By Steve Corkran
Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 at 7:21 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Quarterbacks and receivers had their way with defensive backs, for the most part, on the first day of training camp. Tuesday, it was time for the defense to show that they aren’t going to be pushed around all the time.
Middle linebacker Rolando McClain blanketed receivers on short passes over the middle, cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke shined for the second straight day and backup safety Mike Mitchell punctuated the spirited performance with an interception of Carson Palmer on what appeared to be a well-thrown pass for receiver Juron Criner.
“Yeah, we made a few plays,” coach Dennis Allen said. “Coaches are all perfectionists, so it’s never what you want. I’ve learned over the years that when you walk off the practice field, it’s never as good as you thought it was or never as bad as you thought it was.
“Kind of reserve judgment until we get to watch the tape. It was nice at least to see us make a few plays. Mike Mitchell made a nice play on the interception, so it was nice to see.”
The real proof that the defense is up to the challenge, of course, comes during games. For now, it’s a nice start.
– The Raiders placed punter Shane Lechler (knee) and cornerback Ron Bartell (hamstring) on the non-football-injury list, which means they aren’t able to practice as a result of injuries suffered in non-football-related activities.
The Raiders can activate Lechler and Bartell from the list once they pass a physical and are cleared to practice.
– Second-year player Joseph Barksdale worked at right offensive tackle today, with rookie Tony Bergstrom next to him at right guard. This is in contrast to Monday, when they worked on the left side.
We’re still waiting to see them get some meaningful reps with the first-team unit. Allen said that’s likely to occur at some point in camp.
Until then, the first-team line looks like this, from left to right: Jared Veldheer, Cooper Carlisle, Stefen Wisniewski, Mike Brisiel and Khalif Barnes.
– Mitchell has supplanted Rock Cartwright as the personal protector on punts. For now, at least. Mitchell is fast enough and versatile enough to execute a direct snap off a fake punt, if needed.
– Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford were the lone two fielding punts Monday. Today, four others joined the fray — Criner, Rod Streater, DeAundre Muhammad and Derek Carrier.
Ford showed no lingering effects from the tweaked left knee he suffered in practice Monday.
– The NFL has implemented a mandatory use of metal detectors for all fans entering the stadium at games this season. As a result, the Raiders are encouraging fans to arrive at least two hours before kick-off to ensure that no one misses any of the game.
Chief executive Amy Trask is confident that the Raiders won’t have any difficulty adjusting to the new procedure aimed at ensuring fans’ safety. Part of that confidence stems from the Raiders being the first team to employ walk-through scanners, which are believed to be faster than hand wands.
– Bartell, Lechler, linebacker Aaron Curry and defensive tackle Travis Ivey were the only four players who missed all of practice.
Running back Mike Goodson (hamstring) and tight end Richard Gordon (hip flexor) suffered injuries in practice today. Their long-term status is unknown right now. They will be evaluated on a daily basis, Allen said.
As for Lechler’s status, Allen said: “I don’t expect it to be any big deal, so I’m not real concerned about it.”
– When asked to rate the performance of Palmer so far, on a scale of 1-10, Allen doled out high praise, as well as high marks.
“Eight, nine,” Allen said. “He’s doing exceptional. He’s got full command of the offense and he’s doing a nice job of running it.”
Seeing Palmer perform at such a high level and in a nice comfort level, in turn, gives Allen peace of mind that the offense is in good hands.
“Absolutely,” Allen said. “You can’t win in this league on a consistent basis (without an reliable quarterback), and we feel good about the one we got.”
Being able to work with his teammates and coaches all year has helped a great deal, Palmer said. Last season, he arrived midway through the season after asking out of the Cincinnati Bengals and not practicing or playing until mid-October.
“It’s (Bill) Parcells that always says, ‘There’s a difference between being in shape and being in football shape, and the only way to get into football shape is to play football,’ ” Palmer said. “When you don’t play football for seven months or whatever it was, it just takes awhile not only for your mind to adjust to the speed of the game but your body to adjust. That was one of the toughest things for me just trying to get caught up with game shape.”
– The Raiders are permitted to throw on pads at practice for the first time Wednesday. Guidelines set forth in the Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibit teams from using pads the first two days of camp.
Allen, for one, is fired up about the prospect of seeing how his players look in pads. All the offseason workouts were conducted without pads, as well, per league rules.
“We’re going to go play football, and that’s the way the game was meant to be played, in pads,” Allen said. “We’ll put ‘em on, we’ll mix it up a little bit, and we’ll find out who’s going to compete when we put the pads on.”
– Allen showed Tuesday that he won’t hesitate to get on his players if they aren’t performing at an acceptable level.
At one point, Allen stopped practice, assembled his players and reminded them about what he expects from them in practice.
“I felt it was necessary to bring them all in together, let ‘em know what I was observing, and give ‘em a chance to get it corrected,” Allen said. “They did a pretty nice job of responding.”
Palmer said it’s not uncommon for their to be a letdown this early in camp, especially with the hot weather.
“Today was not quite what we expected,” Palmer said. “Coach had to get on us a little bit. But yesterday was a good first practice. Today was kind of what you’d expect from a second day, a little bit sluggish.
“We had a couple of guys pull up with some cramping and minor things. Like coach says, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel right now. It’s a grind. We have a double day tomorrow and we just have to keep working.”
– Add Marcel Reece to the list of people impressed by running back Darren McFadden.
“I keep saying it and I’m going to keep saying it; Darren McFadden is the best running back in this league, and he’s going to be that,” Reece said. “I’m excited for him and just for him to show you guys everything he can do.”
– Plays of the day
1. Mitchell’s interception of Palmer.
2. Palmer delivered a perfect strike to Reece on the left sideline, with the ball placed just over the hands of rookie linebacker Miles Burris.
3. Criner turned around Shawntae Spencer, caught the crossing route and continued down the left sideline for a long gain.
4. Spencer and strong safety Tyvon Branch bracketed receiver Eddie McGee on a deep post route, giving McGee no room to make a play on a ball that sailed over his head.
5. Palmer eluded a strong rush, stepped up in the pocket and delivered a strike to receiver Jacoby Ford.
– Quote of the day: “I went home and my mama told me, ‘DeMarcus, I’m your No. 1 fan, but you dropped too many interceptions last year.’ So, this year, I’m trying to work on catching the ball and turning my head when the ball when the ball is in the air.” — Van Dyke on what he felt he needed to work on from his rookie season