So it is the last day of mind numbing, stop and go, non contact drilling. While the Raider players all seem to agree that it was useful, especially for the young guys, they are also unanimously excited to finally get into pads and do some full speed, full contact practice.
On one hand, it is nice to see the Raiders being one of the more quiet teams thus far, there is still some interesting things to talk about. Darrius Heyward-Bey was in camp just a day late while Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin are both still holding out. By every indication, the Raiders dodged a bullet in not drafting Crabtree. If he ever sees an NFL practice, we can judge him again down the road.
But these practices, while having been almost completely free of incident, have settle some concerns while raising others. Cable and most of the players are pretty good at “media speak”. But we are just too good at reading between the lines to let that slip by. Plus, using our own eyes tends to help matters as well.
For Barnes, it’s no consolation
Ever since the Raiders brought in Khalif Barnes, the question has been “who will be the starting left tackle?” It is, of course, between Barnes and Mario Henderson. And since Henderson was stellar at the position last season, he is the defacto starter.
Cable insists there is still an open competition at the position. But I am not sure he and Barnes are on the same page here. Today Cable was asked if he was considering moving the loser between Henderson and Barnes to right tackle, this was his response:
“I am, because I’ll pick the best five guys, so however that all works out.”
But if Barnes ends up not winning the starting left tackle position, he would not be too kean on moving to the right side. And he didn’t minse words when asked if he would be comfortable with such a move.
“To be honest with you, no. I haven’t did a right-side kick since I was in college. I just — I’ve been so used to being in this stance for so long, it’d be awkward to be over there. So, I mean, I don’t know man.”
So I suppose that means the he would rather be a backup than a starter on the right side. Surely, that is not great news for the coaches because there is no reason to suspect that Henderson will be letting go of the left tackle position after not allowing a single sack all of last season.
So the big question at this point would be if Barnes even makes this team because if he can’t play right tackle, he is way too expensive to be a backup.
Early indications are that he is not the starter. Granted, the first team has been almost across the board, the same as last season’s starters. Also, Cable continues to insist that until Monday, no implications should be taken from who is playing on which field or with which unit.
In fact Barnes was only seen on the field as a starter in one instance. It was a goal line play in which he lined up outside the left tackle as “tackle eligible”.
“Oh that’s the tank position.” Barnes said.” When we bring an extra tackle in, so I usually do that — we do that in the spring, during OTA’s and I was the tank position in there, so since we’re in two fields, I was doing that on that side.”
However, what may just be Barnes’ saving grace is his run-blocking skills. That was the one area that Henderson was slightly lacking in last season. Not giving up sacks is great, and not false-starting constantly is great too. But this team is going to rely heavily on the run this coming season. This is something that Barnes is very adept at
“Yeah, I’m excited about that because that’s something in my career that I’ve gotten at. I’m pretty good with my feet and I can do pass protection pretty well. As my career came on, I had those guys like Maurice (Jones Drew), Fred (Taylor) and those guys, and we became very heavy run-oriented, and started liking it. So, I’m excited about that. We got three good backs here and that’s something I like doing, coming off the ball real fast.”
So if Cable thinks that Barnes can handle the zone blocking schemes better than Henderson, Barnes could end up as the starter.
And I am sure Henderson is much more open to moving to the right side if asked to do so. Or simply backing up Barnes. He has been in this position before and came out on top. If Super Mario could accomplish that feat again this season, the Raiders may just stop trying to replace him.
Uh Oh… looks like someone’s got a case of the Mondays!
After four plus days of learning, drilling, and watching grass grow, these guys are finally on the cusp of getting to do what they do best. It’s time to suit up and hit something.
“The most important thing is speed of play when the ball is snapped. That will be dramatically different”, Says Cable. “What we want to do is our thing against each other, get it as fast and as violent as we can but also taking care of each other.”
And from the sounds of it, these guys have never been more anxious to see some action in their lives. They sound like crack heads who have been on the wagon for four days. Red, bulging out eyes, itching their necks, offering to…um give you cheeseburgers for a hit. Just a little taste.
“We’re pretty anxious to put the pads on and start banging heads,” says Ricky Brown.
Khalif Barnes agreed, “I’m excited to do that tomorrow and have pads on so we can have a live look and get a little bit of hitting going on. Not hurt people, but I want to feel that again.”
Nnamdi Asomugha spoke of Monday’s intensity level, “It will (get intense). I guarantee it will. Intensity is good, though, and aggressiveness is good, and maybe there will be a fight or two. Maybe we’ll get the juices flowing that way, but it will be good.”
Satele spoke on the shift in practice, “Yeah you know sometimes guys fill in that hole pretty fast and we tell them slow down its just teaching but tomorrow you cant say that and we will see what tomorrow is.”
Ok guys, coffee and cigarettes at my place after practice.
Miller time on kicks AND punts?
After the Raiders grabbed Justin Miller from the scrap heap last season, he stepped into the role of kick returner for the Raiders and paid immediate…well “returns” with two return touchdowns on the season. All the while Jonnie Lee Higgins was lighting it up with three return touchdowns of his own.
But there is a new Miller in town. That would be NICK Miller, rookie return specialist out of Division I-AA Southern Utah. And with JLH focusing on being a “great” receiver, Nick could take over his return duties.
“I feel like they have me here for a reason”, said Nick. “Jonnie Lee Higgins is a great return man, but he’s gonna play a lot of receiver this year, and he’s not going to be able to do it all. So there’s going to have to be someone to step in and fill his shoes. And they have me second string right now at that position, so I feel like I can do a good job in filling his shoes.
“I did a lot out there [at Southern Utah]. I did receiver, I did kick returner and punt returner. I feel like my strong point, where I got a lot of my stuff from was all of my special teams. You know, I got a lot of awards for that.”
He certainly is a Raider type of player. He is, by all indications, a Chris Carr clone on returns. However, while Carr was a mediocre, (that’s me being generous), cornerback, Miller appears to be a damn fine receiver despite his small stature. Can you guess what made him attractive to the Raiders? He can.
“I believe it was my pro day. I went up to BYU’s pro day and I believe I ran a 4.3s-40… And then all my film, I was first in the nation in all purpose yards…then the 40 time and everybody kind of looked me up after that and saw what I did at the I-AA level.”
For now, he will certainly make a great return man. But from what we have seen in practice, comparisons to Chris Carr could be insulting. Eddie Royal could be a bit more accurate at this stage.