NAPA – Marcus Gilchrist has had a long-term future in football. There’s no telling how much longer the eighth-year defensive back will go, but there’ll be a job waiting once his playing days are done.
“I told Marcus when you’re done playing, I’m going to hire you as a coach,” Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “He’s smart. He understands the big picture.”
He’d better. Gilchrist has to understand the entire defensive scheme, and his many roles within it. Gilchrist is hands down the Raiders’ most versatile defensive player, someone who can play both safety spots, slot cornerback or nickel linebacker.
He might play them all in a short span, and has to transition seamlessly. If defensive backs make a mistake, terrible things happen.
Gilchrist rarely has a mental lapse despite filling one role one moment and another the next. Being a roving chess piece doesn’t change his outlook or his prep.
“Honestly, I’ve been doing it my whole career,” Gilchrist said. “So it’s just natural. It’s like second nature to me.”
The Clemson product will occasionally slide into the slot. He took 87 snaps there last year in Houston, and 104 three years ago with the New York Jets. San Diego drafted Gilchrist as a cornerback, and eventually converted him to a safety who played well near the line of scrimmage.
All that change forced Gilchrist to be detail oriented and grasp several roles on any given play. All that knowledge helps him to this day.
“Marcus is a general on the field,” Raiders secondary coach Derrick Ansley said. “He has been around a long time, and has seen the game through the eyes of a corner, nickel and safety. There isn’t much he hasn’t seen. We’ve done a good job of leaning on him to help the young guys. That’s the same with Reggie (Nelson). They do a great job of communicating what they see on the field, and teaching guys when we’re not around.”
Gilchrist and Nelson can be seen reviewing practice reps on the sideline, trying to make sure the secondary communication is right.
“I think it just takes repetition. I think it takes playing with a guy over time, and I think we all kind of know each other now,” Gilchrist said. “Sometimes I may do something and they can play off of it and somebody else may do something and we know how to play off of it now. I think we’ve gotten to the point now where repetition has created a little bit more chemistry each and every day.”
Nelson and Karl Joseph already know each other well. Nelson’s getting to know Gilchrist now, and has been impressed by the addition to the position group.
Gilly’s a great add-on,” Nelson said. “He can play anywhere on the field. That’s always a plus when you have a guy like that on your defense. He can play nickel, corner and safety. I’ve learned a lot from Gilly. Smart, intelligent dude. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do out there.”