By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, May 9th, 2009 at 1:52 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Highlights from Saturday morning’s minicamp session:
– The good news was only one fumbled center snap between Jeff Garcia and Chris Morris at 11:05 a.m.
As for the rest of the session, it continued to look like football in May for the Raiders passing game _ not very good, but given the time of year, still a few months shy of panic in the streets.
– Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey at one point dropped three consecutive passes, with Garcia lecturing him on “short-term memory and putting the mistakes out of his mind.
Heyward-Bey was being worked on by trainers, pointing to his right hamstring for a possible cramp, but later returned to the field.
– Passing game coordinator Ted Tollner continued to lecture the wide receivers as a group about their precision in route running. At one point, Johnnie Lee Higgins cut a route short but still managed to reach behind him for a juggling catch.
“No, no, no,” Tollner said. “Helluva catch, though Jon. Don’t cut them short.”
– The first scuffle of camp broke out between Morris and Isaiah Ekejiuba, and it was so uninspired it was almost not worth mentioning.
– JaMarcus Russell, continuing to get pretty much equal work along with Garcia and Bruce Gradkowski, spent most of the session throwing too high, too far and too shallow, although to be fair, it’s hard to determine if receivers are always in the right places.
It’s also possible Russell is simply trying to be too fine in terms of placement rather than just letting the ball go, much like a pitcher who continually falls behind in the count because he’s shooting for the corners.
Russell conceded many of his passes, particularly later in the session, needed some work and that he was happy with his progress.
– One ill-advised pass lofted toward tight end Chris O’Neill resulted in a collision with Darrick Brown in which Brown was led off the field. O’Neal wound up taking a knee once he got back to his position group to recuperate.
– Gradkowski continued to get a lot of work while Andrew Walter was a spectator. Seeing Gradkowski short-hop receivers on dig routes 15 to 18 yard downfield with a clear window, you wonder if he’s got he arm for some of the throws in the offense.
– On at least two occasions, linemen at the point of attack commited violations, then simply went back to their side of the line, the ball was snapped, and the play went on as if nothing happened. It happened on offense with Khalif Barnes at left tackle, and on defense when Tommy Kelly jumped early, made contact, then went back to his spot.
Normally, when such penalties occur, the teams are brought back to the huddle or start the play over, recognizing that an error had been made. Offenders even ran laps last year.
– Admittedly against an offensive line that can’t cut block or fully engage, Kelly appears to be getting consistent penetration at tackle. Terdell Sands also appears to be in better condition.
– Wide receiver Javon Walker discussed his decision to have surgery, said he played in pain all of last season and was at about 65 percent effieciency. He looks forward to competing pain-free and praised the current group of wide receivers. More to come on this topic later . . .
– Will also have more from Garcia regarding his impressions of Russell and his designated role as mentor. Garcia let fly a choice expletive on a few occasions when his passes misfired. He did most of his best work on the move, catching running backs in stride after scrambling then moving up in the pocket.
– With Walker and Arman Shields (knee) still out, former Raiders practice squad player Drisan James and Samie Parker were brought in on a tryout basis, team executive John Herrera said.
– Some interesting defensive looks _ John Bowie coming on a corner blitz with Hiram Eugene sliding over to take the receiver, Nnamdi Asomugha coming on a corner blitz, and Thomas Howard coming on a blitz.
A bold defensive strategy, or simply giving the offense work against a blitz?
The Raiders will never tell.
– Defensive end Derrick Burgess remained out of practice with towels draped over his head and around his shoulders.
– Left guard Robert Gallery, who missed the evening session Friday, started practice at left guard but did not finish. His left calf is wrapped in an elastic brace.
– Linebacker Ricky Brown, the strongside starter last year who played middle linebacker in both practices Friday, sat out Saturday’s first session. Brown had offseason surgery for a sports hernia.
–After O’Neill went to the ground on a pass pattern near the sideline following contact from second-round pick Mike Mitchell, defensive coordinator John Marshall said, “Mike, stay off him!”
– Russell did have one jaw-dropping throw _ a laser to Tony Stewart some 30 yards downfield on a line between two defenders.
– General impression of the energy, particularly early _ not very impressive. No real sense of urgency or excitement.
– More to come later after Tom Cable’s 2 p.m. press briefing . . .