By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, August 1st, 2010 at 2:39 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Darren McFadden has been nothing if not accommodating since his arrival after being the No. 4 overall pick in the 2008 draft.
He’s quicker with a smile than he is with his feet. McFadden is pleasant, agreeable and one of the Raiders best players in training camp in each of his three years.
McFadden has made his share of plays through seven practices, but realizes it’s time he carries it through to the regular season.
Through two seasons, McFadden has 217 carries for 856 yards. He missed time because of turf toe as a rookie and minor knee surgery last year, when he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry.
It’s not what anyone expected after McFadden rushed for 1,825 yards on 325 carries in 2007 for Arkansas in the rugged SEC, capping a three-year college career where he finished as the second-leading conference rusher behind Herschel Walker.
It’s certainly not what McFadden expected.
His excellent receiving skills and meager rushing totals make for natural speculation that he could become a specialty back, someone to attack the perimeter while leaving the hard inside yards for others.
“I want to show people I can go out there and run the ball,’’ McFadden said Sunday. “I know I haven’t had the type of season I wanted to have the last couple of years, but I want to go out there and show people I can run the ball and it’s not just a lot of hype.’’
Coach Tom Cable said McFadden’s biggest issue isn’t that goes down too easily, it’s that he has been slowed by injury each year.
“That’s one of the main things that’s hurt me, being injured, you know if you’re injured you’re not even going to be able to get a chance to show what you can do,’’ McFadden said. “I’m going to do my best to stay healthy out there.’’
As for the critics who suggest he simply doesn’t break enough tackles and goes down too easily, McFadden said, When I hear that, I just look right over it. I know what I can do when I get the football in my hands, so I don’t even worry about it.’’
More news, notes and observations before the afternoon practice begins:
– The consensus among draft experts was that middle linebacker Rolando McClain would certainly help the Raiders against the run, but it was speculated he could possibly be off the field in passing situations.
When the Raiders went to the first-team nickel defense Sunday, McClain was on the field, with Trevor Scott as the second linebacker. He showed in Saturday’s evening session an ability to properly gauge the depth on his pass routes and break to make a play.
In one 7-on-7, McClain stole a Jason Campbell pass with a perfectly timed break and headed the other way, and in a team session a short time later, nearly had another.
McClain is a football film junkie and was renowned for his preparation at Alabama, but it’s conceivable it’s more than that. Some players can watch film forever and still not, for the lack of a better term, “get it.’’
“It’s a little bit of everything, from film study and just knowing football, period,’’ McClain said. “I had a great coach in college (Nick Saban) who taught me how to recognize a route from where guys line up.
“I was able to do that when I got the interception. Really, I had no responsibility. I was drifting, I knew a guy was behind me and I had a safety over the top, so I just had to play under. Jason tried to throw it high over my head, but I’m 6-4 and I was able to get to the ball.’’
Campbell, to say the least, was impressed. To say the most, he was in awe.
“The guy is 6-4 with a 37-inch vertical,’’ Campbell said. “I have been throwing that pass ever since I have been in the league and he jumped as high as he could get and stretched out and caught it. It’s one of those interceptions where you really can’t even get mad because he made an outstanding play.
The guy is big, strong and can move, and you can tell playing under Saban he is a smart linebacker. Even if you look him off, he can tell what you’re trying to do.’’
Said Cable: “He does study, but he has a great feel for his depth and where he needs to be. He sees where the play starts and gets himself in a position where he can have the depth to get to those underneath balls.’’
– If first impressions are worth anything, Jacoby Ford is more than a guy who can simply run fast.
He hasn’t been perfect _ the most conspicuous drop was in front of Al Davis’ cart in Saturday’s second session. But he’s done a lot more than race downfield and hope to run under a rainbow.
Ford has drawn praise from Hue Jackson for pass routes, and during one practice session caught a sideline pass just before executing a perfect double-toe tap necessary for a catch in the professional game.
Cable said getting Ford to utilize his most prized attribute has paid off.
“He runs real fast, but the deal on him was he doesn’t play as fast as he runs, and I think we’re getting him to do that,’’ Cable said, noting Ford is getting out of routes much quicker than he did in college.
In attempting to set up corners in college, Ford said he slowed himself donw.
“I used to gauge my speed a little bit,’’ Ford said. “I’m not doing it anymore. They just want me to be fast all the time so that when I get the ball, I just go instead of kind of coasting a little bit.’’
– Campbell became aware of Zach Miller last season when as quarterback of the Redskins, he heard his defensive coaches talking about him.
“He was one of our main focuses _ know where No. 80 is all the time,’’ Campbell said.
Campbell is taking the same advice as quarterback of the Raiders.
“Zach doesn’t have a whole lot of speed that he can try and outrun someone, but he’s going to use his ability and knowledge knowing how to run routes to get himself open,’’ Campbell said. “You can have a 4.4 guy on him or a 4.3 guy on him and somehow he always gets open. It’s not about how fast you can run from point A to point B but it’s about the details of your route.’’
As for the guy who was drafted in large part because of his ability to run from point A to point B in a minimum amount of time, Campbell has liked the aggressiveness shown from second-year wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey.
“His timing and route-running has gotten a lot better since the beginning of OTAs,’’ Campbell said. “He is fighting for the football. He is going up and making some great catches. He’s putting himself out there and he has the opportunity to have a bright future because of his speed and his size. The guy has talent.’’