News, notes and observations as relayed by beat writer Steve Corkran after Saturday morning’s practice before the Raiders depart for the Raider Nation Celebration at the Coliseum:
— The biggest hit of camp came from an unlikely source.
Running back Darren McFadden, during a team pass blocking drill, not only walled off defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti, but knocked the 310-pounder on his backside to the delight of his teammates.
Boschetti got heckled for 20 or 30 seconds in the aftermath.
It’s been hit and miss for McFadden as a pass blocker, but some of the hits have been impressive. Two days before, he got under pad level and drove Sam Williams back three yards.
Justin Fargas and Michael Bush also have seemed to take to their blocking with gusto, and it’s something Cable will demand of his backs. If all goes according to plan, the days of LaMont Jordan shrinking away from the likes of Shawne Merriman will be a thing of the past.
“If I’m a tailback and I’ve got to block a 350-pound guy, I’ve got to do that,” Cable said. “You don’t like it, you don’t make a living doing it, but every once in awhile you’ve got to clean it up.”
— Cable was pleased with the Raiders fought through “the wall” after an unimpressive practice Friday.
“Great bounce back,” Cable said. “We talked about it last night and they responded this morning. Great job of getting through all the periods and the situations.”
— Still not practicing: Wide reciever Javon Walker (knee), left guard Robert Gallery (appendectomy) tackle Khalif Barnes (ankle), lineman Mark Wilson (back) and quarterback Jeff Garcia (calf). Cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha (hip flexor) and Chris Johnson (knee strain) got in some work and will be gradually worked back in.
Garcia said he hoped to be back within two to three days and is getting antsy watching from the sideline.
“It really frustrated me in a lot of ways not being able to be out there on the field running around, working hard with my temmates,” Garcia said. “You start to feel like an outsider looking in. I want to be working, I want to be practicing, and I want to be preapring for a game next Thursday and unfortunately that’s not the case right now.”
— Cable said for the first time that Walker’s offseason knee surgery was “major” and that he was at least 10 to 14 days away from being taken off the Physically Unable to Perform list.
“There’s a protocol that we’re following that was set as a date,” Cable said. “And that is still out there, 10 days, two weeks away. But his progress doesn’t go unnoticed. We all know he’s really coming on, so we just let it run its course. We don’t want to do anything that would set it back. That procedure was a major deal, so we want to take care of it.”
Walker, working with the training staff, has looked faster and stronger than at anytime since joining the Raiders, although absorbing contact and putting practices together remains a huge step.
— Passing game coordinator Ted Tollner met with the media for the first time and explained his role, which has him in charge of the passing game while Cable calls the plays.
“My job is to organize the passing game from concepts, personnel, formations, to hit all the situations, whether it’s a mixed down, third down, red zone, short yardage, any of those things,” Tollner said.
Tollner said the Raiders retained some things, changes some others in order to “give us a full array of pass offense to complement the run.”
— Tollner’s take on JaMarcus Russell’s biggest challenge: “As young as he is, with one year in the league, it’s a little bit of everything. And that’s not unusual. Where I’ve seen a lot of growth at this point is he’s getting confidence that people will be where they belong and the ball’s coming out faster. Everything happens so fast from the college level to the pro level as far as pass rush and protection, you can’t put your offensive line and protetors in jeopardy by hanging on to the ball . . . he’s buying in and he’s making plays and making throws.”
— Russell’s struggles with consistency manifested iself during one sequence in which he threaded a laser to Darrius Heyward-Bey in between Johnson and Hiram Eugene at the goal line, only to have his next throw sail over Todd Watkins and into the arms of Eugene, who returned the interception for a touchdown.
Russell bounced back with a nice pass on a sideline route to Johnnie Lee Higgins, just out of the reach of cornerback Stanford Routt.
— Referees continued to throw flags for the second straight day, with the most popular infractions false starts and offsides.
— Ricky Brown worked at first team middle linebacker with Kirk Morrison running second team..
— The Raiders worked on a situational drill that called for the offense to move 60 yards in 50 seconds faced with a 27-21 deficit.
The first-team offense moved within scoring range, only to have Russell’s pass intended for Watkins knocked down by Brown at the goal line as time expired.
The second team offense also failed to score, as Gradkowski’s potential “game winning” pass intended for Louis Murphy turned into a jump ball with Jason Horton making the interception with 10 seconds left.
— Gradkowski received considerably more snaps than Charlie Frye. The two have previously been getting relatively equal work. Frye’s arm could be tired _ he has been leaving practice with an ice bag strapped to his right elbow.