Impressions gathered from five practice sessions at the Raiders’ mandatory minicamp, which concluded with a single practice Sunday:
– Coach Tom Cable, a roll-up-your-sleeves and do-it-yourself type, has taken a step back.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is running the offense, John Marshall the defense. Line coach Jim Michalczik, who became a spectator at times last year as Cable jumped in as the unit struggled, was the main voice in that unit.
Particularly telling Sunday was Jackson coming in and working with offensive linemen while Cable was off watching Mike Waufle work with the defensive line.
– Rolando McClain knows his stuff.
McClain played in a 3-4 defense at Alabama, but his transition to 4-3 middle linebacker was seamless in terms of knowing his assignments. He jumped right in with the first team and was seldom seen getting heavy tutoring from coaches in between snaps to correct errors.
The most important quality will be fitting run gaps and driving ballcarriers backward, and we won’t know about that until July, but it was a promising start.
McClain sat out Sunday’s practice after being tight following four hard practice sessions where he took a lot of snaps.
– Admittedly, some of the issues had to do with Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy missing practice, but Oakland’s wide receivers littered the ground with too many dropped passes.
About the only guy getting a passing grade Sunday was Todd Watkins and perhaps Jonathan Holland.
As for Darrius Heyward-Bey, he has indeed improved, but he fell far short of Cable’s glowing assessment at a pre-draft press conference.
Take a look at film of Murphy and Heyward-Bey side-by-side breaking on a deep ball and only one of them would look like a potential star. It would be the guy taken in the fourth round, not the first.
– Jason Campbell is not a statue. Far from it.
I apparently didn’t pay a lot of attention to Redskins games because I thought Campbell a classic dropback pocket passer. He can do that, but he also runs well.
Sunday, he broke to his right and beat end Jay Richardson to the corner for a nice gain.
– Rookie tackle Jared Veldheer looks thin for a lineman at 6-foot-8 and 315 pounds but was strong enough to send fellow O-lineman Alex Parsons flying during a routine drill.
– JaMarcus Russell still hasn’t mastered the art of the short pass, hitting Darren McFadden with a swing pass to his right on one play, then firing the next at the feet of Rock Cartwright.
Russell, whose best practice session was his first one, got a limited amount of snaps in each of the last two practices.
He may not be 290 pounds, but he didn’t look anything like a $9.45 million quarterback, either.
– Rookie defensive backs Jeremy Ware, Walter McFadden and Stevie Brown all had good final practice sessions. Brown properly broke on a pass from Russell intended for Zach Miller and ended up with an interception on the overthrow.
Ware had the prettiest interception of the minicamp when he stayed with Jacoby Ford on a post then out-raced him to a deep pass by Charlie Frye.
– Eddie Anderson has roles that go beyond being watch commander in charge of Russell. During one sequence Sunday, Marshall had some words with Stanford Routt along the sideline, and when Routt ran back out on the field with the first unit, he was sent off by defensive backs coach Lionel Washington.
Eventually, Anderson came over and the two had a discussion. Routt was back on the field a short time later.
– Lamarr Houston, the second-round pick out of Texas who will be in the defensive line rotation at end, will get in his share of scrapes this year. When teams hit the Raiders for a big run and he’s on the field, he’s going to hit back.
He’s one of those “play to the whistle’’ types _ which means once in awhile he’ll play beyond it.
– Cable said Schilens’ absence is not a big deal, and we’ll take him at his word.
But the Raiders’ best possession receiver has had two surgeries on his left foot in the past year. Not everyone has feet that can hold up to playing in the NFL.
If he experiences any setbacks which constitute missing more than a practice or two at training camp, be worried.
– While it makes for a nice story to say Richard Seymour was not at mandatory minicamp because the two sides were working on a longterm deal, one has nothing to do with the other.
Seymour could have signed the tender, been at camp and the two sides still could be working on that contract. He is doing what a lot of people would do in his position _ staying at home with his family rather than go through five football practices as April turns to May.
– Not sure who the Raiders fullback is going to be in Week 1, but there’s a very real possibility that it’s not someone who is currently on the roster.
– Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch at cornerback? They were for a handful of plays on Sunday. Cable says it was simply to work on their coverage skills and that neither will be moving from safety to the island.
– The first OTA session begins May 18. In past years, the media is allowed to cover one day of sessions which last three days.
– For more practice highlights, check my Twitter page.