By Steve Corkran
Monday, September 5th, 2011 at 2:11 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Coach Hue Jackson on Tuesday put his troops through their final full practice during the day. Now, it’s a day off before the players return for three straight night practices, at which time the preparations for the Denver Broncos kick into high gear.
When the Raiders resume practice Wednesday, they will welcome back veteran safety Matt Giordano. He was re-signed Tuesday, at the expense of veteran running back Michael Bennett.
That makes two roster moves in the two days since the Raiders first formed a 53-man roster. It’s safe to assume that Jackson isn’t through tweaking his roster.
Bringing back Giordano was a decision that was made after evaluating the roster and determining that there was more of a need at safety than running back.
“He’s played the game at a very high level,” Jackson said of Giordano. “He’s played on some very good, quality teams. He’s a great worker, has good range. He plays safety and can fill in on special teams, so he has some value.”
*The Raiders decision to part ways with perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and sign cornerback Stanford Routt to a three-year contract that guarantees him $20 million comes with a catch.
Routt no longer can fly under the radar and go about his business in relative anonymity as Asomugha handles the spotlight.
“Oh, yeah, he’s taken that role over,” safety Michael Huff said. “He knows he’s the guy, and this defense, the Raiders always have a No. 1 corner. For the past seven years, he’s kind of been a guy in the shadows, but now he knows it’s his turn and he’s that guy.”
Routt has handled the added pressure with the kind of steely nerves needed to play man coverage in the NFL. He realizes that he is under the microscope, so to speak, and he welcomes the chance to spread his wings.
*It’s no secret that Raiders managing general partner Al Davis covets speed above all else.
This year’s team just might feature a collection of fast players that is unmatched in Raiders history. The key is, putting that speed to work for the Raiders and getting it to translate into more plays made.
As usual, we can count upon defensive tackle Tommy Kelly to put a unique spin on things.
“We’re pretty fast,” Kelly said, “But, like I said, we’ve got to execute it. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s like a nice piece of chicken that’s sitting on the plate. If you don’t even touch it, you won’t be able to enjoy it. So, we’ve got to execute the gameplan and whatever coach calls, the line’s got to line up there and block, and the quarterback got to put it there on time and the receiver’s got to catch it.”
Running back Darren McFadden certainly is in the discussion when it comes to which Raiders player has the most speed.
McFadden says he is the fastest player. Running back Taiwan Jones makes a similar claim. Regardless, it’s all about how the Raiders use that speed, McFadden said.
“It’s like we can have a track meet on the field with the guys we have out there,” McFadden said. “It’s not just about having speed. Guys have to be able to go out there and make plays. One thing we want to do is focus on making plays.”
Jackson gets particularly giddy when talking about the likes of McFadden, Jones, Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
“You see me smiling, right?” Jackson said. “I’m very happy, very excited, about our football team. This is the team I envisioned we had the capability of being when this thing all started. The fun part is, now they’re all healthy, almost all. You get to play with them a little bit and find out they are what I know they are. They’re starting to showcase that.”
For an objective take on who is the fastest Raider, we turn to free safety Michael Huff, never one short on opinion.
“I’d say Taiwan,” Huff said. “He’s probably the fastest man I’ve ever seen. The special things he’s done in practice, catching sweeps and catching screens, and I don’t know, he hits a gear. Doesn’t look like he’s running that fast, though, and you try and run him down and he just glides.”
*Tight end Kevin Boss worked out with a trainer for part of practice and afterward, though he’s still wearing a protective sleeve on his left knee.
Jackson said he isn’t sure if Boss will be at practice Thursday or whether Boss will be able to play Monday night. Boss said he remains hopeful.
*Jackson still isn’t prepared to announce who his starting wide receivers are going to be Monday night.
Based on performance in practice and exhibition games, it’s clear cut that rookie Denarius Moore and Derek Hagan deserve to start against the Broncos.
Hagan said he and the other receivers have not been told what their roles are going to be just yet. That should come Thursday, at the latest.
As for Moore, Jackson said it’s imperative to find ways to get him the ball so that the Raiders can take advantage of his play-making ability.
“Let him catch balls,” Jackson said. “That’s what he does. He catches footballs. Put him in position to make plays. That’s what you do. You take all this talent that we have. You got to take all these guys and give them opportunities to make plays in games. And he’s done it, and he’s one of the guys that knows how, so we’ll give him opportunities to do so.”
Hagan said he’s prepared for anything.
“I really have no clue,” Hagan said. “It’s just, whatever they want me to do, I’m definitely there to do it, whether it’s starting at receiver, coming in as the second, third, fourth receiver or playing on special teams. I’m just here to do it all for this team and, hopefully, I can help the team win.”
*Ford was an intriguing prospect when he joined the Raiders as a fourth-round draft pick last season. Yet, coach Tom Cable and then-offensive coordinator Jackson weren’t quite sure what they had in Ford until the ninth game of the season.
“After that Kansas City game, I felt like I was definitely going to be somebody they would depend on,” Ford said. “That’s always a great honor, whenever you gain that trust of your head coach or any other coach, it’s always a great feeling to have.”
Now, everyone knows what Ford is capable of doing as a wide receiver and kick returner. Therefore, Jackson intends to take advantage of Ford’s wealth of talent from the outset.
Jackson said he recognized Ford’s ability early on last season. It was a matter of Ford carrying over what he did in practice into games.
“What happens in practice and what happens in games are the key indicators for a player,” Jackson said. “What he was doing in practice, he turned around and started doing it in games and next thing you know, he’s becoming a household name.”
Ford says he hears often about being comparable to Steve Smith and DeSean Jackson. Both are No. 1 receivers for their respective teams. Where does Ford rate?
“We’re all No. 1s.” Ford said. “It just all depends whoever Jason wants to throw the ball to. We’re all out there working hard, just trying to be the best receiving corp in the league. Even though we’re young and that just something they always say about us, we’re definitely not going to be playing young at all this year.”
*The Raiders have lost 11 straight prime-time games, including their past seven Monday night affairs. That stat isn’t lost on the Raiders, especially long-time veterans such as Kelly.
“As long as I’ve been here, we haven’t played good on prime time,” Kelly said. “So, this is another opportunity to play good. It shouldn’t be hard getting up for the game, playing Denver.”
Jackson no doubt is aware of the Raiders futility on prime time games. Yet, he isn’t in the mood to pass judgment on things that happened on someone else’s watch.
“This is 2011,” Jackson said. “The Raiders and the Denver Broncos on Monday night in their stadium. That’s all I know. What’s gone on here in the past, I can’t speak about it, worry about. I’m just worried about this upcoming Monday night.”