The Raiders were back at practice Sunday for the final day of the three day mini camp. Day three meant much of the same drills but with the hope that by now, a few things have gotten sharper. Indeed there were many aspects that were sharper while many things were business as usual and a couple of players had actually regressed.
You could say that JaMarcus Russell fell into the third category if you were to go by how good he had looked the previous two days. Although, it you go by the kind of performance we have grown accustomed to from him, today falls more in the category of 'business as usual.'
Russell was wild on most of his throws including but not exclusive to short out patterns. Those were his bugaboo last season and they remain so. That same type of throw is one that Jason Campbell usually executes like...say...an NFL quarterback? On two straight throws, Russell threw wide and out of bounds on a short out to the right side. Then Campbell came in and threw the same pass like he could do it in his sleep.
Not to harp on Russell here but the only pass he seemed to be able to complete consistently was the ten yard dump to the tight end (probably the easiest pass play in the playbook).
In the previous two days Campbell was going through some growing pains and looking like...well like he was the new guy with a brand new playbook. He made tremendous strides in just these five practices.
But it's not like Russell and Campbell are the only quarterbacks in these practices who is fighting for the starting job on this team. There's always Charlie Frye. Yes that is hard to say with a straight face. At this point Frye is fighting to make the team. And today's practice, he didn't do himself any favors. He has never really had the kind of arm strength that the Raiders covet. Most his passes in practice seemed to float a bit. Two passes in particular, he over threw a deep middle route. The first one was intercepted by rookie Jeremy Ware who had good coverage and the next one he overthrew again and it should have been intercepted as well.
The Receivers are looking pretty good as a unit. They could look even better if Chaz Schilens and Nick Miller were practicing with them. Miller had his helmet on for the first time this mini camp and he took some passes but they were individual drills on a seperate field. Chaz remains a spectator as he is recovering from procedure done on his foot. Cable claims that he is fine but they were keeping him out as a precaution.
Of those receivers that were practicing, Paul Hubbard had looked really good through most of camp. With Chaz out, Hubbard at just 6-2 is actually the tallest receiver on the field. Of course, as soon as it really occurred to me how good Hubbard has looked, he immediately plays a pass with very poor technique and the ball bounced off his forearms incomplete. Hubbard will not be afforded many gaffs like that if he hopes to sneak onto this team. Unfortunately, players like Darrius Heyward-Bey will be given plenty of chances with plenty of mistakes and no worries about not making this team. The nature of the business.
Michael Bush is looking tremendous out there. He never ceases to amaze with his size combined with his 'wiggle' and his burst of speed through the hole. He is far and away the best back on this team. Pro Football Talk seems to have gotten the idea that McFadden is looking good in practice. I don't know where he got that indication but I haven't seen it. On one run I would describe his move as “eluding the gap to shoot right into Ricky Brown.” Then another play he split out wide with Branch covering him. McFadden ran a straight sideline route and Tyvon matched him sride for stride and batted down the pass. To be fair, it was damn good coverage on the part of Branch.
There were a lot of nice plays by Dbs today. Nearly the entire corps is looking solid including the rookies. Once the offense and defense lined up opposite each other, it got interesting. Michael Huff, Jeremy Ware, Walter McFadden and Branch all made some nice plays.
The only players that were really lacking among the Db's were Stanford Routt and Hiram Eugene. Both were chewed out by John Marshall in two separate instances. Eugene got an earfull when he wasn't loud and authoritative enough when calling out the defense. Marshall ranted “We will NOT be beat!” to the entire team as a restult. Later on Eugene dropped an easy interception that he absolutely should had.
Routt angered Marshall for lapses in coverage and was pulled out of drills much to his dismay. He was not happy at all about being taken out and got a little heated with Marshall for a second until he reined it in. He was replaced by Joey Thomas on some plays and Huff on others.
In case anyone was wondering, Thomas Howard continues to work with the 2nd team defense. Cable says not to read anything into it but he says that whenever any questions about which team a player is running with come up.
That's pretty much it that stood out. And that is indeed it for this round of Raider mini camps. Next stop: OTA's!
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