Rookie linebacker Miles Burris made a nice play on a goal-line pass Sunday. That, no doubt, caught the eye of coaches. However, the coaches also recognize the not-so-good plays.
To that end, Raiders coach Dennis Allen said, Burris still has a ways to go before he develops into a consistent player and someone that the Raiders can depend upon on an every-down basis.
“He’s been up and down,” Allen said. “He plays really hard, he’s an energetic guy, he understands football but yet, at the same time, we’ve thrown a lot of things at him. He’s still got to continue to improve to get better. He’s going to be a good player. We just got to work through some of the consistency issues.”
Burris isn’t alone, of course, in struggling to grasp everything thrown at them so early in their NFL careers. It’s all part of the learning process, Allen said.
“It won’t be this year,” Allen said, when asked how long it takes a player to grasp everything necessary. “As far as having everything, no, it takes awhile. This is a complex game, and we throw a lot of things at them. What you’re looking for is, every day you wan to see them improve a little bit.
“We call them repeat-mistake offenders. We don’t want to see guys that make the same mistakes over and over. He’s done a pretty nice job of getting some things corrected, but every day is something new. We put in something new defensively, our offense puts in a new look for them, so it’s just getting a chance to see all those different looks.”
Even so, Burris has done a commendable job filling in for injured weak-side linebacker Aaron Curry the first week-plus of training camp.
He looks instinctive, aggressive, fast and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. Once he gets the consistency part down, he figures to be a solid player for the Raiders for years to come.
Fellow rookie linebacker Nathan Stupar isn’t getting anywhere near the same amount of reps as Burris. He also has further to go in terms of grasping the nuances of playing the Raiders scheme, according to Allen.
“He’s a little further behind,” Allen said. “Nate’s got to step up from the standpoint of just knowing what to do and how to do it. He’s had a little bit more of an issue with making some of the same mistakes over and over. We got to get him corrected in that regard.”
— Running back Taiwan Jones (hamstring), wide receivers Eddie McGee (hamstring) and Denarius Moore (hamstring), defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee), Curry (knee) and punter Shane Lechler (knee) missed practice.
Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy tweaked an ankle late in practice. Allen said he isn’t sure of the severity of Shaughnessy’s injury, believed to be a bruise.
— Cornerback Ron Bartell practiced with his teammates for the first time since camp started. He missed the first six practices with a hamstring injury that he suffered before camp.
Bartell was allowed to participate in every drill. However, he isn’t allowed to don pads until Wednesday.
At one point, Bartell jumped a pass for wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and delivered a hard enough hit to prevent Heyward-Bey from hanging on to the ball.
Bartell was the Raiders’ most impressive cornerback in the offseason workouts. It’s not a stretch to envision him taking over for jettisoned veteran Stanford Routt as the No. 1 cornerback.
— Allen said Lechler (knee) is, perhaps, a week away from being able to pun for the first time since training camp started.
That means that rookie Marquette King likely will handle all the punting duties in Oakland’s exhibition opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.
King has been punting quite a bit most days in practice. He certainly is punting more than Lechler is accustomed to in training camp.
“He’s a young dude, man, he’ll be all right,” Allen said of King.
— Quote of the day: “Reggie Roby! Go get yourself a job. Just not here.” — defensive tackle Tommy Kelly to King, in reference to King punting well in the face of competing against perennial Pro Bowler Lechler
— Play of the day: Free safety Michael Huff ran stride for stride with wide receiver Rod Streater on a fly route down the right sideline, broke up the pass from Carson Palmer and watched from the ground as safety Matt Giordano made a diving interception just before he landed out of bounds.
— The Raiders committed four obvious penalties — six officials presided over practice — fumbled three times and had one pass intercepted.
Those are the things that Allen and his staff are working hard to become less of a problem. Call it a work in progress.
“Those are the things that cost you games,” Allen said. “We’re really preaching the message of, to learn how to win in the NFL, the first thing you have to do is learn how to not beat yourself. Penalties, turning the ball over, those type of things cost you football games. Until we get that corrected, we’re going to stand up here and say the same things over and over.”
— The Raiders went live in a session at the end of today’s practice. It’s something Allen intends to do from time to time as a means of gauging where his players are at.
“That was the plan all along,” Allen said. “It was a short-yardage session where we wanted to see who would come off the ball and knock people back and who was going to play physical.”
Tight end David Ausberry said he and his teammates enjoy the live sessions.
“It was good,” Ausberry said. “We don’t take each other to the ground too much because our team’s got to take care of each other, but it was good. I feel like we’re playing physical ball and that’s what we’re going to need to do.”
Allen also wants his players to be better tacklers than they were last season.
“At times it was definitely an issue,” Allen said, “and we’ve talked about tackling and how we’ve got to be a great tackling team if we’re going to be a good defense.”
— Kelly admitted that old habits are hard to break when it comes to staying onside. Well, Allen said he has a plan on how to help Kelly get over the hump, so to speak.
“We’re going to try to do things to incentivize Tommy not to anticipate so much,” Allen said. “But Tommy’s done a good job. He’s working, he’s trying to do everything that we ask him to do, and we’re going to continue to work on that part of his game as well as the fundamentals and technique.
“He’s a real talented player, and if he’ll just clean up a few things he’s got a chance to be one of the better interior linemen in the league.”