Tom Cable moves his offensive linemen with the frequency my mother-in-law rearranges the furniture.
He’s particularly fond of running an inside game, taking someone the outside world views as a tackle and moving them to guard. Or in the case of rookie Jared Veldheer, even center.
One of Cable’s newest projects is Bruce Campbell, the Maryland left tackle who wowed everyone at the NFL scouting combine with an off-the-charts combination of size and speed and virtually zero body fat.
The Raiders jumped at the chance to take Campbell in the fourth round (when there was some speculation they wouldn’t pass him up in the first), and while analysts were breathlessly talking up his potential as an ideal left tackle, Cable had other ideas.
Campbell lined up at right guard for his first practice at the post-draft minicamp and he’s been there ever since.
While acknowledging that he can be overly hard on himself and that his play has improved considerably since training camp began, Campbell conceded, “It’s still a struggle.’’
For all the talk of his incredible athletic skills, Campbell sounds as if he’s still unsure of himself as a football player.
“It’s all about knowing what I have, knowing my strengths, knowing my abilities,’’ Campbell said. “I really, truly don’t know what I have yet.’’
Cable sees an explosive athlete who has not yet learned to channel his knowledge and his body into putting his skills to good use on the field.
“We’re still trying to speed him up and playing at the right tempo when the ball is snapped,’’ Cable said. “These preseason games will help a lot. They help young linemen a tremendous amount.’’
Campbell enjoys the pulling aspect of playing guards but is still learning the proper angles to execute his blocks.
“I enjoy pulling a lot more as long as learn how to square up linebackers and square up people when I pull because it’s something I’m still not used to,’’ Campbell said.
Campbell is doing as much listening as he is working on his incredible physique. One moment he’s talking to defensive line coach Mike Waufle coming off the field, the next he’s with his fellow offensive linemen or comparing footwork with a linebacker.
“I talk to everybody, I talk to offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, just to see what they can see that I can’t see,’’ Campbell said. “If I’m leaning, if I’m twitching, if I’m looking . . . I ask everybody.’’
Rather than play it cool about his professional debut, Campbell already admits to some anxiety.
“It will actually be the first time I’ve been to an NFL game,’’ Campbell said. “I’m pretty excited, but at the same time I think I’m as nervous as I am excited.’’
More news, notes and quotes from Monday’s lone practice:
– No sign of Darren McFadden (hamstring) making it unlikely he’ll face Dallas Thursday. The same goes for Chaz Schilens (foot) who was at practice but didn’t participate, although Cable said no determination has been made.
– Cable wasn’t ready to commit to Colt Brennan as third quarterback in hopes that Charlie Frye will be available. Frye went through some footwork drills with the quarterbacks but didn’t actually throw the ball.
Frye’s right wrist injury was an overuse injury, Cable said.
– Although wide receiver Jacoby Ford went through some early drills, he didn’t participate in team sessions. Also out were quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (groin), wide receiver Paul Hubbard (hamstring) and defensive end Jay Richardson (knee).
Richardson said he’s 50-50 to play Thursday but probably won’t chance it unless he’s 100 percent.
Among those who didn’t complete practice were defensive tackle John Henderson and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Cable said both were “sore’’ which has become this year’s generic phrase for virtually any injury.
Safeties Michael Huff and Mike Mitchell both left the field temporarily and appeared to be in some pain, Huff injuring a hand after breaking up a deep pass, and Mitchell with a back issue after knocking down a short one.
Cable said both were fine.
– Like Bruce Campbell, Khalif Barnes knows what it’s like to move inside and has put aside the feeling that he was exclusively a left tackle to further his career.
“If I can play more than one position I can be useful and help the team,’’ Barnes said. “You just never know when they’ll need you.’’
Barnes has played mostly left guard, backing up Gallery, but has also played right tackle and also been the backup left tackle when Veldheer plays center.
– One of the tightest competitions continues to be the third running back spot behind Bush and McFadden, with Roderick “Rock’’ Cartwright realizing special teams could be his ticket to the roster.
Both he and Michael Bennett have run well, with Cartwright, a 5-foot-8 fireplug, running with more power and Bennett with more speed.
Cartwright has experience returning kickoffs but not punts, and has done virtually everything else.
“I’ve always been on punt return, holding up. Kick-off return, I’ve been L-4,’’ Cartwright said. “I’ve returned kicks. On punts, I was the personal protector. So, I’ve been around. I was in Washington my whole career and that’s kind of what I do, play special teams. So, whatever I can do to help the team win, that’s what I want to do.’’
x-Runners went through one particularly difficult sequence backed up at the 20-yard line, with backs getting routinely stuffed by the defense, drawing the ire of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
“Good defense,’’ assessed Cable. “I thought initially the defense was playing it square and staying in their gaps. Very disciplined.’’
A short time later, the Raiders did run better _ most notably a run by Michael Bush where he broke free on the left side and took dead aim on Michael Huff. The only thing that prevented Huff from being flattened was that it wasn’t a completely live drill.
Huff gave a half-hearted shoulder to Bush and lived to play another down.
—It was a better practice catching the ball for Raiders receivers, with Darrius Heyward-Bey having a good day in that regard. While improved from last year, however, this still doesn’t have the look of a 60 percent passing team as yet.
—There will be a double session today with practices at 8:30 and 4:20 p.m