By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, July 26th, 2008 at 7:00 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Quick hits from the Raiders’ lone practice Saturday:
– It was probably to be expected after the aerial display featuring JaMarcus Russell the previous evening, but the Raiders came back to earth Saturday afternoon in a snappy practice that was wrapped up in under an hour and 40 minutes.
Things were much more difficult for the near-rookie, as Russell mixed in some nice balls with several that were broken up and nearly intercepted, as well as one badly thrown pass late over the middle that free safety Michael Huff read perfectly and snared on a dive.
Coach Lane Kiffin said he was more interested in watching Russell convert the routine plays than the sort of Star Wars show he put on Friday night.
“We’re not going to coach those special throws that he makes where he’s running over there and he throws back and makes those great throws. That’s who he is and very few people can do that,” Kiffin said. “But those happen one time a game, maybe two times. We’ve got to get him to do everything right, the little things, the little completions and the timing of everything.
“That’s all the stuff that wows the fans and people watching but that’s not what makes you a good quarterback. A good quarterback plays with great discipline, he takes care of the ball and he throws things on time. We’re going to have to get that going with him. He’s continuing to improve on it. We’re giving him a lot of reps. We’re wearing him out on purpose for conditioning, not just his arm but his body.”
Said Russell about what was important: “The small detail things. When you pay close attention to that, then things will be better for you instead of being Superman all the time.”
– During one seven-on-seven sequence, Russell was nearly intercepted by DeAngelo Hall while looking for Johnnie Lee Higgins along the sideline _ a pass that could have been a defensive touchdown. His next pass, intended for tight end Tony Stewart, was tipped in the air and nearly intercepted by Sam Williams.
– Two plays later, Marques Tuiasosopo, who also threw well Friday night, was intercepted by linebacker Robert Thomas on a pass intended for Jonathan Holland.
– In a team sequence, Russell fared better when on back-to-back throws. Drew Carter made a difficult, physical catch with Chris Johnson draped all over him on a 12-yard out, and Russell followed it up with a touch lob for 20-plus yards to tight end John Madsen in stride.
– Early in practice, with the running backs breaking out of one drill and heading toward another at the horn, Kiffin threw a high pass which nearly caught an unsuspecting Darren McFadden right in the face guard, with McFadden reaching up at the last second to knock down.
At the conclusion of practice, Kiffin was talking to an assistant coach only to be nearly struck by a Shane Lechler skyscraper. It was caught by Rashad Baker.
“Was that Shane or the JUGS machine?,” Kiffin asked as he went to the podium to speak to reporters. When told it was Lechler, Kiffin said, “Don’t think he didn’t do that on purpose.”
– Rookie receiver Arman Shields, who has had some impressive moments through the early sessions, incurred the wrath of offensive coordinator Greg Knapp for a half-speed route.
“C’mon rook. Break on it,” Knapp barked. “When you break on it, you might want to go toward the ball and not off the field. You’ve got to focus when you’re tired.”
– Running backs coach Tom Rathman was instructing running backs how to stop in their tracks in the middle of a zone then break outside to get open underneath. He used Justin Griffith to demonstrate how it was done before turning to second-year fullback Oren O’Neal and McFadden.
O’Neal ran the route well enough, but didn’t look up in time and Russell’s pass glanced off his hands.
“Gotta have it, `O,’ ” Rathman said.
Next was McFadden, who ran into the middle and then peeled off without stopping first.
“No, sit first. You’ve got to sit first,” Rathman said.
– Left tackle Kwame Harris missed practice with a sore lower back and is expected back Sunday morning. In his place, Paul McQuistan, who has been seeing time at left guard, moved outside to tackle. Also playing left tackle were Seth Wand and Mario Henderson, who is competing with Cornell Green on the right side.
Raiders tackles have had difficulty slowing the charge of Derrick Burgess (almost always on the left side, a few snaps on the right) and Kalimba Edwards from the outside. Kiffin conceded it is that area where Harris will need to get up to speed.
“He’s been a better run player for us so far,” Kiffin said. “We got some things in the pass protection going back to the left side — he hasn’t been there for a while — that we’ve got to work out, that (Tom) Cable’s working on with him. We got a lot of hopes for him, and we’re going to need him.”
– The Raiders appear to be running the ball well and crisply with Justin Fargas, McFadden and Michael Bush, although until they face a team in a different uniform, it will be tough to tell how good they really are.
– Linemen who false start have been told to take laps around the field, with McQuistan and Brandon Robb among those to make the circuit Saturday.
– Rookie end Trevor Scott has had some difficulty disengaging and making his presence felt a pass rusher. A converted tight end, Scott is listed at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds and actually looks smaller out of uniform.
One one play, with Louis Rankin breaking free, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan yelled, “C’mon Trevor, you’ve got to hold that edge!”
“It’s definitely something that takes getting used to,” Scott said. “Coming from college to the NFL, there’s really no comparison. Guys are just phenomenal, and the O-linemen have great feet, and that’s where coach (Keith) Millard is really telling me to hone in on my techniques and trust my technique and have my technique beat theirs. Use agility and quickness and try to get around them.”
– Huff, sometimes invisible while lost in among the bigger players at strong safety, has been conspicuous not only with his playmaking, but his enthusiasm for playing free safety.
“I’m out there running around, having fun, make Gibril (Wilson) take on all the tackles and guards and fullbacks and all that,” Huff said. “I can stay back there and make plays.”
Huff is doing a good job reading the offense, but is having a hard time figuring out his weight pattern. He said he tried to bulk up to last year and finished the season at a skeletal 193 pounds. Now that he’s a free safety, he is up to 205.
“I know it’s strange, but I feel quick out there, real fast,” Huff said.
– If Tommy Kelly is as good as the Raiders seem to think he is, that $18.125 million guaranteed won’t seem so bad after the $22 million guaranteed Glenn Dorsey got from the Kansas City Chiefs.
It was just a day or two ago that Chiefs exec Carl Peterson was spouting his usual nonsense about Dorsey’s contract demands, only to cave in and pay what the market demanded he pay.
– Kelly has been putting in overtime on the cardio machines after practice, working on getting his weight down. He has been one of the last players to leave the field house.
– Safety Greg Wesley (back spasms) and linebacker Grant Irons (hamstring) missed practice and are day-to-day. Defensive end Fred Wakefield (flu-like symptoms) was back at practice and even played a few snaps inside at defensive tackle.
– If Al Davis is the kind of guy who worries about these things, he hates the idea of LaMont Jordan joining New England, where he could join Randy Moss and show up the Raiders by putting up big numbers, and even warned his agent to make sure he went somewhere else.
More logically, Davis is pleased to see Jordan wind up in a place where he is buried behind Lawrence Maroney and Kevin Faulk, putting him only one rung above the Fargas-McFadden-Bush mountain he faced in Oakland.
– The Raiders have a double session today with the first practice at 9 a.m. and the second at 7 p.m.