Receivers still not catching on

Quick hits from Raiders practice Wednesday:

— After watching as footballs continue to litter the ground after glancing only temporarily off the hands of intended receivers, Lane Kiffin was asked whether the challenge he issued to his receivers to improve their play had been met.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it,” Kiffin said. “I don’t how many (drops) today, probably seven, and a number of them with our frontline guys. So we’ll see. We’ll come out here tomorrow and the plan is for these guys to play a lot in the game and get some shots to produce.”

Running back Justin Fargas dropped a pair of easy swing pass opportunities from Russell. Russell moved on a reverse roll to his left and found Drew Carter, only to have the pass dropped.

Todd Watkins, one of the most reliable receivers in camp, mishandled an easy opportunity on a medium depth pass over the middle.

During one goal line drill, Javon Walker tried to make a difficult catch near the goal line but was unable to come up with it, a play that happened right in front of Al Davis, who was seated in a golf cart watching practice.

Walker gave Davis a quick wave, but got nothing in return. (The two talked after practice).

Moments later, Walker lined up in the left slot, only to be repositioned by Ronald Curry, who sent him to the other side of the field. Walker was able redeem himself in some measure by catching a short pass in the end zone in front of Darrick Brown, in the same corner where Davis was still watching.

Kiffin was asked if the dropped passes can be contageous.

“Definitely I think it can. I think it’s like anything, it can affect people around you no matter what it is,” Kiffin said. “Then all of a sudden that confidence in your group, one of your guys starts to lose it and it can start affecting guys if you don’t have an extremely confident group that’s done it for a long time.”

— Tight ends Zach Miller and John Madsen continued to secure the ball consistently, and were joined in that regard Wednesday by Tony Stewart, who returned from a toe injury.

— When the Raiders finally struck with a deep pass, it came from the unlikely combination of Marques Tuiasosopo to Drisan James on a 30-plus yard corner route. James appeared to catch the ball on a dive despite tight coverage from Nnamdi Asomugha and Michael Huff.


Senior executive John Herrera, standing at the goal line, said yes.

Mark Davis, son of the Raiders owner, said no.

— Russell had a good sequence during a third-down drill in a team format from varying distances. He opened with a short completion to Miller which was short ot the first down, but followed with a first down strike to the right sideline to Chaz Schilens, a successful conversion on a slant pass to Walker, a third-and-4 conversion to Madsen and a third-and-9 conversion to Ronald Curry before Carter’s drop of a deep pass.

— More good work from Russell in a red zone drill _ a 22-yard TD strike to Carter over Brown and consecutive touchdown passes to Madsen and Stewart.

— The Raiders are working with Russell to get rid of the ball when things don’t open up, a problem which dogged Walter in the Art Shell-Tom Walsh era where the coaching staff held to the archaic strategy of waiting until a receiver broke free _ regardless of the length of time.

Kiffin conceded the coaches can talk all the want, but the real learning would only come on game day.

“It’s one of the hardest things that you do because it only happens on game day,” Kiffin said. “He doesn’t get hit in practice. That’s why veteran guys are better than young guys. That’s why when you have a rookie you have to be careful with what you do, in my opinion.

“Those things come with experience from the game. That’s the only way you can get it. You can’t do it in practice. You can say as much as you want: ‘Ball gone, ball gone’ when it’s got to be gone but it’s not the same as getting hit in the back of the head when you hold onto it too long. ”

“That’s why we’re playing him a lot in the preseason. That’s why we’re also at times going to be conservative with him.”

— Russell made a nice read on a Stanford Routt blitz, hitting Carter for a gain in the area Routt vacated to rush the passer.

— Louis Rankin broke into the clear on one run, with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan taking strong safety Gibril Wilson to task.

“That’s your fit, Gibril. Close that (bleeping) fit, Gibril,” Ryan said.

— Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly was called for offsides and proceeded to take another of his “laps” around the field. It took Kelly 1:40 to take approximately three-quarters of a lap at a walk-jog pace.

“That was disappointing because it was third down and it wasn’t even a hard count,” Kiffin said.

Kalimba Edwards was also sent running, and by comparison looked like Usain Bolt.

— Players who Kiffin ruled out for the Arizona game Saturday night were cornerback John Bowie (knee), linebacker Grant Irons (back), wide receiver Arman Shelds (knee) and kickers Shane Lechler (quad) and Sebastian Janikowski (hamstring).

Safety Hiram Eugene (hip) did not practice but Kiffin was not ready to rule him out.

Kiffin said if Saturday were a regular-season game, Lechler probably would not be ready to kick but there was a possibility Janikowski would be ready. The Raiders have their first cutdown Tuesday and may have to keep both Aaron Elling and Glenn Pakulak if Lechler and Janikowski aren’t ready to resume practice or kick against Seattle in the preseason finale.

— With Davis in attendance for the first time at a practice session in Alameda, the session lasted more than two hours, although it was scheduled to be a more brief practice than Tuesday.

“Everything that didn’t go right we repeated, we didn’t let anything go by, (we) really kept ‘em out here for a long time and pushed ‘em through it,” Kiffin said. “It was good to see their reaction to it, and guys worked extremely hard.”

— Thanks to those who participated in the weekly on-line chat. We’ll probably have to adjust the time and later the day of the chat, as noon is running into practice and interview time and Wednesday during the regular season is the busiest day of the week with interview sessions and conference calls with opposing teams.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer