By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Friday, May 15th, 2009 at 9:44 am in Oakland Raiders.
Darrius Heyward-Bey and Michael Crabtree will be compared week to week and season to season by virtue of their draft slots and Bay Area locales.
In the days leading up to the Raiders-49ers game on Aug. 22, count on a flood of Heyward-Bey vs. Crabtree stories recounting Oakland’s unblinking commitment to 40-yard dash times over college production.
It’s possible the Raiders never even considered Crabtree. He simply didn’t meet their speed standard and perhaps they were scared off by the stress fracture in his foot.
But even if they gave Crabtree a look, there is a legitimate reason to pass on the Texas Tech star who most analysts considered the NFL’s top receiving prospect.
As dicey as it is to read too much into five non-contact practices spread out over three days, that reason is Chaz Schilens.
It might be a better idea to fire up the Schilens vs. Crabtree graphics rather than use Heyward-Bey as the comparison.
For what it’s worth, Schilens is taller than Crabtree (a legitimate 6-foot-4 to a little under 6-2). He’s faster, with sub 4.4 times in Pro Days before entering the 2008 draft. He’s got a 43-inch vertical leap.
From the looks of it, Schilens’ job will be to run the same kind of routes the Raiders would have asked of Crabtree. A lot of 15- to 17-yard routes, putting him in areas where he can use his athletic skill to go up and get the ball.
Heyward-Bey serves a different purpose. He’ll run those routes as well, but his main job is to strike fear into opposing defenses as a vertical threat, a guy who makes the occasional big play and also clears out areas for players like Schilens.
Al Davis made a point of singling out Schilens, as well as Johnnie Lee Higgins, as young players who probably should have played more and sooner last season. So it was no surprise that when Tom Cable replaced Lane Kiffin, he got Schilens on to the field more often.
Schilens didn’t set the NFL aflame, catching 15 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns. Seven rookie wide receivers _ Eddie Royal (Denver), DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia), Davone Bess (Miami), Donnie Avery (St. Louis), Jordy Nelson (Green Bay), harry Douglas (Atlanta) and Josh Morgan (San Francisco) had more receptions.
After starting in Weeks 7 and 8 and catching a 60-yard pass against Baltimore, Schilens had an ankle injury and didn’t catch a pass for six weeks despite being active in each game. In the last two games, Schilens caught six passes for 98 yards and two scores.
So Schilens was one of the players I wanted to watch closely. He was a seventh-round draft pick, No. 226 overall, taken with a selection the Raiders acquired for Bobby Hamilton from the New York Jets in 2006.
His draft status suggests he was second banana to fourth-round pick Arman Shields, who, unlike Schilens, was invited to the scouting combine and thrived there.
So was Schilens just a guy who thrived late in the season in garbage time of a lost season or someone who had begun to make a career for himself as an emerging player on a team with some good young talent?
The mandatory minicamp suggests the latter. Schilens was the best and most consistent receiver on the field. There was one end zone drop, but I can’t remember any other misplays. Operating with the first team, he was going up a lot against starter Chris Johnson and nickel back Stanford Routt. (It seems Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t tested much even in practice, plus he sat out a lot of reps).
He found openings in the middle, played large and looked comfortable and sure of himself. Crabtree, meanwhile, is out of action in San Francisco until his foot heals.
On one hand, Schilens has talked before of his seventh-round status as a chip on his shoulder. But that doesn’t stop him from preparing like a guy who is scrapping to make the team. There isn’t a trace of “I told you so” in him.
He concedes he erred in trying to play through his ankle injury rather than taking some time off to heal and come back full speed.
“I think I could have been able to contribute more to the team,” Schilens said. “I hurt my ankle pretty bad and tired to fight through it and ended up hurting myself more. The season is long, it’s long for everyone, especially rookies, and you’re just trying to take it week to week. I think to build off what I did for last season and hopefully it will make me tougher this season.”
Schilens took a couple of weeks off before getting back at it, and said he has been running routes with Raiders quarterbacks “for six or seven weeks . . . we’re getting our timing down.”
During the offseason, Schilens heard he had been singled out by Davis and seemed unaffected by it.
“You’ve got five receivers on a roster,” Schilens said. “That’s why you’re here. You’re expected to do that.”
– Here is some more information on Robert Gallery’s cruise from Dublin to Livermore to raise money for the children of the four Oakland police officers killed in the line of duty.
– The signing of tight end John Paul Foschi, first reported by Foxsports.com, is official. It is listed in transactions on Raiders.com.
– Here’s how former Raider Warren Sapp answered questions related to his former team on an NFL.com chat Thursday:
Q: Do you think JaMarcus Russell will ultimately be a bust?
Sapp: No, no way, no shape, no form of one.
Q: Can u believe the raiders took heyward-bey?
Sapp: Actually, I knew that was going to happen. If I don’t know nothing else, I got the pulse of the Raiders. I was told two weeks before it hpapened and they liked the safety.
Q: Who would win in a hot dog eating contest, you or Tom Cable?
Sapp: Cable. Idon’t like hot dogs.
Q: Does Al Davis really call the plays much to the chagrin of the coaches and players?
Sapp: Sometimes it’s been known to happen.
Q: Do you think the Raiders are headed in the right direction?
Sapp: As long as Al Davis commands the fort, then the fort won’t change.
Q: Is Derrick Burgess done?
Sapp: No chance.
Q: What did you think of the black hole?
Sapp: One of the legendary placdes in the NFL. I thought it was as crazy as it was insane and insane as it was lovely. One kind of place.