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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.

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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  • La Milicia Negra

    DBW..

    I cant post WWW and HTTP…

    but the reason why i broke up hte link with *** is then it won’t be shown in search engines.. and the less you knows about P2P tv, the better..

    I would hate to lose this, if I did i would have reduced my games with 30… or so

  • http://raiders.com 408RAIDER

    hispanics are from spain

    most here in US are latino’s from latin America
    La Milicia Negra Says:
    August 15th, 2008 at 6:30 am
    jim

    you come and talk racism, how dare you? you are the second worst country, regarding racism, south Africa is the leader, your politicians talk smack about immigrants they say embarrassing things bout Hispanics and horrific things about musl1ms..

    my 2 cents…..:P

  • DirtyBathWater

    Oh crap thanks man

  • DirtyBathWater

    The less I know about it the better? Hell man I wanna learn more I hate missing my fav team man I gotta get donw on that, thanks for the info bro!

  • http://raidersdaily.com/countdown.aspx RaiderMight

    Time for a real test! Show me something! Goooo RAIDERS!

    0 days, 9 hours, 22 minutes, and 21 seconds left until the Oakland Raiders visits the Tennesse Titans.

  • La Milicia Negra

    RaiderMight…

    So true.. I have hight hopes about our D, hope they only let them run 250 yds… that would be a great sign..

  • DirtyBathWater

    Yeah I got ya on that one bro….dnt wanna mess up a good thing, thanks again for helping me out

  • http://raiders.com 408RAIDER

    LMN

    Disagree bro! Im chicano we dont like being called hispanic but whatever.. My children just call themselfs Americans!! :P

  • La Milicia Negra

    DBW..

    no worries.. brethren of the NATION looks after each other =)

  • http://raidersdaily.com/countdown.aspx RaiderMight

    Speaking of D. Has anyone played the new Madden 09? Our D is great in it. :) Does a great job at stopping the run and pass. Glad to see someone has rated our D pretty high.

  • http://raiders.com 408RAIDER

    Hells Bells!

    The Oline will be tested tonight men! They better man up or Jamarcus is get hit alot! Im hopeing to see a broken play go for a long TD!! Thats what Jamarcus is supposed to be great @ . well I for 1 am ready to see that isht!!!

  • http://raidersdaily.com/countdown.aspx RaiderMight

    408, I hate being called Hispanic as well. I prefer “hey you” to it. It’s not an insult, but it’s not a term that we have given ourselves. It’s been mainly given to US by Americans.

    No one else around the calls anyone hispanic. The definition from Wiki is very accurate:
    ————–
    Hispanic (Spanish: hispano, hispánico; Portuguese: hispânico; Latin: Hispānus, adjective from Hispānia, the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula) is a term that historically denoted relation to the ancient Hispania (geographically coinciding with the Iberian peninsula; modern day Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar) and/or to its pre-Roman peoples.

    The term is now confined to refer to the culture and people of Spain plus the Spanish-speaking countries of Hispanic America. Additionally, countries or regions with a historical legacy from Spain, including the Southwestern United States and Florida; the African nations of Equatorial Guinea, Western Sahara and the Northern coastal region of Morocco; the Asia-Pacific nations of the Philippines, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands; may be considered to be a part of the Hispanosphere.
    ————–

    The fact that Spain ruled portions of countries like Mexico, Philipines, etc are not things they want referenced in their description of their culture. This is the same reason no one calls a Philipino person Hispanic.

  • http://raidersdaily.com/countdown.aspx RaiderMight

    Time to get ready for work. Have a good one folks.

  • http://raiders.com 408RAIDER
  • http://raiders.com 408RAIDER

    BP LMN is far from racist IMO!!

  • http://none Bill Pickel

    LMN, Why don’t you do us all a favor and try to stick to Raider football. It’s GAMEDAY.

    Go Raiders.

  • La Milicia Negra

    is Keith Saunders Al saunders kid?

  • http://raiders.com 408RAIDER

    Enough of that.. Do ya think Jamarcus will survive the first quarter!! Kwami better have his game face on today

  • La Milicia Negra

    hmm, on earth/in the world.. even..

  • http://raiders.com 408RAIDER

    is it 5:00 PST yet???

  • La Milicia Negra

    —”Arizona Republic’s Kent Somers believes the decision to start Kurt Warner Saturday night might be an indication that there is, in fact, a quarterback competition in Arizona. Leinart remains the nominal starter, but there is belief that Saturday’s game is a way of keeping him motivated. Warner has said all along that he’s been told the job is open to competition, while at the same time coach Ken Whisenhunt has been publicly calling it Leinart’s job. Whisenhunt may believe he has found a way to both appease Warner and motivate Leinart, but indications are that it remains Leinart’s job to lose.”—

    Man each time I read some news about Leinert, I get this grin, I’m so glad he isn’t and never will be a raider..

  • La Milicia Negra

    hmm, the US olympic soccer player Benny Feilhaber just signed with a Danish Soccer club.. I don’t think he’ll become a starter during this half-season.. but maybe next, hope so.. =)

  • http://raiders.com 408RAIDER

    so Jerry isnt going to the game! Hey you cheep b@stards get Jerry a ticket

  • Raider4life

    408—Last I heard Kwame isn’t gonna play tonight.

