By Steve Corkran
Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 at 5:04 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen is big on seeing what a player can do in practice before signing off on that player playing in the upcoming game. Running back Darren McFadden is one of the few execptions.
In McFadden’s case, Allen said Thursday, he doesn’t have to practice Friday — he missed practice Wednesday and Thursday — but at some point between now and Sunday night’s game against the San Diego Chargers, Allen wants “to see something” that indicates McFadden’s hamstring is healed well enough for him to play.
McFadden missed most of last Sunday’s game, when he departed after only five carries. He was replaced by veteran Rashad Jennings, who rushed for 45 yards and caught eight passes for 71 yards in a somewhat surprising performance.
See, Jennings struggled for most of last season, his fourth and final one with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He played through injuries and finished with a 2.8-yard average rushing.
Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson was there to witness Jennings’ play. He said the Jennings he sees with the Raiders bears little resemblance. And that’s a good thing for the Raiders.
“I wasn’t sure how that was going to work, him coming here,” Olson said. “After being with him in Jacksonville, he’s a better player here. For whatever reason, he’s a better player than he was last year in Jacksonville. Sometimes a player just needs a change of scenery or a change in system, a change in his staff.
“Whatever the case might be, he seems to be a more focused player, a tougher player, a tougher runner. I see a tougher runner than I saw a year ago.”
Jennings is more physical, Olson said, which showed numerous times against the Redskins, as Jennings broke tacklesm ran over defenders and picked up valuable yardage and first downs.
Jennings’ play against the Redskins lessens the importance for McFadden to rush back from injury. It’s also possible that the Raiders will get more production from Jennings based on how McFadden has played the past two seasons.
– Tarver said rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden has the makings of a standout player for years to come. It’s just a matter of Hayden putting everything together.
“We had one leverage issue in the game (Sunday),” Tarver said, “but other than that he had good coverage against most of those third downs.”
Hayden said he has little doubt that he’s going to succeed at a high level.
“The game is coming fast to me,” Hayden said. “I just got to settle down and really buckle down and be more of a student of the game. Once I become that, then sky’s the limit.”
Tarver and Allen pointed out Hayden’s allowing Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon to get inside leverage on a route that Garcon converted into a touchdown Sunday. Just another learning experience, Allen said.
Hayden said he is learning more and more each game and getting closer and closer to playing at a level commensurate with that of the 12th player selected in the 2013 NFL draft.
It also helps, Hayden said, that ne now knows that he belongs in the NFL and that he has what it takes to flourish at this level.
“It’s not that much of an eye-opener,” Hayden said. “I’m up to it. When I first was here, I was like wow. But now I’m like, this ain’t no thing. It’s just another day at the office.”
– Rookie left offensive tackle Menelik Watson made it through practice Thursday for the second straight day. He said he felt better today than he did the first day and that he feels well enough to make his NFL debut.
“If my number is called this weekend, I’ll be ready to go,” Watson said. “But that’s the coaches’ decision. Right now I’m not worried about that. I’m just trying to keep getting more reps and some work done.”
Watson worked at left offensive tackle in practice, running with the second team, while Khalif Barnes worked with the first-team offense.
Allen said he needs to see Watson play before he decides whether Watson will be an immediate starter. Watson said he’s just eager to get his first taste of a regular-season game, in whatever capacity.
“Oh, man, I’m excited,” Watson said. “Coming into the Indianapolis game, I was so excited. It was a shock what happened. I can’t wait to get out there again, get in a competitive state and play in front of the crowd. It should be exciting.”
Watson suffered a knee injury before Oakland’s final exhibition game. When the knee worsened in the run up to the Colts game, the Raiders shut down Watson, who underwent surgery to repair ligament damage.
– Sebastian Janikowski is a victim of his own success, it appears. He was so accurate on field-goal attempts the past two seasons that now it passes as big news whenever he misses.
Naturally, there has to be a reason, right? The convenient thing to blame is new holder Marquette King. People are overthinking things, Allen said.
“He’s missed three field goals,” Allen said of Janikowski this seaason. “Let’s not make more out of this than what it is. He’s missed three field goals; he’s going to get better.”
Allen said it’s just a matter of time before long-snapper Jon Condo, King and Janikowski get in synch. After all, no one expected King to step right in and make people forget about punter/holder Shane Lechler right away.
– Wide receiver Andre Holmes passed his first major test Wednesday, when he made it through practice without any difficulty after he returned from a four-game suspension.
The second test came today, when Olson gauged how the Wednesday practice affected Holmes. Again, check.
“He’s in shape,” Olson said. “That was the biggest concern is what kind of shape he would be in, but we ran him a lot yesterday. We checked this morning before he came out to practice, and asked, ‘What type of soreness do you have in your legs?’ He said, ‘I feel good again today,’ so credit to him that he stayed in shape while he was away.”
Allen and Olson won’t commit to Holmes playing Sunday. The Raiders have until Saturday afternoon to make that decision. If they don’t activate Holmes by that time, they then have until Monday to decide how to proceed before their one-week roster exemption expires.