Wide receiver Louis Murphy, who makes it a point to to avoid saying anything nice about a defensive back, conceded of Walter McFadden, “We’ll see in the preseason game, but I can see him not being scared of the big moment.”
Nnamdi Asomugha said he was talking to a teammate the other day when McFadden’s name came up and he offered up this evaluation: “He’s the coolest, calmest, most poised rookie we have. He’ll come in, make a play like, `OK, I’ve been here before.’ It seems like he never gets rattled.”
Most of the training camp buzz has been around the Raiders’ first two picks, and justifiably so. Rolando McClain took over at middle linebacker the instant his name was called with the No. 8 overall pick and has done nothing to indicate he’s a work in progress. Lamarr Houston, who will start at left end, has scrapped and scuffled and and played with an intensity the coaches hope will elevate the entire unit.
Much more quietly, McFadden, the fifth-round pick out of Auburn, enjoyed an excellent training camp, looking as if he could be a serious contender to be on the field in some defensive packages earlier than anyone anticipated.
McFadden and a promising rookie class make their debuts tonight when the Raiders visit the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium at 6 p.m.
In both drills and team sessions, McFadden’s coverage skills have been very good. He’s broken up a lot of passes, and he’s seldom been beaten for a big play.
“Right now my strength is just covering my guy, being up on the receivers,” McFadden said. “I think my next strength is getting down there in the hole, becoming a full football player. I’m a good tackler in the open field, but sooner or later I want to have one of those big Tyvon Branch hits.”
McFadden has looked so solid he plays bigger than his listed 5-foot-10, 180 pounds (Asomugha said he’s 175, tops). So he might consider leaving the big hits to the safeties.
But despite his size, McFadden has no trouble moving into the slot and dealing with the picks and screens designed to separate him from his man. It took Stanford Routt, the current nickel corner, a few years to get adjusted to doing more than staying outside and going man-up on a wideout.
“In college, I played a lot of nickel because a lot of teams try to strategize so their best receiver is going to be in the slot, hoping to to get them on a safety or something,” McFadden said. “You can’t really worry about the traffic. If you tryst the guy that’s on the side of you to do his job, he’s going to back you and be in a spot to help you out, whatever your coverage is. The traffic is going come. That’s just being a football player.”
McFadden can hardly wait to suit up for his first NFL game. His father, Walter Sr., a lifetime Cowboys fan, will be in attendance, wearing a Raiders hat.
“For him to see his son play football and have a dream come true is a great thing,” McFadden said.