By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 at 7:39 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Most of coach Hue Jackson’s “toys” were on full display during practice Wednesday, which meant a steady diet of running back Darren McFadden up the gut, wide receiver Jacoby Ford in full sprint down the sideline and rookie running back Taiwan Jones blow past defenders as if he were on ice skates.
Jackson can’t contain himself when talking about those players, and watching them up close offers a valid reason why, as well as a glimpse into how explosive the Raiders offense can be this season.
On Wednesday, Jones sprinted into the secondary a few times, turned on the speed and raced past defenders and into the end zone in no time.
“He’s fast, man,” Jackson said. “God can this guy run. He’s extremely fast but he’s very … he’s very nimble and he’s very smooth. I don’t think sometimes you know he’s running that fast.”
Jones is far more than a speedburner, Jackson said. He stands 6-feet and weighs 195 pounds but don’t be fooled by his size.
“For a guy that’s built like he is, he’s very physical,” Jackson said. “There’s a lot of velocity behind the man when he runs into a pile. I’ve been excited watching him out here practice and we’re going to make sure we can crank him up this week and let him run.”
McFadden hears about how fast he is all the time. Now, he has someone who he can rave about.
“Man, he’s fast,” McFadden said. “Like lightning. I was watching him. He was just hitting holes. You see him put his foot in the ground. He was moving.”
*Well, scratch Kirk Morrison off the list of potential linebackers the Raiders might bring in to help fill the void created by the left knee injury to backup Travis Goethel. Morrison signed with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday afternoon.
The Raiders didn’t sign any linebackers Wednesday. However, Jackson said the Raiders will continue to look at any players, at any position, who can make the Raiders a better team.
*An injury to veteran tight end Brandon Myers midway through practice left the Raiders with only two healthy tight ends — first-year player Kevin Brock and rookie Richard Gordon.
Myers was kicked in the foot by a teammate in a passing drill, and he was escorted off the field by a trainer after being tended to on the sideline.
Projected starter Kevin Boss (knee) and rookie David Ausberry (undisclosed injury) already are sidelined. Boss is listed as week to week, and he likely won’t play against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night. Ausberry said Wednesday that he “should play Sunday.”
Gordon and Brock made nice catches of high throws Wednesday, showing that they can be counted upon if needed.
“I just play the role that they tell me to play,” Gordon said. “If they ask me to go catch passes, I catch passes, but mostly they brought me in for blocking. I can transition anytime they ask me to.”
*On Tuesday, Shane Lechler punted a ball that traveled 80 yards in the air. It was kicker Sebastian Janikowski’s turn to take center stage Wednesday.
Janikowski lined up for a 64-yard field-goal attempt at the end of practice, with the eyes of his teammates, coaches and friends fixed upon him. The kick sailed through the uprights, to the delight of fans and teammates.
Jackson then backed up Janikowski 5 yards and let him attempt a 69-yarder. The ball appeared to have the distance, but Janikowski said it came up a foot or so short. Janikowski said he drilled a 70-yarder the other day.
“I missed the second one,” Janikowski said. “I didn’t hit it good.”
Jackson said he is comfortable with Janikowski kicking from anywhere on the “plus side” of the field, meaning from 59 yards and closer.
“I’ve been around four other teams and I’ve never seen a guy kick a ball like that,” Jackson said. “It’s not like he’s taking a running start. The guy takes two steps and, boom, there goes the ball, it goes through the uprights.”
Janikowski’s career-best is the 61-yarder he made against the Cleveland Browns in 2009, in the snow. The NFL record is 63 yards — Tom Dempsey in 1970 and Jason Elam in 1998.
*The Raiders have been waiting for one of their four first- and second-year cornerbacks to step up and separate themselves from the pack. Ladies and gentlemen, Jeremy Ware.
On Wednesday, Ware ran stride for stride with rookie receiver Denarius Moore on a fly route and denied Moore an opportunity to make a play on an overthrown pass. He later knocked away a deep pass intended for receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.
That’s the kind of production Jackson is hoping to see from Ware, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Walter McFadden and Chimdi Chekwa, as he seeks reliable options at nickel and dime back.
*Eighteen players missed practice Wednesday, including defensive tackle Richard Seymour, middle linebacker Rolando McClain, Boss, cornerback Chris Johnson and receiver Chaz Schilens.
Jackson said he is confiden that most of those players will be back pretty soon and that the Raiders will be at full strength in time for the regular-season opener Sept. 12.
*The last time the Raiders played the Saints in an exhibition game, Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 14 of 17 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns in a little more than one quarter of play.
Guess who’s coming to town Sunday night? Here comes Mr. Brees and his high-flying offense once again. Jackson said it poses “an unbelievable test” for his cornerbacks.
Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said forget about how he and his defensive mates played in the first two exhibition games. Sunday night’s game will be the litmus test.
“(Brees) gets the ball out of his hands, he makes great decisions with the ball,” Kelly said. “They have got people on the outside that can scare you. They have a real complete offense. We’ll pretty much know if we’re headed in the right direction after Sunday night.”
*Quarterback Terrelle Pryor still hasn’t signed a contract with the Raiders. Until he does, he isn’t allowed to join his teammates in Napa.
Jackson said Pryor will be here in due time and that the focus needs to be on the players who are here right now.
“I’m sure when he walks in this place, everybody will know that he’s here,” Jackson said. “Again, he’s just a piece of the story. The true story that’s going on right now is this football team and the chance that we have to be a very good team.”
*Finally caught up with veteran receiver Derek Hagan to ask him his thoughts on Jackson crediting part of his success to avoiding the trap of getting caught up in playing video games at night.
“No, I don’t play X-box too much,” Hagan said. “I do, but there’s no reason. We’re in training camp, and you shouldn’t even be playing video games. You got to get your study time in. This is my job, this is my profession and it’s something I love to do. I try to stick what I do best and that’s playing football.”
Spend a few minutes with Hagan or watch him practice, and it’s hard to imagine him not making the roster. In fact, it begs the question, why did another team let him go?
He runs hard, executes precise routes, catches most everything and plays with a confidence missing in some of the younger receivers on the roster. Hagan, 26, is the second-oldest receiver on Oakland’s roster, second only to Shaun Bodiford. So, it’s likely that he will be the oldest on the team if he makes the 53-man roster.
Hagan says he learned his work ethic from the veteran receivers when he joined the Miami Dolphins in 2007.
“It’s just watching other receivers that I’ve been around in the league,” Hagain said. “When I started off as a rookie in Miami, I had Chris Chambers and Marty Booker, just following those guys. Now, they just passed it down to me and just knowing that you got to put in that time and that work just to be a great player. That’s something that I definitely try to do.”
The other Raiders receivers would do well to follow Hagan’s lead.
*Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl