BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Jylan Ware essentially redshirted his rookie year. The Raiders offensive tackle was inactive in 15 straight games, with limited work in the 2017 regalur-season finale.
Ware obviously wanted to play, but understood some development was required. The seventh-round pick from Alabama State, a small FCS program, has great size and athleticism.
He had to, however put on some weight and hone technique. Ware feels that mission was accomplished in 2017.
"I thought I was physically ready, but there was a mental gap I had to bridge," Ware said Thursday in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. "Once I caught up mentally, I was off and running.
"I'm so much better, more ready to play than when I first came in. I'm so much more confident. I'm bigger, stronger faster and smarter than I was a year ago. I'm ready to come in and put my stamp on this league."
Ware apprenticed behind Donald Penn and Marshall Newhouse, guys whom bookended one of the league's best lines. Ware says those two were quality resources, but everyone contributed to his development.
"I've learned so much about being a professional," Ware said. "We have so many veterans willing to pass on the knowledge during my rookie year. … Everybody was a resource and a sounding board, from the starting five to the backups. They're inviting and always open if I need advice. Oakland was the best possible spot for me to land."
The Raiders have a veteran-laden line, but drafted Ware and fellow offensive tackle David Sharpe last season. Ware and Sharpe became good friends last season, and hope to prove their solutions on the offensive line.
"That's the long-term plan," Ware said. "One of us will play left tackle and the other plays on the right. That's what we're aiming for."
Those guys must impress some new coaches. Jon Gruden's the new Raiders head coach, and he hired Tom Cable to run his offensive line. Player access restrictions don't allow coaches to start working with players, but Cable and Ware have met.
"I've talked to Coach Cable," Ware said. "He came in and introduced himself, and we chatted for a while and discussed how he wants me to improve and how he expects the season to go. I'm excited to work with him. He brings a fresh perspective to my game."