By Steve Corkran
Sunday, July 28th, 2013 at 2:34 pm in Oakland Raiders.
NAPA — The pads went on Sunday for the first time all season as the Raiders enjoyed the contact aspect of the game for a change.
It also might be about time to put on some stickum-laced gloves based on the way the Raiders struggled hanging on to the football.
Today’s practice featured numerous dropped passes, including two each from wide receiver Jacoby Ford and fullback Marcel Reece.
Coach Dennis Allen bemoaned the number of dropped passes Saturday as “way too many.” It seemed as if there were at least a dozen dropped passes Sunday, yet Allen said: “It was better today than it was yesterday.”
Either way you look at it, the Raiders need to do a better job of catching the ball.
To be fair, the Raiders attempted a high number of passes Sunday and their receivers caught a majority of the balls one might expect them to catch.
Allen said it’s going to take time for things to reach the desired level. That’s understandable, given this was the third day of camp and many of the receivers and quarterbacks are new.
“It’s going to be a continual process,” Allen said. “Really, at the end of the day, what it comes down to is concentration. Focus in on the football, make the play when you get the opportunity and that’s what players in the NFL do.”
Tight end David Ausberry was not among those guilty of dropping catchable passes Sunday. He took things in perspective.
“On the whole, things went smooth,” Ausberry said. “We knocked off the rust a little bit, but overall it went well.”
– Ausberry is one of a handful of players vying for the starting spot created by the departure of Brandon Myers.
Ausberry and Richard Gordon are the returning tight ends from last year’s team. Therefore, it’s logical to assume that they have an edge over a cast of other hopefuls.
That list includes draft picks Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera, as well as Brian Leonhardt and Jeron Mastrud.
Myers entered camp last season lumped in with Ausberry and Gordon. He asserted himself at practice and in Oakland’s exhibition games en route to earning the starting job.
“Absolutely we’re looking for somebody to step up,” Allen said of this year’s group. “That’s what training camp is all about. We want somebody to step up, say that, ‘I’m the man and this is my job.’ We’re going to let the competition dictate that. We’re going to give everybody the opportunity, at least early in camp, to prove that they’re worthy of that title, of being the guy.”
– Cornerback Taiwan Jones intercepted a Matt McGloin pass early in practice as he continues his conversion from running back.
He said that he no longer views himself as a running back, except when he gets his hands on the ball as a result of an interception or a fumble.
“I’m looking to take it to the house,” Jones said of his mind-set when he has the ball.
– Undrafted free agent wide receiver Sam McGuffie missed practice for the second straight day.
Allen isn’t giving specifics on injuries right now, so we’re left to speculate and connect the dots.
The smart money says, McGuffie is recovering from a collision he had with a defensive back Friday. McGuffie took a shot to the head on the play and looked shaken up for a spell afterward.
It’s interesting to note that McGuffie suffered three concussions during his freshman season at Michigan — he finished his career at Rice.
– Cornerback D.J. Hayden still is wearing a red, no-contact jersey in practice. However, he isn’t backing down from sticking his nose in there from time to time.
At one point Saturday, Hayden covered Rod Streater as a member of the first-team defense. So, the Raiders might be easing Hayden into the mix in terms of contact, but certainly not as far as his exposure to the defense.
– Lucas Nix worked at left guard for the second time in three days, with Tony Bergstrom running with the second-team.
Therefore, it’s apparent that offensive line coach Tony Sparano is going to take a long look at both players for a certain length of time before he decides on a replacement for departed veteran Cooper Carlisle.
Same goes at right offensive tackle, where Khalif Barnes is getting the bulk of the reps. Alex Barron and Willie Smith also are getting quite a bit of time at right tackle, mostly as backups.
The rest of the offensive line appears set, with Jared Veldheer the left tackle, Stefen Wisniewski at center and Mike Brisiel at right guard.
Veldheer said he’s impressed by how well the line is jelling under Sparano’s tutelage and despite the conversion from a zone-blocking scheme to a power-blocking scheme.
“It’s coming together well,” Velhdeer said. “Guys have it down very well. People are getting it, and coach Sparano has done a good job of teaching guys how to do it and really understanding the full play and what’s happening. That allows us to go out there and play fast because we’re not thinking about a lot of things.”
– Linebackers Miles Burris, Sio Moore, Kaluka Maiava and Billy Boyko, defensive tackle Pat Sims and offensive tackle Menelik Watson didn’t practice today.
Allen said he expects Maiava to “miss a little bit of time” but that the other injured players don’t appear to be too serious.
Same goes for wide receiver Jacoby Ford, who missed the latter part of practice with an undisclosed injury. He looked fine in the first half of practice, especially on several downfield routes that required him to run at or near full speed.
– Several players mixed it up early in practice, with Barnes emerging from the bottom of the pile, along with a handful of defensive players.
As far as training camp brawls go, this one registers about a 1.0 on a scale of 1-10. Allen dismissed the dustup as business as usual.
“It’s football,” Allen said. “At the end of the day, we got to understand that we can’t hurt our team. We need everybody out there. But you have to practice football. You have to practice it tough, you have to practice it physical and you’re never going to be able to run the ball if you don’t come off the ball and try to knock the heck out of people.
“That’s what we did. First day of practice, you get pads on, everybody’s a little jacked up and it got a little feisty in there. But that’s all right.”
– Terrelle Pryor is throwing the ball with the kind of zip, accuracy and touch that weren’t evident much his first two seasons, let alone during offseason workouts.
Chalk it up to a player that refuses to be told that he can’t succeed as a quarterback in the NFL and works as hard as any of the 88 players on the roster.
“He’s continued to get better,” Allen said. “He’s worked extremely hard at it and anytime you get a talented player that works extremely hard, he’s going to get better. We’re doing some things with him to try to take advantage of his talents. He’s responding to that. He’s going to continue to work. He’s competing. The guy is a competitor, so he’s trying to do everything he can to help this team.”
On one play, Pryor dropped back and fit a ball into tight coverage, right into the waiting arms of receiver Juron Criner. This was a high-difficulty pass that required Pryor to get it over linebacker Keenan Clayton’s hands without launching it too far and into the arms of the defensive back.
“That was definitely a good pass for me,” Pryor said.
In fact, he had numerous good passes and very few that were off the mark.
By Pryor’s estimation: “I missed about three or four balls out of a lot, 83 throws, 90 throws.”
Allen said he isn’t thinking too far down the road in terms of converting Pryor to another position if his progress stalls.
“Our focus is trying to train him as a quarterback,” Allen said. “That’s what we’re working on right now.”