and they’ll still obviously cover, cover like corners. That’s really the main thing in this defense, our corners, they’ve got to tackle. It’s not just man to man and running people off, so we’ve got to make the tackles. They’re kind of setting the edges and stuff. … They talk, they’re smart, they know schemes, they know what the offense is doing.”
Van Dyke, meanwhile, appears to be foundering.
Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver says Van Dyke has played very well in practices during this training camp, and appears to be growing. Yet in exhibition games against the Cowboys and Cardinals, he hasn’t looked sharp.
Against Arizona, in fact, Van Dyke missed two tackles – one that resulted in an Arizona touchdown – and gave up pass plays of 30 and 31 yards.
Said Bartell of Van Dyke’s struggles in games: “It’s a learning process, and sometimes that’s not fun.”
“I would really like to see him play like he plays out here, and just play with what we know he can do,” Tarver told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. “And he’s heard that from me this week, so that’s what I’d like to see him do. Play like he plays at practice, because he plays pretty good at practice.”
His next opportunity will come Saturday, when the Raiders play the Lions.
Van Dyke told Corkran he’s going to heed Tarver’s advice, admitting he’s “doing too much thinking.”
“I’ve just got to go out there and play ball,” Van Dyke said, adding, “Just play like I was the first two weeks of camp.”