Brennan ready to be thrown into the fire

Colt Brennan can’t promise things will always go as they’ve been drawn up, but that doesn’t mean he can’t put a little excitement into the Raiders’ preseason opener in Dallas.

“I’ve always had an ability to see the field and make a play,” Brennan said after taking his first snaps as a Raiders quarterback Sunday. “Sometimes it drives the coach nuts but when it works I end up getting a touchdown or something good ends up happening. I can kind of hopefully rely on that Thursday night and see the field and make some good plays and hopefully throw no interceptions and make minimal mistakes.”

Brennan is getting a crash course in the Raiders system, spending most of the Saturday afternoon practice huddling with passing game coordinator Ted Tollner (he’s still listed that way even though the Raiders have an offensive coordinator in Hue Jackson) and the majority of Sunday looking over plays with quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett.

With Bruce Gradkowski unable to practice with a groin strain and Charlie Frye nursing a wrist injury on his throwing hand, the Raiders either had to find a quarterback who could see time against Dallas or face the possibility of playing Jason Campbell and Kyle Boller longer than they wanted. Typically, the starting quarterback in the preseason opener goes a quarter at the most, and sometimes less.

Putting Campbell in harms way against hungry Dallas reserves is not an option.

So Brennan could get at least a quarter of play or maybe more _ with his performance on short notice dictating whether he heads out of town once Gradkowski and Frye or healthy or is intriguing enough to keep around as a potential No. 3 or practice squad quarterback.

Brennan didn’t take any snaps in team session until the practice was nearly 90 minutes old, and completing 4 of 6 passes, including two nice medium-depth completions to Todd Watkins. His first completion was a roll out to the right in which he improvised and found Johnnie Lee Higgins.

Raiders coach Tom Cable sounded as if he’s simply getting an emergency quarterback ready for an immediate assignment, and wasn’t looking beyond anything more. The Raiders also considered Jevon Snead, the Ole Miss quarterback quarterback who came out early and went undrafted, but opted to go with someone with NFL preseason game experience.

“In case both of those guys are still out by the time we leave Wednesday, it will give us a chance to finish the game up with him,” Cable said.

Last year with the Redskins, Brennan completed 16 of 26 passes for 164 yards in the last two preseason games to ensure himself a spot on the roster as a sixth-round draft pick, but underwent March knee surgery and was released Aug. 2 when Washington acquired John Beck from Miami.

“I got a call Friday night asking if I could try out,” Brennan said of his Raiders’ opportunity. “I’m happy to get another opportunity in the league.”

Brennan isn’t a classic big-armed prototype quarterback the Raiders prefer. Listed at 6-foot-3, he looks closer to Gradkowski’s 6-1.

But he’s well-schooled in terms of passing offense dating back to his days in high school backing up Matt Leinart at Mater Dei, and in June Jones’ freewheeling Hawaii attack. Brennan threw an NCAA record 58 touchdowns in a season and held 30 Division I passing records at the time of his graduation.

“ I grew up in Southern California, my dad had Raiders tickets growing up,” Brennan said. “I was looking at my helmet the other day right before I put it on and I was thinking it’s kind of weird but it’s also kind of cool to be putting on the silver and black.

Right now basically I’m just trying to get somewhat of a gameplan for Thursday night just so I can be ready. I can at least look like I know what I’m doing out there and have a chance to move the ball and have some success with that third team.”

Play well and Brennan could become a competitor for a roster or practice squad. If he plays well and the Raiders still don’t think he’s a fit, there’s something on tape for another team or the UFL.

More news, notes and quotes from Sunday’s lone practice session:

— Not a good day for Raiders receivers. With Zach Miller out with an undisclosed injury (he was seen leaving practice the other day with his upper left thigh taped), good hands were in short supply. Most conspicuous was a Chaz Schilens drop in the end zone on a near-perfect jason Campbell throw against the blitz, and a ball which thudded off the hands of Darrius Heyward-Bey loud enough to be heard throughout the wine country.

Tight end Brandon Myers was also struggling to hold on to the ball.

“I didn’t think we caught the ball particularly well during the blitz period, and hopefully we’ll come back tomorrow and clean that up a little bit,” Cable said.

Cable said according to the practice charts kept by the team, “We’re miles and miles ahead that way. What I don’t like is, what I saw today, there’s a drill where it’s a critical period because of the blitz and we’re getting some things protected and getting the ball out, and we’ve just got to make those plays catching. I think there were three or four of them. That’s too many.”

— Darned if Nick Miller isn’t making another run at a roster spot after being sidelined all of last year with a broken tibia. He made one terrific end zone grab of a Campbell pass, and again occasionally has lined up and taken pitches as a running back out of the backfield.

— Alex Daniels, the undrafted free agent who started camp as a defensive end, has a new number. Instead of wearing No. 71 in black, he’s No. 39 in white. He’ll fit into the confusing fullback competition for the foreseeable future.

“We’re going to move him over there and take it out of the experiment category and put it in the realistic category and see if we can develop him,” Cable said.

Daniels has been in at least two fights with his former defensive teammates, but stayed out of scuffles Sunday. The lone battle was between Langston Walker and Desmond Bryant. It was quickly broken up, with a few defensive backs, including Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch, staging their own fake fight in the aftermath.

— If only the Raiders could break up their existing fullbacks and create one player _ the receiving skills of Marcel Reece (who looked very good in that area Sunday), the bulk and power of Daniels, the blocking skills of Manase Tonga. Luke Lawton continues to miss time with a concussion and will be out with a concussion and will miss the first two games of the season under suspension.

— Wide receiver Jonathan Holland was waived injured to make room for Brennan. That means the Raiders are responsible for his rehab up to the point where he’s ready to sign with someone else. He’s out with a high ankle sprain. He would also be eligible to sign with the Raiders.

— Michael Bush looked strong during the padded practice as Darren McFadden is out with a hamstring strain. The third-running back battle between Rock Cartwright and Michael Bennett remains intriguing and a bit of a dilemma.

If Bush and McFadden are healthy, then Cartwright is the better option because of special teams play. But if one of the lead backs are injured, Bennett looks like the superior runner of the two competitors fighting for the spot vacated by Justin Fargas.

— Jacoby Ford was limited with a quadriceps strain, going through a few drills but no team sessions. Others who didn’t practice included defensive end Jay Richardson (sore knee). Richard Seymour (back spasms) made it into some team sessions, and Robert Gallery (ankle) was full go at left guard.

— Either the Raiders are getting a look at other players or Thomas Howard is biding his time awaiting to be cut or traded. Despite his speed and pass coverage ability, he wasn’t even running with the second team nickel defense.

— Safety Jerome Boyd was ordered off the field by secondary coach Kevin Ross for not lining up correctly and criticized shortly afterward for being slow to react. Boyd then earned compliments from Ross for better pursuit to a running play.

— The Raiders hold a single practice today at 3:30 p.m. and have a double session Tuesday before leaving for Dallas Wednesday. Twitter practice updates should return Monday and Tuesday.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer