First, let’s head straight for some perspective.
If preseason games mean nothing, then practice sessions mean even less.
What the 49ers pass defense did to the Raiders passing offense bordered on criminal Wednesday morning, but no police report was filed, Oakland can claim nothing happened, and it would be tough to argue otherwise.
It could be no more significant than a 10-0 win in a spring training `B’ game. Mostly, it serves to make the Raiders response in the afternoon session more interesting.
Bottom line, the passing offense was destroyed by the 49ers pass defense. The Raiders running game looked OK, and on the other side of the field, I’m told the Raiders more than held their own on defense against the San Francisco offense.
In all there were five interceptions by the 49ers, four in the last red zone session alone _ two by Nate Clements, one by Dre Bly and another by linebacker Diryal Briggs. Clements had another pick off a Takeo Spikes deflection intended for Justin Fargas in a seven-on-seven drill. JaMarcus Russell had three of the interceptions, including two in the red zone session, and Bruce Gradkowski had the other two.
The 49ers defense was so excited and making so much noise that both the Raiders defense and 49ers offense were sneaking peeks, trying to determine exactly what was happening on the other field.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Russell said. “If it is, then show me.”
Such is the conundrum of Russell, something we won’t know until he goes to the Pro Bowl or is proclaimed a bust. He is either mentally tough enough to let a bad practice roll off his back or doesn’t care enough, and no one knows exactly where the needle currently resides on the scale.
In the meantime, we’ll let the Raiders and 49ers sort out exactly what happened Wednesday morning on the offensive side of the field, as well as some news, notes and observations:
— “We just dominated in all areas. You would think that somebody would have stepped up on their side of the ball, would have been like, ‘Let’s go,’ or a coach would have fired at them, but they were just mellow. I don’t know what it was or why. I know on our side of the ball, that wouldn’t have went down. Or coach would have jumped down our butt. Coach (Singletary) would have came and jumped on our butts,” Bly on the Raiders’ passive reaction.
— “Today they came out fired up, and it showed out there on the field. They got the best of us, especially the last two periods that we had. They really got us. But we’re coming out here this evening, and we’ll just try to bounce back from it,” _ Raiders running back Darren McFadden.
— “I think those guys made some plays and coach emphasized today get up fast and cut it loose and try to give guys a chance to go up and make some catches and it kinda of backfired a little bit. But other than that, go in and learn from that, come out the next practice, try to set a fire,” Russell on the interceptions.
— “I’m trying to get the quarterback to cut it loose in the red zone, but four picks, probably pushed it a little too much, but it’s OK for now, get a chance to teach from that and help them get better,” Raiders coach Tom Cable.
— Besides the issue of knowing when to turn it loose, the Raiders may have been affected by their first full practice without Chaz Schilens, with whom Russell in particular had developed a chemistry.
Tight end Zach Miller, Russell’s favorite receiver last season, could sense a difference.
“He got real comfortable with Chaz and obviously not having him, you have some guys he’s not as comfortable with,” Miller said. “Really as an offense we have to get that trust and that timing down out there at wideout and just make the easy plays, make the checkdown, things like that. That contributed somewhat today, not making the easy play.”
Said Russell: “We’re just trying to get some younger guys to step it up. How we were, as far as a receiver/quarterback, I think he had came real far from what we had a year ago in the spring until now, (we) did a lot of work and you could tell. (I) wish him a fast and a healthy recover and may God bless him with that.”
Cable didn’t want to use Schilens loss as an excuse.
“He has gone to him quite a bit, but that can’t be the issue,” Cable said. “We have to have guys step up. Louis Murphy’s back, and someone else has got to go make those plays.”
— Speaking of Murphy, according to the 49ers it was the Florida rookie who lit the fuse when he began jawing with 49ers cornerback Shawntae Spencer during as wide receivers ran routes in drills against 49ers defensive backs.
“That’s how I get motivated,” Murphy said. “And the coaches know that. Just out there talking man, you know? That’s just part of my game. To a certain extent, it helps me get pumped and ready for the play.”
It may have got the 49ers ready, as well.
“I think actually Shawntae Spencer set the tone for today’s practice,” Clements said. “Just a little trash talking. Wouldn’t back down. So I think that got my blood flowing and it kind of rubbed off on everybody.”
Said Bly of Murphy: “A Florida guy. They’ve got two national championships, so I guess you feel like you can come into this league and talk. I was telling one of the guys, the national championships on this level is equivalent to a high school state championship. Nobody cares. . . . he’s young. When you’re young you’re going to come in talking and want to compete. I was the same way.”
And apparently still is the same way.
“I’ve never been a part of a practice – this is my 10th year, going into my 11th camp – I’ve never been a part of practice like that where it was just total domination,” Bly said. “And I’m dead serious. It was total domination today. We had a great day.”
Bly also got off this one-liner about the defense being “fed” five interceptions.
“They were feeding us,” Bly said. “That buffet was good.”
— While Cable assumed responsibility for Russell being a little too bold, he also put some of the blame on Lane Kiffin without mentioning him by name.
Cable is of the opinion the kid gloves treatment afforded Russell has slowed his development.
“I think that’s true and I’m trying to get him out of that and that’s the whole reason for what you saw,” Cable said.
— Among the few sharp looking passing plays during the course of the morning practice included Russell finding Zach Miller with a nice threw in the middle of a zone and Charlie Frye locating Darrius Heyward-Bey in an open area.
— In the drills which started the issue between Spencer and Murphy, Johnnie Lee Higgins made a leaping catch near the sideline from Frye against Allen Rossum,and once burned Bly so badly on a slant that Bly simply grabbed him by the jersey.
— Rookie free agent Nick Miller nearly broke the ankles of fellow undrafted rookie Jahi Word-Daniels with a double move, with Jeff Garcia hitting him deep.
— Garcia worked with the second team most of the time, but still is not taking his full complement of reps, with Gradkowski doing some second-team work.
— The Raiders had success on some running plays, including one play where McFadden breezed around right end, with tackle Cornell Green telling Spikes, “I would’ve cut your ass (in a game).”
— Among those who didn’t finish practice were Jason Horton (turf toe), Michael Huff (quad) and Chris Johnson (neck). Lorenzo Neal took the field but didn’t practice with a sore hamstring. Defensive end Matt Shaunghnessy is day-to-day with a foot sprain, while Paul McQuistin, who practices only once during two-a-days, will be on the field this afternoon.
Cable said he didn’t know how long Mitchell would be out, saying hamstring issues are “touchy” and saying he didn’t know if the rookie would be available for the opener against the San Diego Chargers.
— Javon Walker was working out in full uniform, pads and all, following practice with a member of the athletic training staff. He’s scheduled to be back Monday and Cable said the Raiders will not look at add a veteran receiver in Schilens absence, citing Walker’s presence.