By Steve Corkran
Sunday, July 31st, 2011 at 7:25 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Day 4 of Camp Hue brought about a welcomed break for those 30 years old or older. All players who reached that threshhold were given the day off as a means of letting their bodies heal from the first three days of Raiders coach Hue Jackson’s physical camp.
That didn’t stop Jackson from putting the other 65 players or so allowed to practice through the paces, with an emphasis on third-down plays.
*Running back Darren McFadden looks rather serious about reaching the undisclosed lofty goals he set for himself this season. He is making players miss on a routine basis, making sharp cuts into the open field and blowing past would-be tacklers with ease. It says here, don’t be surprised if he surpasses his yardage total from his breakout season last year.
*Rookies Denarius Moore and DeMarcus Van Dyke split time with Nick Miller on kick return duties. That job figures to go to Jacoby Ford before all is said and done, but it doesn’t hurt to know what you have in case Ford gets hurt.
*Roy Schuening replaced Cooper Carlisle at right guard in Carlisle’s absence — he was given the day off — and he looked the part. At one point, assistant line coach Steve Wisniewski singled out Schuening, let out a holler, ran to the line and patted Schuening onthe backside for a job well done. Schuening has spent time with the Raiders on their practice squad.
*Moore made an impressive catch of a laser pass from fellow receiver Edward McGee, who has experience at quarterback. “We got another arm, we got another arm,” an unidentified player yelled upon seeing McGee cut loose.
*Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley was someone to stay away from during practice Sunday. Those who crossed his path usually ended up on the ground. Wimbley flattened tight end Kevin Brock with a forearm shiver during a seven-on-seven passing drill, and he later laid out Miller in full-team drills.
*Second-year left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer got beat by defensive end Matt Shaughnessy in a pass-protection drill the first timne they squared off. Wisniewski pulled aside Veldheer, gave him some pointers on his stance and footwork and sent Veldheer back in the line of fire. Veldheer stoned Shaughnessy the next two times.
*Rookie right offensive tackle Joseph Barksdale did an impressive job holding his own against second-year end Lamarr Houston during pass-protection drills. Barksdale is competing against veteran Khalif Barnes for the starting spot held by Langston Walker last season.
*Backup quarterback Kyle Boller is well known for his arm strength. It was on full display on a deep pass to receiver Chaz Schilens down the right sideline. Schilens fought through a pass interference from strong safety Tyvon Branch and hauled in the pass, just before he got flattened by safety Stevie Brown. Schilens added a leaping catch on an in route, just before he got drilled by rookie Zac Etheridge. Both times, Schilens bounced to his feet.
*Jackson said that he is confident in the Raiders getting running back Michael Bush and tight end Zach Miller in the mix soon. “Those things are going to resolve themselves soon,” Jackson said.
*Jackson speaks at length about the work ethic of his players and coaches. Long after practice, offensive line coach Bob Wylie was spotted on the field putting his starting offensive linemen through drills and working on technique, while Schilens was off to the side catching balls spit out from a machine.
*Free safety Michael Huff said he was amused by all the stories during the offseason that had him headed to the Dallas Cowboys or somewhere else. He said he and the Raiders had an understanding that he would be back once he was allowed to re-sign. It wasn’t that he didn’t have any other offers, though.
“I could have (left), yeah, but like this whole time I didn’t take any visits, didn’t take any phone calls or nothing,”Huff said. ”They called, but I didn’t answer.”
Huff said he still is the free safety. However, he intends to “do it all.”
“Whatever the defense needs, I’ll do it,” Huff said. “I’ll play dime, I’ll play a little linebacker in there – I’m not really too big but I’ll do anything to help the defense. I just want to win. That’s the main thing is to win and make plays.”
Huff isn’t allowed to practice until Thursday, along with the other veteran players who signed contracts since the lockout ended.
*Jackson said it doesn’t appear as if the shoulder injury suffered by rookie cornerback Chimdi Chekwa is anything “major.” Chekwa’s left arm is in a sling as a result of his shoulder popping out during a drill Saturday.
*Jackson said that receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is day to day. Neither Jackson nor Heyward-Bey will say what’s wrong with Heyward-Bey. He has not practiced since camp began Thursday.
*Chris Johnson said he is eager to get back in the starting lineup after losing the job to Stanford Routt last season. The opportunity is there now that Nnamdi Asomugha no longer is around to lay claim to the right side.
“I always looked as myself as a starter in this league,” Johnson said. “My whole thing was, once I lost that starting spot last year, I always looked at myself as a starter, so I don’t really worry about getting back in the lineup. It’s just a business. And like I said, at the same, I’ve been hungry the whole time so it’s just my time to get back in and do what I know I can do and show everybody what I can do.”
*Shaughnessy is the hardest-working player in camp, according to Jackson. It’s only a matter of time before he gets the kind of leaguewide recognition he deserves, Jackson added.
“I’ve said earlier this year, that I think he’s about to hit his stride and I really believe that,” Jackson said. “I think he’s close. He’s got to do it consistently over time, like any players does in this league that people say are great players. But he works at it and there’s not a harder worker on this football team and there’s not another player with more desire than he has, so he’s getting there. He’s very close in my opinion.”
*Jackson spent an inordinate amount of time talking about the myriad players who have shined during the early part of camp. We’ll let Hue take it from here:
“I’m not going to tell you that there’s a surprise,” Jackson said. “I’m very excited about what our quarterback is doing. I think Jason (Campbell) is doing a fantastic job. He’s doing really good job. (Rolando) McClain, is doing a good job. Tyvon Branch is everything I’ve said he is. I feel very comfortable where he is and where he’s going.
“Obviously, Jared Veldheer, he’s second year in the league. (Stefen) Wisniewski, I mean ’cause he’s playing center. He’s playing a lot of snaps and he’s running the show up there and he’s done a tremendous job. Obviously, Louis Murphy today just had an outstanding day.
“But there’s so many players I could talk about, individually, but collectively, I think our whole team is starting to get it, of what it takes to play, week in and week out, day in and day out every time you walk out here on this field, to get better. That’s probably what I’m most excited about. The team, the attitude, the conviction of coming out here with a purpose to play. I mean, there’s young men out there now working at their skill. That’s what it takes. These guys what to be good and there’s no substitute for hard work.”