By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, July 27th, 2008 at 9:37 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Quick hits from Sunday night’s Raiders practice:
– Tackle Mark Wilson, a practice squad player signed to the active roster following the season, sustained a left leg injury, was taken off the field on a cart, and was sent to the hospital for X-rays.
– Left tackle Kwame Harris (lower back) returned to practice after missing the previous two sessions. He moved well and at one point fared well in a pass blocking opportunity against Kalimba Edwards.
– For the first time, no offensive or defensive lineman had to run laps for committing a false start or jumping offsides.
– Wide receiver Ronald Curry and center Jake Grove took the workout off, as scheduled. John Wade got the majority of the snaps with the first team offense in Grove’s absence. Defensive end Fred Wakefield, battling a stomach ailment, did not practice after practicing in the morning session. Safety Greg Wesley (back spasms), who returned to practice in the morning, missed the evening session. Grant Irons is still out with a hamstring pull.
– Al Davis made his first appearance at practice, watching from a golf cart between the two fields.
– During kickoff drills early in practice, running back Darren McFadden was deep and running kickoffs hard up the middle. Kiffin mentioned McFadden as a possibility for return duty on occasion.
Interesting McFadden would get his most work in that area in a practice Davis attended. Whether or not McFadden returns kickoffs will almost certainly be a decision made at the top. Davis resisted the idea of having Charles Woodson play offense or return punts, although part of that probably had to do with Woodson’s history of nagging injuries.
– Expect McFadden to be utilized only in crucial situations, in games where the Raiders need a strike at the end of a half or game, or when they are struggling on offense and need a momentum switch. To use him at all in that role in the preseason would be a questionable use of a major investment.
– McFadden had a much better practice catching the ball out of backfield than he did in the earlier session, when Kiffin expressed concern over his “hand placement.” Guess he figured out they had to be somewhere near the ball.
– Other players returning kickoffs were cornerback Chris Johnson, wide receiver Jonathan Holland and safety Tyvon Branch, who Kiffin said earlier in the day is the current leader for that role.
– Rookie wide receiver Chaz Schilens was taken to task by receivers coach James Lofton for not coming back hard enough to catch a pass.
– The offense spent one session running plays apart from the defense, meaning the opposing “defense” consisted of second- and third-line offensive players. McFadden, fortunately, looked to be a rock when it came to pass blocking against blitzing Ivy League quarterback Jeff Otis.
If the 49ers play their second-line offense as a defense against Oakland, the Raiders look to be in business.
– Johnnie Lee Higgins would seem to have a roster edge since he is the leader to be the punt return specialist, but in terms of catching the ball and making plays as a receiver, Holland appears to be staying right with him or even outplaying him.
– Nnamdi Asomugha perfectly diagnosed a JaMarcus Russell slant pass in a 7-on-7 drill, jumped the route and ran for a would-be touchdown.
– Linebackers Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard are so adept at pass coverage that the defense they refer to as the “dime” _ which in most cases utilizes one linebacker and six defensive backs _ has both men on the field. It is distinguished from the nickel by the positioning of the backs.
– Wide receiver Todd Watkins had one drop of a Russell pass over the middle and later a juggle which he managed to retrieve, but ended practice on a strong note, catching a deep out from Marques Tuiasosopo with an impressive leap and grab as three horns sounded to end the session.
– Following Watkins’ grab, the team met in the center of the field, but Kiffin dispatched Janikowski to attempt a 57-yard field goal. Usually in those instances, something is on the line _ extended curfew, reduced meeting time, etc.
Janikowski, who had nailed a pair of 43-yard kicks in an end-of-game drill earlier in practice, this time missed wide right.
– The Raiders practice once Monday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.