By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Friday, May 8th, 2009 at 7:17 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Some highlights from Friday’s second minicamp practice:
– The final tally from two practice sessions over four hours at the Raiders’ minicamp _ 10 center snap fumbles. Bruce Gradkowski led the way with five, Jeff Garcia and four, and JaMarcus Russell, not to be left out, had the grand finale in the second session.
John Wade and Chris Morris were both centers of attention, and not the kind they wanted.
They might want to address that in the next quarterback school.
– The passing game continued to be spotty. Russell, who Cable complimented after the first session, saying he “lit it up” on some routes, hit Chaz Schilens in a narrow window between Jon Alston and Tyvon Branch for a 20-plus yard gain _ his best pass of the second practice.
Other than that, the majority of his completions were on checkdowns to running backs, and numerous short throws over the middle to tight ends, Tony Stewart in particular.
Russell underthrew Darrius Heyward-Bey on a deep sideline pass, with the rookie pushing off of Jason Horton attempting to get open and then having the ball glance off both arms.
Russell overthrew Schilens on a deep sideline pass to his right, and threw behind Heyward-Bey on an out pattern which was nearly intercepted by Chris Johnson. He threw behind Brandon Myers on a reverse roll, a ball which bounced off Tyvon Branch.
One of his only hookups with a wide receiver other than the big play to Schilens was a 15-yard pass to an open Louis Murphy over the middle.
– Schilens was probably the Raiders most impressive receiver through both sessions, but did have a drop in the end zone after getting open between Michael Huff and Horton on a pass from Gradkowski.
– Stanford Routt broke up a pass from Gradkowski intended for Darrius Heyward-Bey along the sideline, spied two reporters and noted, “That’s 4.27, not 4.30,” referring to his 40-yard dash time at the NFL scouting combine and the one posted by Heyward-Bey this year.
– Garcia, who is still getting immersed into the offense and personnel, wasn’t particularly sharp but had two nice throws of note. On one, he made a reverse pivot under pressure, went back toward the pocket, then lofted a touch pass no more than a few yards downfield that caught Justin Fargas on a dead run for a big gain on a spontaneous play.
On a dropback pass, Garcia threw a low liner some 20-plus yard downfield with Todd Watkins catching it on a dive.
– The Raiders second-team defense in the second session lined up with Matt Shaughnessy at right end, Terdell Sands and William Joseph at tackles and Greyson Gunheim at right end. Ricky Brown was the middle linebacker, flanked by David Nixon on the weak side and Slade Norris on the strong sdie. Justin Miller and Routt were the corners, with Mike Mitchell at strong safety and Huff at free safety.
– Defensive end Derrick Burgess watched (stomach flu) watched the second practice with a towel draped over his head, with Zach Miller (sports hernia), Javon Walker (knee), Arman Shields (knee), Samson Satele (shoulder) and Oren O’Neal again missing practice. Also sitting it out were left guard Robert Gallery and backup guard Paul McQuistan for undisclosed reasons.
Murphy who didn’t complete the first practice because of cramps, finished the second session with no problems.
Mark Wilson lined up with the first team at left guard in place of Gallery.
– Working with the athletic training staff on the sideline, O’Neal was making hard cuts and running rope drills with no signs of a limp or pain.
– Heyward-Bey had another one of those “you’re not in college anymore” moments at the beginning of the second practice. Joining the return specialists as Shane Lechler got some work, Heyward-Bey settled under a booming kick by the Pro Bowler, and was startled to to see it fall about five yards from where he was standing.
Rookie free agent Nick Miller had similar issues, with the ball taking a sideways bounce and hitting Heyward-Bey.
– Running plays continued to be run with quickness and apparent precision, although it would take a coach to truly determine the success of the play in a non-contact format.
“We have instructed the defense, once they get in and through it, let them go,” Cable said. “What I want to see is, is there a seam in there? Are the helmets in the right place? Defensively, it’s the same thing, are our helmets in the right place?
While Neal was the big-name acquisition Friday, former Pittsburgh Steeler Gary Russell made some nice runs and has value because Cable believes he can play both halfback and fullback.
Russell, 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, scored the first touchdown in Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl win over Arizona on a 1-yard run. He was released in a salary cap move and then later released by Cincinnati on April 27 after being claimed off waivers.
“We want to make sure we have enough legs, enough freshness in that group, but you want to bring in good players,” Cable said. “You look at a guy like Russell who scored the first touchdown in the Super Bowl and the nice thing about Gary is that he could probably do both. He’s a bigger guy. He could probably play some fullback or some tailback.”
– The Raiders will practice Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 4:10 p.m.
– Without addressing his predecessor directly, Cable refuted the notion by Lane Kiffin that fullback Lorenzo Neal was not a match for a zone blocking scheme.
“I think he definitely fits the scheme. The experience he brings can help mold those young fullbacks in there. That guy has proven over time, he probably can run any run scheme in the NFL. Cause he’s been in them all, and been very good. I’m not sure there’s been as good a lead blocker in football maybe in the last 15, 20 years as that guy. And it’s been documented by a lot of people. So I’m glad he’s on our team, I’m glad we got him, and he definitely fits.”
– Mario Henderson and Cornell Green opened as the starting tackles because that’s where they ended the season last year, Cable said during his afternoon press briefing. It’s merely a starting point.
– ESPN is reporting the Raiders have reached agreement with wide receiver Samie Parker on a contract. Javon Walker is out rehabbing from a minor knee surgery the team only recently found out about, and Arman Shields is still not healthy after spending all of last season on I.R. because of a knee injury.