DHB, receivers catching on

Quick hits following Tuesday’s second practice:

Looking for some good news about Darrius Heyward-Bey?

How about 16 passes targeted, 14 receptions. No. 11 was a one-handed snag near the sideline. One of the misses was on a low pass, the other could well have been a pass interference penalty on Chris Johnson, with the ball falling to the ground.

— DHB wasn’t the only one. It’s possible Will Franklin has dropped as many passes as Heyward-Bey since the beginning of camp, but no one knows it because, well, he’s Will Franklin. Franklin caught everything thrown his way Tuesday afternoon, including one sideline dart from JaMarcus Russell in front of Nnamdi Asomugha.

— Russell wasn’t as sharp in full team sessions as he was in 7-on-7 and drills, but there were sequences where he threw the ball very well. Better than at any open sessions during the offseason, and more consistently than any time during training camp last year.

— OK, there was one bad-hands sequnce during passing drills when Louis Murphy, Chaz Schilens and Jonathan Holland dropped passes in succession, although you could argue that they weren’t the easiest chances.

— Darren McFadden showed off the type of speed he had all through camp last year but lost in Week 2 agianst Kansas City when he was isolated on a swing pass to the left. He caught a perfectly thrown pass from Charlie Frye, accelerating into the ball, then squeezed past John Bowie and Darrick Brown _ both who seemed to have angles on him.

— Johnnie Lee Higgins got loose behind Bowie and Brown and caught a touch pass from Bruce Gradkowski for a big gainer. He mishandled a pass a short time later on a ball that may or may not have been in his reach, and it was the first time all camp I saw a pass hit the hands of JLH and not remain caught.

— Michael Huff has continued his maddening habit of being very tight with his coverage but still being just a fraction of a second late when the ball arrives, giving up the catch.

— Not sure if it will ever be useful in a game, but special teams coach John Fassel conducted a relay-type drill designed to help defenders pick up a fumble and score.

A football was placed on a cone, with a player lining up in a three-point stance in front of another player with a blocking pad. At the sound of the whistle, he got past the chuck, ran to the cone and knocked the ball on the ground. Then a player, racing up behind him, attempted to pounce on the fumble and make it to the end zone.

A few yards away, the there was another group doing the same thing at the same kind. In the closest heat, Jerome Boyd and Murphy appeared to cross the end zone in a photo finish, with no winner determined because the horn blew to go on to more important things.

— Defensive end Greg Ellis sat out his second straight practice. Coach Tom Cable said after the first session Ellis was not missing practice due to injury, but to keep him fresh throughout camp. If Ellis doesn’t go in Wednesday’s single practice, something is sore or injured.

— Quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett worked with quarterbacks on their footwork and selling a draw play out of a spread formation.

“Make it look realistic, make it look realistic,” Hackett said. “Slow them down.”

— Lineabacker Isaiah Ekejiuba missed the second practice, and fullback Oren O’Neal took the session off after participating in consecutive padded workouts.

— Strong safety Tyvon Branch continues to excel in coverage.

— Kirk Morrison, who gave way to Ricky Brown at middle linebacker for much of the first practice, was back with the first team in the second session.

Morrison attempted to blitz Russell with to his left, only to have Cornell Green pick it up perfectly and wall him off. The result was a Gradkowski-to-Darrell Strong completion in front of Huff.

The Raiders practice once at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and I’ll be available for an on-line chat at 11 a.m. before I head to Napa.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer