Jackson to Gradkowski: `Get down!’


News, notes and quotes from Thursday’s practice window, post-practice briefing from coach Tom Cable, sessions with the offensive and defensive coordinators a pretty barren open locker room session:

— Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson likes the way the Raiders move the ball with Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback, but has two areas of concern. First, he wants Gradkowski to quit taking on defenders.

“I’ve told this young man, ‘What are you doing? Get yourself on the ground,’ ‘’He’s not a running back, he plays quarterback. He has to understand that he’s the quarterback of our football team, and we don’t want him taking those unnecessary chances of trying to demonstrate how tough you are. We know you’re tough.

“I want him to get down and make sure he’s able to live for the next play.’’

Jackson also thinks Gradkowski is partially responsible for the four sacks the Texans had.

“I know on the offensive line, they would tell you that there’s some things they wish they could have done better,’’ Jackson said. “But I also know, and our quarterback understands, that we have to get this ball out of his hands. We had three sacks that he was directly involved in. That ball needs to come out, We’ve got to make great decisions with the ball.”

Gradkowski was listed as limited with a sore A-C joint during one of his ill-advised running forays against Houston, but Cable said there is no question he’ll start against the Chargers.

— Second-year wideouts Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy will need to step up and be ready to adjust on quick-hitting routes designed to beat a vaunted San Diego front seven which had nine sacks against Arizona.

“They’ve got to play big, and they’re definitely going to get that opportunity,’’ Cable said.

— Middle linebacker Rolando McClain missed practice for the second consecutive day with a personal issue relating to a death in the family.

“He will be back here in about three hours,’’ Cable said. Cable said McClain will start.

— No sign of Darren McFadden or Michael Bennett (both with hamstring pulls), meaning the NFL’s second most productive back in yards from scrimmage (554) and first downs (26) will give way to Michael Bush, with Rock Cartwright in reserve.

“I do think Bush is 100 percent but those stats are very strong,’’ Cable said. (McFadden) has been productive and we’ve got to find a way to get that same production, but I think Michael’s ready to take that load.’’

The Chargers are giving up just 80.3 yards per game rushing and have allowed one touchdown on the ground.

— Others who did not practice included LG Robert Gallery (hamstring), WR Chaz Schilens (knee), CB Walter McFadden (hamstring), LB Travis Goethel (lower back), LB Quentin Groves (hamstring), LB Thomas Howard (knee) and DT John Henderson (stress fracture).

Cable floated the idea that Gallery, should he be able to practice today and look good, could conceivably play against San Diego.

—As expected, the game failed to sell out, giving the Raiders their 10th consecutive blackout. The last televised home game was against the Chargers in last year’s season opener on Monday night.

— Judging from defensive coordinator John Marshall’s session with the media, those expecting a bevy of blitzes against quarterback Philip Rivers will be disappointed.

“You do it with pressure, but you’ve got to be careful about how you do that because you’ve got one-on-one with (Antonio) Gates, and No. 80 (Malcom Floyd) and No. 11 (Legedu Naanee), and that’s not good either if you don’t get him.

“So you’ve either got to get quick pressure on him, or the four-man front has to be able to generate that kind of stuff.’’

—The prevailing opinion among defensive players following the Houston game was they had been adequately prepared by Marshall and the defensive staff, only to fail miserably at executing their plan.

So what now?

“Just stay with what we know is a winning formula,’’ Marshall said. “I mean, you come out, you practice the way you should practice You work on your technique, you work on your gap control, you work on your tackling, and those are all those things.’’

Marshall said the Texans managed to get the Raiders on their heels, with the Raiders being dictated to instead of doing the dictating.

It hasn’t helped that the Raiders have just five takeaways. The Chargers, for example, already have 11.

“The best thing we can do is turn the ball over and put in the end zone ourself,’’ Marshall said. “We owe this football team seven points on defense. You try and get their mentality focsed back on the game, and instead of saying, `Aw, shucks, what’s the matter now?” Is this going to happen again?’ ‘’

Marshall conceded he is “shocked’’ by the lack of takeaways but said is confident they’ll arrive soon.

“I think they come in bunches and clusters,’’ Marshall said.

— The Chargers look just as formidable without LaDainian Tomlinson than they did with him, but the Raiders still ought to have some sense of relief that he’s gone.

In the 13-game win streak over Oakland, Tomlinson rushed for 1,506 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also caught two touchdowns and even threw two touchdown passes _ accounting for 22 touchdowns in all.

The scary part? As Nnamdi Asomugha put it, “It’s not like L.T. was the only one hurting us.’’

Over the same span, the entire Raiders offense scored 16 touchdowns. Oakland has nine touchdown passes (four by Kerry Collins, three by JaMarcus Russell and one each from Daunte Culpepper and Aaron Brooks) and seven rushing scores (two by LaMont Jordan and one each from Tyrone Wheatley, Derrick Rhodes, Reshard Lee, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas).

The Raiders had four scores on returns during the streak, a punt return by Phillip Buchanon, kickoff returns by Doug Gabriel and Justin Miller, and an interception return by Howard.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer