- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
Wheeler -- who started 24 games in the past four seasons with the Colts – signed with Oakland on Friday. The Raiders started their offseason conditioning program on Monday.
Wheeler appears ready to become an important piece of the fabric of the Oakland defense. He indicated in a conference call with media members he is ready to become a bigger part of his team's defense. Wheeler is expected to play strongside linebacker and replace Kamerion Wimbley, who was a salary-cap cut.
“I feel like this is the best situation for me,” Wheeler said. “I think, these coaches here, they were pretty adamant about the way they’re running their defenses. It’s a defensive head coach, he has a defensive mind, and I wanted to come to a place that would take defense a little more serious.”
The Colts were long an offensive-minded team. Wheeler called himself a versatile player and he thinks this new Oakland defense "caters" to linebacker. Wheeler had one sack last season, but he said he expects to be given a chance to pass-rush more in Oakland. He is acquainted with Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, who played a role in Wheeler signing with the Raiders.
“Coach Tarver told me there was going to be a lot of blitzing, just a lot of mixing up things, not just standing still in Cover 2 like I did in with the Indianapolis Colts for awhile,” Wheeler said. “Nothing against that, we had a great offense that kept the lead a lot. We were able to sit back in Cover 2 and rush the passer a lot because teams had to catch up, and we had two great defensive ends that did that. But I also like to rush the passer and everything from the linebacker position and coach Tarver told me that it would be some of that going on.”
Wheeler also said Twitter recruitment by several Raiders’ fans helped his decision to come to Oakland on the one-year deal. He was also talking to the Dolphins and the Colts. He said he gained about 2,000 Twitter followers last week.
“That kind of helped me in my decision because it showed me how big of a football city this is and how much they paid attention to football instead of going somewhere else,” Wheeler said. “Indianapolis, it was pretty good football city, but the fans, they didn’t get more involved in media, and just showing us how much they care about the game. I always wanted to play in a big football for a legendary team, something like that and that kind of helped me choose Oakland.”
5dEric D. Williams