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Old 08-12-2008, 11:37 AM    (permalink
Don Vito
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Hey guys any word on Ricky Brown? I was a big fan of his when he was at BC and I heard he is doing well out there.
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Old 08-12-2008, 12:29 PM    (permalink
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Quote:
Strong side linebacker Ricky Brown, running with the first team as the strong side backer until injuries struck, was back at practice.
From what Ive heard, he has a really good shot at making the team and could be a starter for us when the season begins.
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Old 08-12-2008, 12:37 PM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by doingthisinsteadofwork View Post
From what Ive heard, he has a really good shot at making the team and could be a starter for us when the season begins.
Thanks a lot, that would be great to see him starting after being a UDFA. He was a great player on that defense with Kiwanuka and Will Blackmon.
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Old 08-12-2008, 09:21 PM    (permalink
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Kiffin criticizes Raiders after practice


By Michael Wagaman
Senior Writer
Posted Aug 12, 2008


With one day of training camp left the Raiders seem eager to get out of Napa. Not head coach Lane Kiffin, who had some critical comments for his squad after watching Tuesday’s practice.

“I wish we had more time,” Kiffin said. “The reality is I don’t think we’re very good right now as a team. Whatever that first game was, I think we’re going to have a big test going into Tennessee against that team. If we don’t have our stuff right and our guys aren’t right we’ll get run out of that stadium real quick.”

The Raiders beat San Francisco 18-6 in their preseason opener last week and will play the Titans on Friday night in Tennessee.

Unless the team makes marked improvement from its practice Tuesday, Kiffin worries Oakland could get blown out.

The Raiders went through one of their most sluggish workouts of camp in front of a few hundred onlookers from one of the team’s booster clubs. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell had another rough day, throwing a pair of interceptions. Backup Andrew Walter also threw a pair of picks while Marques Tuiasosopo had one of his own.

Throw in a few penalties for false starts and a couple of dropped passes and it’s easy to see why Kiffin is concerned.

“I didn’t think we were very crisp, especially early,” Kiffin said. “A number of penalties early. We restarted the whole 9 on 7 down there due to that. I didn’t think we were very crisp in the passing game until we got to 7 on 7. Lot of incompletions, lot of poor timing so that’s continuing to be disappointing.”

Russell did rebound, throwing a pair of sharp touchdowns to tight end Zach Miller and another to Javon Walker.

Other news and notes from camp:

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha left practice and was taken for an X-ray after complaining of soreness in his foot. No word on the results or how long Asomugha might be out.

Rookie safety Tyvon Branch had successful surgery to repair his broken right thumb and will rejoin the team in time for the flight to Tennessee.

Oakland cut linebacker Malik Jackson and signed defensive back Nick Sanchez, who was listed as a safety in college at Stanford. Sanchez got off to a good start, intercepting a pass for Walter.

Linebacker Ricky Brown was back working with the starting defense after sitting out some time due to a sore back. Brown took the majority of reps with the starters while Robert Thomas went back to working with the backups.

Wide receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins had his worst day of camp, allowing three passes to slip through his hands. Two of the passes wound up being intercepted, one by safety Michael Huff and the other by cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

Wide receiver Ronald Curry also had a rough afternoon, dropping an easy pass across the middle from Russell during team drills.

Aaron Elling, who is filling in while kicker Sebastian Janikowski recovers from a hamstring injury, made good on a pair of field goal attempts from 40 yards.

Walker had what Kiffin called his second-best practice of training camp. The veteran wide receiver ran well, got off the line with no problem and hauled in a trio of passes during team drills.

The Raiders practiced a “last-play” drill in which the defense was challenged to prevent the offense from scoring on the final play. Oakland employed a 1-2-8 alignment featuring Derrick Burgess as the only defensive lineman on the field with linebackers Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard.

