A few highlights and notes from Friday’s minicamp practice before Tom Cable addresses the press at 2 p.m.:
– Solid first practice from first-round draft pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, although he was taken to school on one route by cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Asomugha said later Heyward-Bey had telegraphed the play with his eyes. Heyward-Bey said he looked forward to more chances to compete against the best.
Heyward-Bey looked smooth and natural catching the ball in drills against no defense (thankfully). His best play in a team session came on a deep sideline route in which he adjusted under an underthrown pass from Bruce Gradkowski and hauled it in some 40 yards downfield over Darrick Brown.
It was the kind of play a football player makes, but a sprinter doesn’t.
– The Day 1 starting offensive line for the Raiders: Mario Henderson at left tackle, Robert Gallery at left guard, John Wade at center, Cooper Carlisle at right guard, Cornell Green at right tackle and Tony Stewart at tight end.
The backfield and receivers on the first snaps were Chaz Schilens and Heyward-Bey at wide receiver, JaMarcus Russell at quarterback, Darren McFadden at running back and Luke Lawton at fullback.
– The second team offensive line was Khalif Barnes at left tackle, Mark Wilson at left guard, Chris Morris at center, Marcus Johnson at right guard and Erik Pears at right tackle.
– The offense, with passing game coordinator Ted Tollner, didn’t look much different than it did in the early days last year, although keep in mind the Raiders aren’t layering in everything on Day 1.
Lots of rolls and reverse rolls, lots of short passes over the middle to tight ends. Not much downfield. Receivers for the most part were sure-handed, although Stewart had an outright drop.
– Russell did little of consequence in team sessions in the passing game, mostly throwing short and playing it safe. His first medium-range throw went high and way outside toward rookie Louis Murphy, with Tollner crediting the rookie for his route and telling him the pass was offline.
On the seven-on-seven play in which Asomugha read Heyward-Bey and broke up a pass, Russell’s ensuing pass misfired to Johnnie Lee Higgins in the deep middle, with Stanford Routt defending.
Russell did have a nice touch on a sideline throw to Jonathan Holland some 20 yards downfield.
– Snapshot of backup quarterback Jeff Garcia _ can’t execute a deep range out pattern on one throw, then hits McFadden out of the backfield with a feathery touch on a swing pass on the next.
– Friday’s practice saw linebacker Ricky Brown, who had offseason sports hernia surgery, getting his snaps at middle linebacker rather than strong side linebacker.
– Jon Alston got reps with the starters at strong sidelinebacker, along with Kirk Morrison in the middle and Thomas Howard on the weak side. The starting cornerbacks were Nnamdi Asomugha and Chris Johnson, with Hiram Eugene and Tyvon Branch at safety.
With Derrick Burgess out, Trevor Scott was at left end, with Tommy Kelly and Gerard Warren inside and Jay Richardson on the right.
– Warren deflected a Gradkowski pass which was intercepted by Howard, with a defender chirping about the “small-ass quarterback.”
– Plenty of nice running plays by McFadden, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush, all getting relatively equal work, against defenders that aren’t allowed to hit or tackle.
– Draft pick Stryker Sulak of Missouri was playing with his hand down as a defensive end on both sides, but there could be plays in which he eventually plays as a linebacker, he said. Slade Norris worked as a strong sidelinebacker with non-starting units.
– Andrew Walter got little to no work in team sessions behind Russell, Garcia and Gradkowski.
– No sign of the “other” Chris Johnson, the rookie free agent wide receiver who was reported as signed by the Tennessean. Johnson, the cornerback whose signing was never announced, was of course on the field and playing.
More to come later after Tom Cable’s press briefing and lunch break . . .