News and notes from the Raiders last training camp practice in Napa:
— Training camp 2009 ended with Todd Watkins making a sprawling catch in the end zone to culiminate a successful two-minute drill by the second team offense.
It was third-and-9, Jeff Garcia had driven the offense to the 26-yard line and 17.8 seconds remained.
Defensive coordinator John Marshall yelled, “No TDs!”
For the most part, however, coach Tom Cable thinks he and his staff got what they wanted out of 33 practice sessions behind the Napa Marriott.
“We hd a goal coming up here, and that was to leave here a better team, closer, and I think we’ve accompished that,” Cable said.
— Practice was in shorts and shells and wasn’t as grueling as Wednesday’s two and a half-hour marathon, but it was once again a very good practice for the Raiders passing game.
The JaMarcus Russell over the last two days bears no resemblence to the Russell who left footballs strewn all over the field during OTAs and minicamps, or even the Russell of last week who kept finding Nate Clements instead of his own teammates.
There was Russell hitting lobbing a completion to Michael Bush against Napoleon Harris, Russell finding Louis Murphy wide open over the middle, or throwing a dart into the corner of the end zone to Darrius Heyward-Bey against Justin Miller.
In red zone team drills and seven-on-sevens, it looked the way a passing offense is supposed to look against scout team defenders _ lots of touchdowns and completions.
“You have guys that are attacking the ball and making the catch look easy,” Russell said. “We’re getting there. It’s a process and we’re going through it together. It’s not like it’s one person’s job. Everybody’s job has to be done in order to get there. We’re on our way.”
— In the drive before Garcia led the Raiders to a touchdown in a two-minute drill to end camp, Russell came up short in his only crack at the first team defense.
The situation? Raiders at teh 20-yard line, and the scoreboard reads 10-7 with 1:32 to play.
Russell immediately connected with Zach Miller on a beatufil downfield seam route for 30 yards to the 50.
He then missed Miller, was incomplete on a deep pass to Johnnie Lee Higgins and then scrambled for five yards on third-and-10.
An illegal motion penalty on Higgins pushed the ball back five yards, and Huff’s final pass was incomplete, “Ball game,” shouted free safety Michael Huff.
— The first team defense, predictably, did much better against the scout team offense, with Nnamdi Asomugha and Tyvon Branch both getting interceptions.
— Those who did not practice included Chaz Schilens (foot), Khalif Barnes (ankle), John Wade (stinger), Justin Fargas (hamstring), Matt Shaughnessy (foot), Isaiah Ekejiuba (shoulder), Kirk Morrison (elbow) and Mike Mitchell (hamstring). The new addition was rookie linebacker Slade Norris (calf).
Cable assessed Mitchell’s progress this way: “It is getting better, but it has been slow to get there this time.”
So slow that Mitchell has never even been seen off to the side, working with a trainer in agility drills. It’s essentially been a complete shutdown.
— Wide receiver Javon Walker, who seemed to ease into his first session, got in some good work during his second practice, looking better that at any time during training camp a year ago, when he was called out by Lane Kiffin and talked of retiring and giving his bonus back.
“He’s a little rough with some of his assignments, but that’s normal,” Cable said. “He hasn’t had a lot of work, but he’s able to clear that because he’s had so much experience. He’s a really bright guy, and the net time you see him do it, he’s fixed the mistake from the time before. We’ll expect him to go after it Saturday.”
— Russell will play most if not all of the first half Saturday against New Orleans, with Garcia playing most of the second half. Cable said some starters could go into the third quarter.
— Cable continues to be coy as to his plans for the three-headed monster at running back. Will he try split the pie three ways, or will he go heavier with two backs, keeping a third in reserve in case of injury.
Cable noted improvement in Fargas’ receiving skills.
Michael Bush will get the start against New Orleans.
— If the Raiders were interested in Duke Preston, who they had at the facility for a visit in the offseason, the Dallas Cowboys beat them to the punch.
Wade, the backup center, has missed considerable time with a stringer.
— Former Raiders John Parrella, with ex-Raiders Rod Woodson and Josh Taves on his staff, will be head coach for the first varsity football game in the history of Valley Christian High School in Dublin.
— Interested to hear “professional liar” Chris Mortensen of ESPN tell Murph and Mac on KNBR this morning the Raiders were the second best team in the AFC West and could be a surprise team this year.
Is he to be believed?
— While Asomugha was being interviewed, Barnes walked past and had a request.
“Buy me a car, Nam,” Barnes said to the $45.3 million man. “An s500.”
If Barnes had stuck around, he could have at least had a No. 21 jersey. The cornerback had a handful of them and passed them out to some fans who were invited guests on the last day of camp.
Coming later today: Camp highlights and disappointments.