Rookie WRs could open as starters

Some news and notes from Friday’s Raiders walkthrough at their practice facility in Alameda:

— Coach Tom Cable said following practice it is possible the Raiders could open the season on Sept. 14 against the San Diego Chargers starting two rookie wide receivers.

First-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey and fourth-round selection Louis Murphy were working with the first team and will start against New Orleans, a game which will most closely resemble what the Raiders do in the regular-season.

“I don’t think that’s an issue quite honestly other than the fact that they are rookies,” Cable said. “They’re doing really, really well, both fo them. They just keep getting better and as they have progressed all the time. That’s enabled us to do it.”

With Chaz Schilens out, that leaves Johnnie Lee Higgins, last year’s leading receiver among Raiders wideouts with 22 receptions for 366 yards and four touchdowns, as the No. 3 receiver.

When Al Davis and Cable determine the final roster, wide receiver will be one of the most difficult areas to choose. Schilens, Heyward-Bey, Murphy and Higgins are carved in stone. Javon Walker is showing signs of regaining at least some of his old form and earns $2.3 million in salary in each of the next two years after renegotiating his contract.

If the Raiders were to go with five, as they have in some seasons, there is no room for anyone else. More likely a sixth receiver will come from Nick Miller, Todd Watkins and Jonathan Holland, with Will Franklin and Shawn Bayes not a factor in terms of the 53-man roster.

— Cable isn’t sure how much time Walker will see against New Orleans.

“We’ll see. He’s ready to go, wants to go, and we want him to go,” Cable said. “We’ll just kind of take that as we go into the game.”

— Game-time decisions will be SLB Slade Norris (calf) and FS Hiram Eugene. Eugene has been out the last couple of practices with what Cable called the stomach flu and Eugene said was a pectoral strain. In addressing it Friday, Cable said, “It started out as an illness and really it will be a game-time decision.”

— Those who won’t play include Schilens (foot), T Khalif Barnes (ankle), Kirk Morrison (elbow), S Mike Mitchell (hamstring), C John Wade (stinger), RB Justin Fargas (hamstring), DE Matt Shaughnessy (foot) and LB Isaiah Ekejiuba (shoulder).

— Shaughnessy was off to the side with a member of the athletic training staff running agility drills around cones, indicating he could return for the preseason finale against Seattle.

— The Saints game will be the lone preseason game the Raiders will have prepared for as if it were a regular season game. Rather than look at film of last year’s 34-3 loss in New Orleans, Cable and his staff are preparing for what they’ve seen from the Saints this preseason.

The Saints are 2-0, with a 17-7 win over Cincinnati and a 38-14 triumph over Houston. Attempting to balance their offense after throwing the ball 636 times and running it 398 in 2008, the Saints through two preseason games have 57 rushes for 259 yards and have thrown 60 passes, completing 38, for 477 yards.

“That’s good for us because we still need to work on the run game defensively,” Cable said.

— Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye, competing to be the third quarterback on the roster, may not get much of a chance against the Saints. JaMarcus Russell will start and could play into the early third quarter before giving way to Jeff Garcia.

Garcia will play considerably more than his brief appearance in the last two minutes of the first half against San Francisco.

“I want to see Jeff play, we need to see Jeff play,” Cable said.

— The Raiders went through a walkthrough that lasted less than 45 minutes in preparation for Saturday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

Players wore T-shirts and sweats or shorts. A few red zone plays for both offense and defense were run at half-speed, as well as some kickoff coverage drills.

It was light enough that some players, not even needing a shower, were headed to their cars before 11 a.m.

— No sign of Mario Henderson on the injury report, but he could have been listed with a tummy ache. Henderson reported Thursday night through his Twitter page that his stomach hurt because after being on a diet through training camp, he binged at Burger King with a triple whopper meal, two pies, two double cheeseburgers, two fish sandwiches and a milk shake.

Apparently unclear on the concept of a public Internet, Henderson noted in an earlier Twitter post he was going to binge on fast food and said, “I ain’t had fast food in 6 months. I kno coach is gon b mad at me but he wont find out . . . ”


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer