By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Thursday, September 11th, 2008 at 4:37 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Quick hits from Thursday’s practice and session with coach Lane Kiffin, which preceded Rob Ryan’s press briefing:
– If Kwame Harris doesn’t recover sufficiently in the next two days, Mario Henderson will be protecting the blind side of JaMarcus Russell in what could be the NFL’s toughest road venue.
Henderson took all the reps at left tackle for the second straight day as Harris sat out with a knee injury sustained against Denver.
Kiffin said Henderson’s presence would be taken into account with regard to play calling.
“Part of that depends on how the game’s going. Obviously, the opening script, we will take that into account, Mario’s first time playing and being on the road,” Kiffin said. “We’d take that into account but then we’ll see the flow of the game and see how it’s going.”
Two of the worst beatings I’ve ever seen a left tackle take were at Arrowhead _ Harry Boatswain of the 49ers in the Joe Montana-Steve Young game in 1993 and Pat Harlow of the Raiders in 1998. Of course, both of those came against the late Derrick Thomas, who was virtually unblockable at home.
– Kiffin, who has been blunt regarding Henderson’s lack of progress in the past, sounded cautiously optimistic should he have to start.
“Mario’s had a good week of practice. Over the last two days, has been able to get a lot of reps with the 1s with Kwame being out,” Kiffin said. “If he has to go, I’m sure Mario will go in there and do well and last year we went in there with Paul (McQuistan) playing tackle and were able to move the ball and came out with a win. Our expectation will be the same if Mario’s playing.”
– Derrick Burgess (shoulder) and Gibril Wilson (elbow) did not practice. Kiffin said he anticipated both practicing tomorrow. Harris and Burgess both went out to practice in pads, but didn’t end up practicing.
– Javon Walker practiced for the second straight day, but he may not be 100 percent and Kiffin wasn’t sure he would start if he played.
“There’s still something there a little bit,” Kiffin said. “I don’t know that I would sya he has th ebest burst that he’s had since he’s been here but he looks like he’s ready to play.”
If Walker doesn’t start, Ashley Lelie will open at split end with Ronald Curry at flanker.
– After not getting a run from scrimmage or a pass reception in the opener, Michael Bush may get his first regular-season touch Sunday.
“There were certain plays we had ready for Michael (against Denver),” Kiffin said. “One play that we did call was a pass play where we were trying to get him open in the flat and they had him covered and JaMarcus had to come back on the goal line back to his left to Ashley. Michael has some plays in the gameplan we’ll look to get the ball to him.”
No passing the buck
You’d like to think Raiders defenders will reward Rob Ryan for his loyalty by erasing the stench of the Denver loss.
Before Ryan came to the Raiders, it was a commonplace for defenders to roll their eyes and point fingers when things didn’t go well. It hasn’t happened on Ryan’s watch, even during the worst of times, and the defensive coordinator’s meeting with the press Thursday was a prime example why.
In contrast to Kiffin, Ryan absolutely will not roast one of his own players in public. He may be all over them in the meeting room or on the practice field, but when it comes to addressing the media, he steps up and takes the blame.
There were two reasons he met with the press Thursday _ to shield his players as much as possible from the Denver debacle while preparing for what he hopes is a winning effort against the Chiefs, and to refute Kiffin’s notion the previous day regarding the involvement of Al Davis in the weekly schemes.
The second part was a tricky tightrope, because Kiffin has made repeated references to Davis’ defensive involvement. Ryan had to stick up for himself while at the same time not ruffling the chain of command, and he did it forcefully and respectfully with regard to both the media and the head coach.
Blitzing has long been the cure-all for armchair defensive coordinators. As pointed out in yesterday’s blog, according to the statistical service Stats, LLC, opponents were 9-for-12 with two touchdown passes against Raiders blitzes on third down last year.
Ryan said the Raiders sent a blitz into a max-protection against Denver and paid for it by giving up a big play.
Without ever pulling Kiffin into the fray, Ryan said the three worst plays the defense had against Denver were in a “Tampa 2,” the defense run by Monte Kiffin with the Bucs and Tony Dungy in Indianapolis.
If the Raiders get things right against Kansas City and beyond, expect Ryan’s role to reverse. He’ll recede to the background and let the players take the credit.