Mario Henderson, the second-year offensive tackle, continues to have his problems. During one team drill the offense ran a rollout play to the left but Henderson went the wrong way and drew the wrath of Kiffin.
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Old 08-13-2008, 09:20 AM    (permalink
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You take the good with the bad here I guess. It's great news to hear Walker had one of his best days in camp yet according to Kiffin. There's no question how important he is to the success of this offense in '08 just by adding another dimension we currently don't have in a passing game. If he is able to put up a solid year look for the Raiders to do the same. On the bad side an overall sluggish practice is exactly what we can't afford at this point heading into a fairly tough opponent on Friday in the Titans, then again it could always be expected from a team following a big win in a first preseason game.
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Old 08-13-2008, 02:13 PM    (permalink
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Training days: Rebuilding Raiders display a quiet confidence

By Pat Kirwan | NFL.com
Senior Analyst

NAPA, Calif. -- The trip to Napa Valley is a beautiful ride and the surroundings suggest a big-time franchise is waiting at the end of the trip. Of course, the Raiders are rebuilding and no longer can just reload the roster as they did years ago. Oakland is a team that has won just 19 of its last 80 games, yet there is a quiet optimism surrounding the team's summer facility.

Raiders owner Al Davis and I had a chance to talk about the team, and he expressed how much he wants to win now and plans to be around more to remind his young players of what it means to be a Raider.


Lane Kiffin is the architect of the 2008 Raiders, and he sat down with me for more than an hour to talk about his team, the plan to work the storied franchise out of the doldrums, and the progress of the two young players every member of Raider Nation hopes can bring back the glory days. The success of any organization starts at the top, and I was pleased to see that the relationship between Kiffin and Davis appears to be on much more stable ground than previously advertised. If they can continue to get along and keep all of their efforts pointed in the same direction, then this Raiders project has a chance.

Second-year quarterback JaMarcus Russell is a work in progress. With just 66 pass attempts in his NFL career, it will take time for him to blossom. He told me he feels like he's in control of close to 70 percent of the offense but, like every young QB, continues to struggle on the practice field. The good news for the Raiders is that he has raw talent as a pure passer, and that will eventually surface. He told me he refuses to set season goals but rather has day-to-day goals to get through practice with fewer mistakes than the day before. He also told me he feels comfortable with the audible system and is making fewer mistakes at the line of scrimmage.

First-round draft pick Darren McFadden gave me 30 minutes after lunch and had a continuous smile on his face as he described all the roles Kiffin has in mind for him this season. McFadden told me it's tough getting enough rest and staying up with the playbook. The talented young running back appeared to hit the first wall of camp experience when he put the ball on the ground two times during practice. When I asked him about the fumbles, he put the blame squarely on himself and made no excuses.

The first fumble was a technical issue when he didn't have his elbow up to present a pocket for the ball. The second fumble was a function of not tucking the ball away after a catch. McFadden's coaches see the talent every time he touches the ball. I wouldn't be surprised to see him as a tailback/slot receiver, wide receiver and a quarterback. Kiffin is going to find a way to get him the ball close to 20 times a game.

Here are the biggest issues facing the Raiders as they work through camp:

1. Improving the run defense

Last year, the defense was ranked 31st in the NFL against the run. In fact, it hasn't been any better than No. 22 in the past five years in a division that runs the ball. The players and coaches feel the run defense has been addressed enough to see improvement.

Gibril Wilson came over from the Super Bowl champion Giants and has had more tackles over a four-year period than any other safety in the league. He will be down in the box every chance he gets and will clearly help. Defensive tackle Gerard Warren finally looks like he sees his career on the line and will team up with Tommy Kelly to clog the middle.

When I brought up run defense to Al Davis, he was quick to point out that CB DeAngelo Hall will be a factor vs. the outside run. Middle linebacker Kirk Morrison says the main reason there were 18 runs over 20 yards against the Raiders last year was poor run fits in the scheme. He says that will change in 2008.


2. Is there enough depth to survive the season?

Depth is a very critical issue for the Raiders. There are playmakers on this roster, but if the starters go down with injury there will be problems (except at running back). Oakland has never been a team to use the waiver wire at the end of camp to build up the back end of its roster, but it may be time to start thinking that way. Right now, roster spots 40 through 53 should be up for grabs and more players need to be in the mix. Right now an injury to an offensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker or tight end will leave Oakland struggling.


3. Expensive offseason acquisitions

Davis cannot be faulted for trying to buy his way out of the losing ways, but did he overpay Kelly, Javon Walker, Hall and Gibril Wilson? The coaches are convinced Kelly will be a force at the "three technique," his natural position, but couldn't play there because Warren Sapp played it last year. Kelly isn't in great shape right now but he looks like a force against the run.

Walker wanted to quit last week but seems settled in this week. Receivers coach James Lofton called Walker a big receiver with good explosion. But Lofton appears to have to stay on top of him throughout practice. Hall gives Oakland a cornerback tandem (with Nnamdi Asomugh) that could be compared to the tandem of Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes one day, but like all corners they can use a pass rush in front of them. Wilson looks like he will provide immediate benefits, but it remains to be seen if he shines against passing teams that spread out the defense.


4. How will they pressure the QB?

Oakland needs to do a better job of getting to the quarterback. Last year they were 28th in sacks and may have to utilize more of the Giants' fire-zone pressure scheme. Of the 28 sacks they recorded last year, 10 came from players no longer on the roster. But it looks like linebacker-safety blitzing will be incorporated into the package this season. After watching practice, I think we will see more pressure schemes with either Thomas Howard, Morrison or Wilson joining the rush.


5. Needing a fast start, will they be ready?

The Raiders have three divisional games in the first four weeks and they must win two of the three games if they want to improve on their 2-4 record in the AFC West last year. Russell may not have a great No. 1 receiver to lean on early in the season, and reliable tight end Zach Miller probably has to worry more about helping the offensive tackles than getting free in coverage. As the schedule moves along, the Raiders face another big problem as they have to travel from coast to coast four times. That makes winning very tough.


6. Can poor turnover ratio be improved?

The Raiders were poor as a team forcing turnovers in 2007. All spring and summer, Kiffin has been harping on the forced turnovers to his defensive players and ball security to the offense. In the preseason opener, the defense created four turnovers, something that's needed for a young quarterback who needs all the extra snaps he can get. All of the defensive players I spoke with brought up how much the team is constantly thinking about how they can create turnovers. I would be surprised if the Raiders don't improve significantly in this area.
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Old 08-13-2008, 07:53 PM    (permalink
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Training camp, Day 21 (A.M. practice)

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Wednesday, August 13th, 2008 at 2:36 pm in Oakland Raiders
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Quick hits from Wednesday’s last full practice of training camp:

– Cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and DeAngelo Hall, two of the most significant investments of the Raiders’ offseason, are hurting.

X-Rays were negative on Asomugha’s right foot, which isn’t the same as saying there is no discomfort.

“Right now it hurts when I walk,” Asomugha said. “It definitely hurts breaking on the football. I’ll continue to be limited in whatever I’m doing but I don’t think it’s a big issue.”

Said Kiffin: “He’s fine and ready to go. He worked really hard today, too. It was good to see.”

Hall continues to play with a cast on his right hand. He told the San Francisco Chronicle Tuesday there was a broken bone in his hand.

“We’re getting another opinion on it, another person to look at it,” Kiffin said. “(The) only thing that we know for sure is that it is a bruise. It’s a bruise with a possible sprain. So we’ve got got to make sure it’s not broken. There has been nothing so far that has said that it’s broken, none of the readings. But we want to make sure of this.”

Hall shrugged his shoulders and went with the program.

“Somebody asked me, `How do you feel knowing it’s not broken?,’ ” Hall said. “That was the first time I heard that. I guess I feel good. I know something hurts, though. We’re just going to try to get to the bottom of it. I still can’t touch anything. I can’t put my hand down. Still very painful.”

Kiffin said it’s possible Hall might sit out the Titans game Friday night. Don’t be surprised if Asomugha follows suit _ or plays a series or two before taking the rest of the night off.

– Maybe it was a coincidence, but Asomugha found himself losing track of Drew Carter twice in coverage. The first came when he was sucked inside on a reverse roll by JaMarcus Russell, who overthrew a wide open Carter on the sideline for what would have been a big gain.

Later it happened again _ and Russell obliged by again missing the open Carter.

– It seems like twisted logic, but while it seems the Raiders are doing whatever they can to make sure their injured cornerbacks take the field, they quickly bring in replacements when their kickers go down.

Shane Lechler sustained a quadriceps injury late in practice Tuesday which Kiffin said would take seven to 10 days to heal. A new punter was on the way, and off the podium following his press briefing, Kiffin said he wasn’t even sure who it is.

And he may not know even when the punter arrives. It’s not clear if Kiffin knows the name of Aaron Elling, brought in to place kick for the ailing Sebastian Janikowski (hamstring).

“We’re flying another punter in here,” Kiffin said. “He’ll be in here in a little bit, to try him out, and most likely we’ll sign a punter. That other guy we have can punt but we’d prefer have a guy who’s a punter firsthand.”

– Kwame Harris sat out with a shoulder injury, and if he can’t go in the night session, it’s conceivable that Mario Henderson will be protecting the blind side of Russell against a very strong Tennessee defensive front.

Kiffin has been unsparingly blunt in his assessment of Henderson, a third-round draft pick in 2007 who was expected to mount a challenge to Cornell Green on the right side.

There was more than a little dry sarcasm in Kiffin’s voice when he said, “We’re going to push (Harris) out there tonight. If he doesn’t play, super Mario would start for us on JaMarcus’ backside and that will be interesting versus (Kyle) VandenBosch.”

Kiffin said Henderson has improved, but noted he is “still a long ways away from being ready to play.”

– Russell, assuming he makes it that far, will play a half. He had another subpar day passing the ball. He had just one turnover, a pass stolen by linebacker Thomas Howard, with whom the quarterback seems to be developing an unwanted chemistry.

Kiffin kept it bland for Russell against the 49ers and may do much of the same against Tennessee. He simply doesn’t believe in emptying the playbook in the preseason.

He attributed Russell’s erratic passing to being tired.

“JaMarcus has pushed through and hasn’t had a day off,” Kiffin said. “So he’s tired. He’s supposed to be. It’s training camp.”

As for the development of his young quarterback, Kiffin remained upbeat regarding Russell’s ability to operate within the system.

“We’re going to get to see this week and next two games will be a big test for him to see where he’s at,” Kiffin said. “All the stuff out here he’s taken care of now let’s see if he can carry it over into the game.”

Russell did close out a team session with a laser beam of a touchdown pass to John Madsen in the seam _ his best pass in three days.

One team session featured four dropped passes from Russell and Tuiasosopo in five plays by Bush, Justin Fargas, Todd Watkins and finally Chaz Schilens.

Said running backs coach Tom Rathman to Bush: “C’mon, Michael, get your head right!”

– Wide receivers James Lofton didn’t find it amusing, but when a Russell pass exploded off the facemask of wide receiver Jonathan Holland and then fell to the ground, it provided some comic relief for his snickering teammates, who were probably wondering why Holland’s hands weren’t at least in the way.

– Three positions which Kiffin remain up for grabs _ Carter vs. Ronald Curry at wide receiver; Jake Grove vs. John Wade at center; and Ricky Brown vs. Robert Thomas at strong side linebacker.

The starters against Tennessee will be Curry, Wade and Brown. Curry, who drew early raves from Kiffin for working so hard at remaking his body, has been plagued by drops of late. He did make one nice catch for a first down against Asomugha Wednesday.

– Those who won’t play against the Titans other than the kickers include wide receiver Arman Shields (knee), tight end Darrell Strong (shoulder) and cornerback John Bowie (knee).

– Another day, another good practice for Javon Walker. He hasn’t exactly been the gamebreaker the Raiders expect him to be, but Walker has at least made the routine catches and is playing aggressively and with enthusiasm.

“I’ve been very critical of Javon throughout this camp and throughout the offseason and he’s had a string right here of the best practices he’s had,” Kiffin said. “He looks to be in the right frame of mind lately and so if we can continue to work on that and push that, it’s going in a positive direction.”

Walker said he weighs 206 pounds _ the lightest he has ever been _ and laughed when asked about whether he had any doubts about going through the grind of a season in the wake of his “retirement” offer early in camp.

“Obviously if you can make it through the training camp the hard part is done,” Walker said. “So it’s kind of like why make it through training camp and stop now. You made it through the hard part, the fun part is about to start. I’m looking forward to that and hopefully being apart of the turnaround that we can hopefully have this year and hopefully a big year.”

– Walker was one of four joggers for pre-snap violations.

“I’m always punished, dawg,” Walker said to no one in particular as he jogged past invited guests along the sideline.

Other joggers were running back Michael Bush, linebacker Grant Irons and defensive end Derrick Burgess.

– Quarterback Andrew Walter was rested for the morning session but is expected to face Tennessee.

– That’s it for me from training camp. I’ll post some P.M. practice observations as relayed by beat writer Steve Corkran later this evening. Thanks to everyone who participated in the Wednesday chat. The questions come so fast it’s impossible to answer them all but I appreciate your interest and input.
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Training camp is over

NAPA -- The Raiders just finished up the last practice of training camp here at the Napa Valley Marriott.

Tonight's practice featured offense and defense in preparation for Friday night's exhibition game at Tennessee. The team leaves tomorrow for Nashville.

Some quick hits:

*The Raiders signed P Glenn Pakulak to fill in for the injured Shane Lechler.

Pakulak was a backup punter during training camp in 2006.

LB Ed Hartwell was cut to make room on the roster.


*RB Adimchinobe Echemandu was not at practice. He's in Los Angeles to take his citizenship test and will meet the team in Nashville.

*James Lofton is extremely detailed in his coaching. He made rookie WR Chaz Schilens run a route three times and still pulled him aside to discuss his footwork.

*Even against the scout team, there were times the passing game didn't look crisp. CB Nick Sanchez picked off a pass that bounced of WR Drew Carter's hands.

*RB Darren McFadden had to run a lap for a false start.

*S Tyvon Branch was at practice but didn't participate. He'll play Friday wearing a cast after surgery on his broken thumb yesterday.

Coach Lane Kiffin said the effects of medication kept Branch in this morning.

*TE Tony Stewart was at practice in a walking boot.

*RB Justin Fargas had the night off as did WRs Javon Walker and Ronald Curry.

*LT Kwame Harris (sore shoulder) practiced.

--Jason Jones
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Hartwell's gone.So much for him reviving his career here.
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Training camp, Day 21 (P.M. notes)
A better day for the Offense
By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Wednesday, August 13th, 2008 at 9:01 pm in Oakland Raiders
32 Comments

Quick hits from Wednesday night’s practice, the Raiders’ final workout in Napa, with information relayed by beat writer Steve Corkran:

– So much for the theory of Edgerton Hartwell providing a run-defending presence inside. Hartwell was released to make room for punter Glenn Pakulak, who will punt against the Tennessee Titans Friday night after a quad injury suffered by Shane Lechler.

Pakulak boomed several punts inside the 5-yard line, with impressive hang time and distance. Johnnie Lee Higgins dropped one punt, which likely owed to Pakulak’s being a left-footed punter and the ball rotating differently than those from Lechler.

At one point, safety Jarrod Cooper yelled: “Hey, we got ourselves a punter.”

– Cornerback Michael Waddell, defensive tackles Terdell Sands and Tommy Kelly, center Jake Grove and right offensive tackle Cornell Green returned to practice

– The following players missed practice: running back Justin Fargas, safety Tyvon Branch, tight ends Darrell Strong and Tony Stewart, wide receivers Javon Walker, Ronald Curry and Arman Shields, cornerback John Bowie, kicker Sebastian Janikowski and running back Adimchinobe Echemandu.
Kiffin said Echemandu was in Los Angeles to take his citizenship test and will meet the team in Nashville.

– The final play of camp was one the Raiders would rather forget. Fourth-string quarterback Jeff Otis turned to his left, pitched the ball in the general vicinity of running back Louis Rankin and watched as the ball sailed well behind and past Rankin. Seconds later, three horns sounded, Kiffin huddled his players and declared camp over.

– JaMarcus Russell connected with wide receiver Drew Carter on back-to-back touchdown passes in full-team drills.

– On one play, running back Darren McFadden, left guard Robert Gallery and left offensive tackle Kwame Harris moved before the snap. McFadden jumped first and was ordered to take a lap.

– Defensive back Nick Sanchez intercepted a Russell pass that hit off Carter’s hands and returned it for a touchdown. This marked Sanchez’s second interception in two days since joining the Raiders.

– DeAngelo Hall practiced without a cast on his injured right hand. He avoided contact, for the most part, and didn’t catch any balls during individual drills. At one point, he appeared to aggravate his injury by bumping into a receiver. He remained on the field, however, and didn’t require treatment.

– John Wade and Jake Grove split time with the first-team offense at center. Kiffin said after the morning session that Wade would start against Tennessee.

– Higgins and Carter spent most of the time working with the first-team offense in Curry’s and Walker’s absence.

– Tight end Tony Stewart’s left foot was in a protective boot.

The Raiders offense looked much sharper in 7-on-7 and full-team drills than it did either of the past two days. The quarterbacks completed numerous passes to wide receivers and didn’t rely as much on checkdowns to running backs.
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Camp wrap ‘08: offense

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Thursday, August 14th, 2008 at 11:14 am in 2005 Regular Season, Oakland Raiders
43 Comments

Impressions gathered from viewing 24 of the 26 training camp practices over the course of 21 days:

– Running back Darren McFadden began to show signs of physical and mental fatigue in the last few practices, but this is the best looking Raiders rookie I’ve seen since the club returned to Oakland in 1995.

The Raiders will no longer be dependent on multi-play drives to score. They’re in position every time he touches the ball. McFadden will have to be accounted for on every play, wherever he lines up, and his presence should open up things for others.

I’ve been told the Raiders think he is even better than they thought he was when they picked him and are pinching themselves for their good fortune.

This should be fun to watch.

– Justin Fargas and Michael Bush will get their chances as well, but if McFadden cuts into their work load, it’s a great problem to have.

More likely, attrition will work things out. Lane Kiffin are Greg Knapp are firm believers that you can’t have enough depth at the position. Bush may not fit as neatly into the power back mode as Kiffin would like, but he’s very skilled and like McFadden, will be an asset in the red zone because of his receiving skills.

– The Raiders should be a good run-blocking line. It is the hardest working unit on the team, and when you add the element of cutting to the movement, plus the talent of the backfield, an average of 150 yards per game on the ground should be attainable.

– Offensive line depth is an issue. Mario Henderson, a third-round pick last year, is the backup left tackle and Kiffin does little to hide his disappointment with his performance. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of confidence in Paul McQuistan. Fred Wakefield, shuffled all over the place, moved to offense and instantly began getting reps.

– The Raiders will need every one of their rushing yards, because the passing game is, to put it mildly, a work in progress. To put it less mildly, it has been a disaster.

JaMarcus Russell came advertised as someone who can throw every pass, from the feathery drop-ins to backs coming out of the backfield to the difficult cross-field out patterns to the laser-guided deep ball.

In fact, Russell’s pure passing, except for their first night practice during double sessions, has been a disappointment. It’s not all his fault. Tight ends Zach Miller and John Madsen and wide receiver Todd Watkins have been relatively sure-handed, virtually everyone else has been prone to to the occasional drops. Sometimes more than occasional.

Russell has also missed his share of open receivers and doesn’t yet look like the 60 percent passer the offense needs to make for an efficient passing game, although repeated dumpoffs and checkdowns could make his percentage deceiving.

That said, Russell seems to handle himself with confidence and resolve. You don’t see him slapping his helmet after a bad throw, riding his receivers for a drop or delegating blame. He puts everything on his huge shoulders, and that’s a big intangible for a quarterback.

– Regarding Russell’s passing, the company line continues to be the elbow he injured banging it off McFadden’s helmet early in camp is not an issue. He does, however, still wear a protective sleeve with a pad on the elbow.

Maybe Russell is fine. Or maybe, a year from now, at training camp, he’ll say something like, “My elbow was bothering me all through training camp last year.”

– Pass blocking will be a big problem if the Raiders get behind by 10 or more points. If you’re running the ball well and the game is tight, it is easier to control the heat. If not, Oakland will be vulnerable to an edge rush with Kwame Harris and Cornell Green as the tackles.

The Raiders have done a lot of blitzing during practice, in large part to prepare for Russell for what he will see _ and it’s another reason the passing game has looked so shaky. They don’t handle it well.

