Quick hits from Wednesday’s interview sessions and post-practice press briefing from coach Tom Cable:
– A second consecutive poor game from free safety Michael Huff has put his status as an unquestioned starter in peril five games into the season.
“We’re going to create some competition for Michael and give Hiram Eugene an opportunity to go out and press him a little bit, and see if we can’t bring the best out of either one of those guys,” Cable said.
Eugene started five games in place of a struggling Stuart Schweigert at free safety last season while Huff was the strong safety. He had some of the same problems Schweigert did in terms of open-field tackling.
`The main thing is that we’re going to try to do a little competition thing as far as the free safety thing,” Eugene said. “Just kind of shake things up a little bit and see how it works. I’m just grateful for the opportunity for whatever they decide to go, as far as if I start, the playing time, it doesn’t even matter.
“I’m going to prepare like I prepare every week, like I’m going to play anyway, or start. I’m pretty sure that Mike is going to do the same.”
Eugene said he learned from his five-game trial run last season.
“Well, my main thing was angling, taking the angles on the tackles and bringing the guy down in the open field,” Eugene said. “That’s what I tried to improve on the most because I know that was my (weakness).”
Huff has started all 37 games since being the No. 7 overall pick of the 2006 draft out of Texas in 2006. He has one interception and one forced fumble. Huff was as invisible in the locker room Wednesday as he has been on the field of late.
– Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha can’t count on one hand the number of passes headed his way this season.
But he can do it with one hand and one additional finger.
Asomugha recounted one pass thrown at him in each game, with the exception of the Chiefs game, when there was two. Every week he talks himself into believing it will be the game where teams will come after him, and every week he’s wrong.
He writes all of it down in a spiral bound notebook he showed to reporters Wednesday.
“Don’t get lazy because they’re not throwing at you,” Asomugha wrote in his book, followed by reminders of what can happen if he happens to let his guard down for even a single play.
The Raiders have begun putting in Asomugha at safety in certain formations, as they used to do with Charles Woodson, hoping to get him some opportunities at interceptions. Asomugha had his breakout year with eight interceptions in 2006 and saw only 35 passes his way all last season, picking off one.
“Nam is a special guy,” Cable said. “He accepts that that’s the way it’s going to be but the minute people talk it up too much, all of a sudden someone says, ‘We’ll take that challenge. We’ll come after you.’ At some point it’s going to happen so you want to make sure he stays alert and stays focused on what he’s doing.”
Jets coach Eric Mangini said the low total of passes headed Asomugha’s way is a sign of respect, and that the reasons for leaving him alone are twofold _ one, because Asomugha is that good; and two, when quarterbacks do look his way, the receiver is usually covered and they go somewher else.
– No boot, no limits for running back Darren McFadden. His role Sunday against the Jets should be more like the Raiders envisioned in training camp.
“That was kind of the plan. That’s what we worked on in OTA, that’s what we worked on in fall camp so you want to continue to progress with that,” Cable said. “It has tied our hands a little bit but it’s nice to be getting him healthy so we can continue to get back on track that way.”
The Miami Dolphins, in particular, have had success using running back Ronnie Brown in the “Wildcat” formation as a shotgun quarterback who runs the option. The quarterbacks coach at Miami is David Lee, who installed it at Arkansas last year as the offensive coordinator for McFadden.
“When I was looking at it, I know where it was started, so it’s something you look at, you wish you were healthy so you can go out there and do the same thing,” McFadden said.
– Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell has avoided opportunities to run the ball but said he may be more daring in future games.
“If I time comes for me to run, I will,” Russell said. “Some of the times late in the game, I was trying to make a pass on the run. If it’s that time where I”ve got to keep the chains moving by myself while running, then I will.”
– Jets quarterback Brett Favre owned the Raiders as a member of the Green Bay Packers, with a 4-0 record a 61.7 completion percentage (79-for-128) for 1,188 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions.
His last game in Oakland was the night after his father died suddenly in 2003, and he passes for 311 yards in the first half alone en route to a 22-for-30, 399-yard, 4-touchdown performance in a 41-7 win. When the Packers crushed the Raiders last year, Favre was 15-for-23 for 266 yards, two touchdowns and no picks.
Still, there’s the other side of Favre _ the one who occasionally delivers the turnover _ that the Raiders would love to see.
“He pulls it out of his hat but he also gives you a chance to make plays,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “Brett’s the kind of guy, he’s got nothing to lose. He’s not playing for Pro Bowls, he’s not playing for money, he’s just out there having fun and those are the scariest guys. He can go out there any time, throw a pick to the house or throw a 60-yard bomb so he’s a guy we definitely got to keep contained.”
– Fullback Oren O’Neal was in the locker room on crutches and said his rehab is coming along fine. He said he was surprised to read Lane Kiffin’s comments after the surgery that it was a career-threatening injury.
“I talked to (team Doctor) King and didn’t say anything like that,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal said he hopes to be ready by training camp.
– Running back Justin Fargas was on board with the idea of Tim Brown joining the front office. Brown floated the idea Tuesday on Sacramento radio station KTHL (1140-AM).
“A guy like Tim Brown, with his experience, not just as a football player, but as a Raider and a member of this organization, that would be very valuable to us as players. His knowledge as a player and how things work here, I’m sure it would help.
“I don’t think we’re too far off. It’s just a matter of coming together as a team and getting things done on the field. There are a lot of distractions and different things around here but, overall, as a team, we do a good job of trying to focus on what we can control, focus on our work, because there are so many things that go around, after awhile you kind get numb to it, so you just have to focus on your work. I’m biased. I’d love to see Tim Brown around here a little bit more, interacting with us, because of the type of player he was and the type of person he is.”
– Defensive end Derrick Burgess (strained triceps) was the lone player who did not practice. Cable said Burgess is showing progress in his rehab and said the Raiders would know in a day or two if Sunday was a possibility.
Asomugha (elbow) and linebacker Isaiah Ekejiuba (shoulder) were limited, but Cable said both should play. Guard Robert Gallery and tight end Zach Miller were limited with what Cable called “bruises” but netiher was on the official injury report submitted to the NFL.