By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Friday, August 27th, 2010 at 8:54 am in Oakland Raiders.
What we didn’t learn from Raiders Camp 2010:
– With contact restrictions in practice, there’s no way to know if the Raiders will be able to block well enough at the line of scrimmage to generate the running game they want or adequately protect quarterback Jason Campbell.
Not much riding on it, except their entire season.
Considering there has been no serious push for a starting job for spots belonging to Mario Henderson, Cooper Carlisle or Langston Walker, that’s not a good sign. (Samson Satele wasn’t pushed until he got an ankle injury against the Bears).
– Darrius Heyward-Bey has improved in some ways and drawn the raves of coach Tom Cable and his teammates, but there has been little on the field to suggest he is anything approximating the No. 7 pick in the 2009 draft. Four practices off for fatigue? Or just the Raiders not wanting to disclose an injury? Neither scenario is all that promising. Heyward-Bey appeared to hit a wall of some kind when he was making progress.
– Darren McFadden was injured again, this time it was a hamstring that put him behind. Still no evidence he can become the kind of 300-plus carry, 1,400-yard runner his Southeastern Conference career at Arkansas and No. 4 overall draft selection seemed to suggest.
– Lots of pressure packages in training camp, but with Kamerion Wimbley’s third down prowess as a rush end, and with the defensive line getting a natural push from a four-man line, will they regress into a base shell and stay there? If it works, no problem, that’s always the best way to go. But there seemed to be some creativity going on with regard to Nnamdi Asomugha in the secondary and with more blitz packages than usual.
– Backup quarterback is currently up for grabs. Considering how Bruce Gradkowski played last year, you wouldn’t think that would be the case. But Hue Jackson wasn’t a part of what Gradkowski did after replacing JaMarcus Russell, and he has a history with Kyle Boller _ who has played well. If Boller is No. 2, Gradkowski’s tender of nearly $1.8 million could be a lead weight.
– There is no way to know if the Raiders can get their return game back to the 2008 standard under special teams coach Brian Schneider. Returns aren’t live in practice and the preseason games haven’t solved anything.
No doubt they’d love to see Jacoby Ford seize the day as the punt return specialist (and maybe even kickoffs if he was completely healthy) but a quadriceps injury slowed his progress. Neither Johnnie Lee Higgins, Yamon Figurs or Nick Miller moved to the forefront.
– Do the Raiders have faith that McFadden will stay healthy enough so they keep Rock Cartwright as the third running back? Cartwright returns kickoffs and plays on all special teams, but it’s pretty clear Michael Bennett is the superior scrimmage runner. If McFadden were to go down and Bush were to get nicked, then Bennett is more of a legitimate 20-carry, 100-yard threat than is Cartwright.
– No one has stepped up to demonstrate they can be a solid No. 2 tight end behind Zach Miller. Brandon Myers, in his second year, has the most promise, but Tony Stewart is the better blocker and journeyman John Owens hasn’t ascended the ladder unless he’s a film room star.
– Cable has essentially put the blame of the porous run defense at the feet of last year’s starting linebackers _ Kirk Morrison, Thomas Howard and Ricky Brown (and later Jon Alston). Maybe he’s right. But there isn’t a big enough sample size to say with absolute certainty that Rolando McClain, Trevor Scott and Kamerion Wimbley will solve all their ills. To be fair, there really is no way to know in training camp. How they fare against Chris Johnson in Week 1 will be a big clue.
– John Henderson was brought in with the reputation of being a run-stopper, but judging from the practice rotation, he’s No. 4 behind Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly and Desmond Bryant. He’ll probably be around in Week 1, but the Raiders have said, “thanks, but no thanks” to respected veterans before (Donovan Darius, Lorenzo Neal, Ed Hartwell) after getting a long look in camp before.
– Fullback, anyone? Marcel Reece can catch and block a little. Manase Tonga can block and catch a little. Luke Lawton is suspended for the first two games. Chane Moline is a longshot. Alex Daniels got a brief trial and was moved back to defense. Lamarr Houston has seen some action at fullback in goal line defenses.
It’s conceivable the Raiders fullback is on another roster, awaiting cutdown day.