Fullbacks Justin Griffith and Oren O’Neal will be counted upon to slow the charge, and it could also cost tight end Zach Miller 15 to 20 receptions off his total.

– Javon Walker doesn’t have it yet. His play has been better of late, but I’ve seen elite receivers in training camp before _ Randy Moss in his first year with the Raiders, Jerry Rice in any season, Tim Brown _ and Walker is not anywhere near that standard.

The Raiders were privately concerned about Walker’s burst even before the whole “retirement” issue. They went out on a limb when they paid Walker an $11 million signing bonus and $1 million in salary this season, with another $5 million due in March.

Other teams were interested, the Cowboys for example, but they weren’t going to pay any more than a few million, figuring they could lock Walker up if things worked out.

This is one of those instances where the Raiders went their own way and took a calculated risk. They did that a few years back with Derrick Burgess and it worked out. Other teams had concerns about Burgess’ body type and susceptibility to injury. Score one for the Raiders.

They did it with LaMont Jordan and it did not. Other teams had concerns about Jordan’s ability to be a lead back, given that he had never carried the ball 100 times in a season. The other teams were right.

– Allowing for the fact that things could change behind closed doors at practice, Watkins has got to make the team. When you preach that performance counts, than it has got to count _ even if it means draft picks Arman Shields and Chaz Schilens don’t make the 53-man roster.

– Drew Carter and Ronald Curry both faded in terms of performance as camp went along. Carter appears to pulling out of a lull the past couple of days. Curry hit the weight room hard and lost some body fat, but it hasn’t helped hold up as well as the staff would like.

Every once in awhile Johnnie Lee Higgins does something exceptional as a wide receiver, then he almost always follows it with a drop, a blown route or a failure to get open. Jerry Porter went from a “talent” to a useful No. 3 receiver in 2002 when he finally started practicing well every day under offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. Higgins has yet to take that step.

– Andrew Walter improved a great deal and has even done some good things on the perimeter. But he occasionally reverts to the big mistake _ he had a terrible practice Tuesday _ still doesn’t seem to have the complete trust of his head coach.

Marques Tuiasosopo has difficulty with throws beyond 20 yards and I’ve heard the Raiders are seriously considering going with two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.

Coming later . . . Camp wrap ‘08: defense
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Camp wrap ‘08: defense

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Thursday, August 14th, 2008 at 5:37 pm in Oakland Raiders, Preseason (2005), Raiders features
93 Comments

Impressions gathered from viewing 24 of 26 training camp practices over the course of 21 days:

– Not long after camp opened, Lane Kiffin offered a preemptive strike, musing about the importance of the offseason program in light of the fact that his two best players weren’t even participants.

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha walked into camp on time, signed his exclusive free agent tender and was so good he looked like a bargain at $9.7 million.

Defensive end Derrick Burgess put on eight to 10 pounds of muscle working out on his own, showing up only to the mandatory minicamp, and was essentially unblockable. Raiders tackles found themselves getting nothing but air or simply being shoved aside by one of Burgess’ perfectly sculpted arms.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is flopping sides with Burgess now and then, moving him from his more familiar left side to the right. The idea is to get him an a single blocker from time to time, rather than the double-team plus a chip treatment he has received so often the last two years.

The truth about training camp defense is it is can be extremely deceiving because there is no actual tackling. Tackling only happens to be the most important thing about defense.

But there was no mistaking what Asomugha brought to pass coverage and Burgess brought to the pass rush. If health is not an issue, and Asomugha’s sore foot is at least a little troubling, the Raiders have two cornerstone defensive players to help build a viable defense.

– Training camp restrictions being what they are, there is no way to know for sure if the Raiders have repaired the gaping hole in the middle of their defense which opposing runners ran through repeatedly in 2007.

They should be better, but how much better? Do they go from giving up an embarrassing 4.8 yards per carry to the 4.0 range, or could they actually do even better and be above average.

Two reasons for optimism _ Tommy Kelly’s brief but dominating appearance against the San Francisco 49ers, and the presence of Gibril Wilson at strong safety.

Kelly has a ways to go in terms of conditioning, as witnessed by his feeble yet comic attempt at taking a lap the other night after being called for offsides. Kelly was collapsing the 49ers line almost single-handedly, but to do that for four quarters he will need more stamina. Rehab from knee surgery put him behind, and Kelly needs to catch up.

The Raiders aren’t paying him all that money to be a part time player.

Wilson has been a guy who plays bigger than the 210 pounds or so he weighs, and his presence in the box will be a welcome one in a division featuring LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and whoever is the Broncos runner of the week.

– More optimism regarding the run defense _ linebacker Thomas Howard looks a little bigger and a little meaner without sacrificing the speed and ability that makes him one of the NFL’s best pass coverage linebackers. He and Kirk Morrison are intent on shedding their reputation as pass defenders who give ground against the run.

They need to be much, much better than a year ago. The two or three series they play against a hard-nosed Tennessee running game will be a good litmus test.

– The Raiders brought a lot of pressure during training camp, which makes aggressive amateur defensive coordinators salivate with the possibility of more blitzing.

Much of the additional pressure was to prepare JaMarcus Russell for what the Raiders think he’ll see. Kiffin could have been sandbagging, but more likely he was telling it like it is the other day when he was addressing Stanford Routt’s role as a nickel back and said, “We’re not very complicated on third down, our defense. We don’t blitz very much so he doesn’t have to do very much.”

– The play of Raiders’ offensive tackles makes it a tough call, but there may be some help for Burgess in terms of a natural rush. Jay Richardson, a decent point-of-attack player as a rookie and tall enough to take away passing lanes, has had some success getting deeper into the backfield. Kalimba Edwards has practices where it looks as if he will fit nicely into the Chris Clemons role as a situational rusher.

– The resurrection of Terdell Sands to be the kind of inside force he was as a part-time player in 2006 is still far from complete. Sands conceded he went into an understandable funk last year after the death of his mother and let his weight get out of control.

He is lighter this year _ how much, no one will say _ but he has already had a knee drained and is missing practices. It’s tough to get into shape that way. Sands will probably continue to back up Gerard Warren, who through most of his career has been either impressive or invisible _ sometimes from one week to the next.

– In early practices, sixth-round pick Trevor Scott looked like he might be a wasted pick. Later, he looked like he might be a find. Line coach Keith Millard beams like a proud papa when Scott’s progress is the topic.

Yet you see Scott in person and it’s almost alarming. He physically resembles Stuart Schweigert, and in fact doesn’t look much bigger. Listed at 255, Scott, in truth, is slightly under 250. He won’t be 260 until next year at the earliest.

– When camp started, Michael Huff looked liberated to be at free safety and making the occasional play with the kind of anticipation the position requires. The plays became more infrequent as time went on.

It’s nearing make-or-break time for Huff to justify his No. 7 overall selection in 2006, and it’s a tossup as to which way it will go.

– The whole strong side linebacker issue makes for interesting reading, being that it’s a starting position and all, but the truth is the winner will be the first player off the field when its time for nickels and dimes.

That’s why the Raiders didn’t make a serious run at Takeo Spikes, who wound up in San Francisco. They’d rather pay the veteran’s minimum for an Adam Archuleta than invest another half-million or so into a player who would be an ideal strong side linebacker but spend too much time on the sidelines to justify the money.

Not saying it’s right, and in fact it probably isn’t in this case.

– DeAngelo Hall is going to catch some heat, both from opposing quarterbacks as well as the home fans. Teams are still going to avoid Asomugha, and Hall will be there for the taking. He will also occasionally make a break on the ball and make a big play, and has a knack for being in the area when balls are deflected.

If you’re expecting a shutdown corner, guess again. There are precious few of those around.

– Routt has had an excellent training camp. He could have been miffed by Hall’s acquisition but instead has appeared to elevate his performance in practice.

Now it has to carry over into games. One of Hall’s strengths is he forgets when he just got beat and it doesn’t prevent him from coming back to make a play. Routt has had a habit of letting the failures which come with the territory affect him for the rest of the game.

Routt will need to be at the top of his game, because things get extremely thin after that at cornerback.

– Bad break for Tyvon Branch, with his right thumb encased in a cast. He could still end up being a defensive contributor at some point during the season, if his goal line hit against the 49ers’ Cam Colvin is any indication.
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