Subbing for Steve Corkran . . .
Better late than never as I got off a plane not long before the Hue Jackson press briefing and then had to tend to print responsibilities. Some news, notes and observations from Thursday night and Friday:
– Quarterback Carson Palmer thinks Michael Bush helped soften up the San Diego defense for his deep passing. Palmer averaged nearly 15 yards per pass attempt, a staggering number.
“He wears down the safeties,’’ Palmer said. “They don’t want to get back in coverage. They don’t want to turn and run quite as quickly because they’re getting hit by a guy that’s 40 pounds, 50 pound heavier than they are.’’
– Perception changes radically in the NFL. The Raiders were the subject last week of a Profootballtalk.com story which alleged locker room issues and a borderline-out-of-control coach Hue Jackson.
“You lose and things get said, and I hear them, but I never felt it in the locker room,’’ Jackson said. “I know everyone else was concerned. I wasn’t.’’
Second-year linebacker Rolando McClain and left guard-turned center Stefen Wisniewski are getting the hang of how perception changes week to week in the NFL.
“We never worry about what everybody says,’’ McClain said. “We have a good sense of each other in this locker room and that’s all that matters. We believe in each other.’’
Said Wisniewski: “Early in the year, everyone was talking about how good we are. And then we suck after a couple of losses. And now we’re good again. It’s a heavily criticized job, but that’s the nature of the business.’’
– He won’t win or probably even contend, because offensive linemen never do, but it’s hard to imagine many rookies playing better than Wisniewski, who took over at center for Samson Satele and was conspicous with some downfield blocks on screens to Michael Bush as well as his usual solid play inside.
Great draft pick, and to think there were pundits who thought Wisniewski wasn’t physical enough and had essentially peaked out as a college player because he lacked the athleticism to get much better.
– Another unsung hero from Thursday night _ left guard Stephon Heyer. Heyer approached Jackson last week and told him he was up to the challenge if Wisniewski needed to slide over and play center. Jackson decided to go with the veteran over Joe Barksdale and Heyer was part of the Raiders’ line dominance.
– The Raiders dominated both sides of the line so clearly it’s amazing the Chargers were even in position to tie late in the game. Their physical dominance was such that the game shouldn’t have been close.
– Here are the top five performances in Raiders history in terms of yards from scrimmage:
The top five yards from scrimmage games in Raiders history:
Bush is in the last year of his contract and it will take some creative contract work to get him back in the fold next year. He’ll be much like Lamont Jordan and Michael Turner _ a complentary back that a team will spend big money on to make a lead back.
– Wide receiver Jacoby Ford said Friday he didn’t think his sprained ankle was serious and that it was a different kind of sprain than the one that’s kept Darren McFadden on the bench.
The Raiders have a 10-day break before their next game in Minnesota. They don’t practice Saturday or Sunday.
– Chalk up another strategy the Raiders have been reluctant to embrace in recent years _ having Stanford Routt follow Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson much of the night. Jackson was targeted seven times and caught one pass for 22 yards.
Jackson appeared to give a half-hearted effort on Philip Rivers’ interception to Matt Giordano in the end zone when the Chargers were attempting to tie the score. Tight end Antonio Gates, meanwhile, looks older and slower, much as recent published reports have suggested.
San Diego was missing some important players _ guard Kris Dielman, wide receiver Malcom Floyd, outside linebacker Shaun Phillips and defensive end Luis Castillo among them _ but this was not a top-of-the-line San Diego team by any means.
Having seen all the teams in the division now, the Raiders ought to be very disappointed if they don’t win the AFC West.
– Hue Jackson said he threw the challenge flag on Carson Palmer’s fumble in the third quarter even though he knew it wouldn’t be overturned and ruled an incomplete pass.
Jackson said he wanted to give the defense a rest and figured he’d take a shot and hope for a judgment call. If not, he was willing to trade the timeout for the break so the defnese could compose itself.