  • Exlaraiderseasonticketholder

    Off the Raiders subject but I thought everyone could get a kick of what powers Michael Phelps.
    Phelps’ daily diet, from the London Times:

    • Breakfast: Three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise. Two cups of coffee. One five-egg omelette. One bowl of grits. Three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar. Three chocolate-chip pancakes.

    • Lunch: One pound of pasta. Two large ham and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise on white bread, plus 1,000 calories of energy drinks.

    • Dinner: One pound of pasta, an entire pizza and even more energy drinks.

    Estimated calories: 12,000. Gaseous index: High. All that’s missing are the little chocolate donuts of champions.

  • http://raiders.com 408RAIDER

    4life well thats just great now Jamarcus is realy gonna get killed!! Altho Kwami did pratice Wednesday night! So I think hell play!!

  • M

    LMN,

    god afton. gar det bra med degsjalv?

    always enjoy a DK perspective hereabouts.

  • Andrews mom

    JR will do fine. But Andrew is gonna smoke the termite backfield after lighting it up.
    Andrew has been watching game film from the greatest scrambler of all time, Fran Tarkenton.

  • Raider4life

    408—As I said before I will take Kwame over BSims anytime. He has been getting better in practice and if he plays tonight JaMarcus will be okay. If not then super Mario needs to keep Vanden Bosch off JaMarcus.

  • Andrews mom

    Speaking of scrambling, Vince Young is in trouble and doesnt know it yet. This Raider team is about smash mouth football. I suspect VY will leave the game earlier then expected after getting knocked the f out!!

  • Andrews mom

    Sounds like everyones saying LT is trouble so get JR out early and let the crash test dummy play.
    Andrew will show everyone tonight what he is made of.

    First three drives = three straight touchdowns.

  • La Milicia Negra

    exLA..

    i read that last day, 12K thats something =)

  • Raider4life

    AW will be playing head to head against his dad Kerry Collins. AW got his feet from him along with those cement shoes.

  • La Milicia Negra

    M..

    yup, thanks for asking, and thanks for your objectivity..

  • La Milicia Negra

    exla..

    if it just were about the calories, he could eat at McD 3 times a day, but I guess that wouldn’t give much metal.. =)

  • Raider4life

    Any word on how long Fisher will play VY? Can’t wait to see AW’s dad rolling on the ground looking for his heart which has been missing for the past 13 years.

  • Quagmire’d

    Andrew’s mom, you sound overly optimistic about tonight’s PRE-SEASON game…what gives?

  • Raider4life

    Quag—AW’s Mom cares because this will be the only time he gets to play and to see his dad KC.

  • M

    I’m interested to watch the two fastest ex-collegian RBs perform. Ever since Blackholepriest began touting C. Johnson five months ago I’ve wanted to see him in action. And, as I did not see the Whiner game, haven’t seen McDaddy do his thing yet.

    Quagmire’d,

    Andrews Mom is just hoping for her son to shine his way into a larger contract (or get pummeled into smithereens so as to kick in that Llyod’s of London policy). Either way she’ll get better digs. :)

  • La Milicia Negra

    # Raider4life Says:
    August 15th, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Any word on how long Fisher will play VY? Can’t wait to see AW’s dad rolling on the ground looking for his heart which has been missing for the past 13 years.
    ____________________________________________

    what do you mean by that? who is AW’s Dad? and why has his heart been missing for 13 years ?

  • La Milicia Negra

    (or get pummeled into smithereens so as to kick in that Llyod’s of London policy)

    gahahaha, good one, though I don’t think most here knows what you are talking about, if they do, thanks titanic =)

  • M

    “Lloyd’s”…apologies

  • Favre=Picks

    Ok, I don’t think I am ever going to take the time to read the comments that follow Jerry Mac’s blogs ever again. What I just read here ran the gamut from homosexual dating sites to a debate about Denmark or something. You people need to get a grip.

  • Mistabrown

    666, get off your knees & quit drinking BHP’s koolaid.

    FYI…Kiffin doesn’t sandbag he tells it like it is.

  • M

    Gosh Favre=Picks, whatsoever shall we do without you?!?

  • http://none FIRE KIFFIN

    Mista, get off your knees & quit drinking Kiffin’s koolaid.

    FYI…Kiffin doesn’t sandbag he makes EXCUSES.

    Just Win Baby.

  • Voldemort

    I can’t wait for tonight. It is going to tell us a lot more about our team than the pushover 49ers did.

  • M

    I just wish that SoulPatrol2 would stop givin’ so much lovin’ to RR, then perhaps we could get a real DC. :)

  • Exlaraiderseasonticketholder

    January 19, 2003, Raiders beat the Titans to go to the Super Bowl:
    http://www.raiderslinks.com/champ02.htm

  • Raider4life

    Fire Kiffin?? Why? I suppose you’d rather have pizza face Norv back. That dude was a flat out liar from day one. Said he and his brother use to go to Raider games as kids. Turned out they went to Whiner games. Kiffin is the best thing to happen to this organization since Gruden. What excuses you talkin bout?