Things we learned from Camp 2010 at the Napa Marriott:
– The Raiders go into the season with zero doubt as to their starting quarterback. Jason Campbell is it, as proclaimed by Tom Cable the day camp opened.
Of course, JaMarcus Russell was the anointed starter last year, but every day was a referendum on his performance and work ethic.
– The offense belongs to Hue Jackson. He was finally allowed to talk to the media Thursday, but what he did on the field spoke far more than what he said in a 13-plus minute interview.
Jackson brought more electricity and made practice more interesting than any Raider coach since Jon Gruden.
– Distractions, by Raiders standards, are at the lowest rate in memory.
No fisticuffs between assistants or allegations of domestic assault. No disgruntled players, unless you count a concussed Luke Lawton, wondering why he didn’t get more snaps following a head injury. Exclusive franchise player Richard Seymour was the first man off the bus and even if that was a staged bit of symbolism, very little that went on in Napa suggested this was a team on the verge of imploding.
– Either the “competition” suggested by the coaches was a sham, or this group was extraordinary at determining its best players.
The depth chart looks the same now as it did in OTAs and minicamps, with injuries being the only wild card.
– Rolando McClain and Lamarr Houston had better be good right away.
They were starters from the moment they arrived, and both looked to be upgrades, although you never really know until real games begin.
– Camp Cable was not much different than Camp Kiffin, Camp Shell, Camp Callahan, Camp Gruden or any other camp in terms of violence at the line of scrimmage.
There was a live session of a dozen or so plays, and a goal line sequence, but as long as Al Davis owns the Raiders don’t expect the head coach to risk losing talent before a regular season game is played.
– Chaz Schilens simply cannot be relied upon as a big part of the offense based on his propensity for injury. Two foot surgeries, now an arthroscopic knee procedure. The Raiders are holding out hope he’ll be ready for Week 1, but that’s not the way to bet.
– Louis Murphy is far and away the Raiders’ best and most dangerous receiver _ and he still drops too many passes for a real level of comfort.
– Hope Zach Miller is in the best shape of his life. He’ll take more blows than Manny Pacquiao’s next opponent. It took Campbell about five seconds to discover Miller is his best option.
– Nnamdi Asomugha is the new Tim Brown in terms of speaking his mind and not concerning himself with what the owner thinks. He’s all Raider, and likes what he sees, but Asomugha makes so much money and has such status he can also say what he thinks and not worry about the ramifications.
– McClain is his own man. He goes his own way and seems to have a serene confidence about himself, while not having much interest in talking to reporters (no problem) or even signing autographs for fans who cheer his name (not a problem either, but not cool).
– Cable may have distanced himself from the direction of the offense, but he can’t help himself when he sees issues on the offensive line. When he does, Jim Michalczik steps aside.
– Tommy Kelly jumps offsides too often and it remains to be seen if he’s a nose tackle, but darned if he didn’t come into camp in the best shape of his life with what seems to be a sincere belief that he’s got to do better.
– Michael Bush remains the best option for steady yardage in the running game.
– Best looking crop of draft picks I can remember. McClain and Houston are instant starters. Judging offensive linemen is difficult in camp, but Veldheer at least earned a start at center and Bruce Campbell’s body and speed alone are worth a fourth-round pick. Jacoby Ford showed better receiving skills than advertised although slowed by a quad injury. Middle linebacker Travis Goethel looks like a keeper. Seventh-round picks Jeremy Ware and Stevie Brown both have legitimate shots to not only make the team, but play before the season is over.
– Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski really don’t need to attend at all. OK, maybe a week, at most.
Coming later: What we didn’t learn from training camp.