Training Camp is over in Napa, and we are less than three weeks away from the start of the regular season. What have we learned?
-The Raider run defense is still very questionable, to say the least. In the NFL Draft this past April, they passed over guys such as B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, who could have added something greater than the likes of journeyman defensive tackle William Joseph and undrafted rookie Desmond Bryant.
Terdell Sands may not even make the roster now with the emergence of rookie Desmond Bryant. It would be very interesting if the Raiders chose to take a defensive tackle in the draft, because the guy they were relying on (Sands) is not fairing any better under the new staff than he did the old one. Joseph and/or Bryant will probably see moe time if/when Sands is cut.
-JaMarcus Russell has had an up and down camp. He showed up overweight, which drew critiscism, but orchestrated a private practice with some fellow receivers to get to know each other better. The passing offense took a huge hit last week, when camp’s best overall player, Chaz Schilens, suffered an injury and is not expected back until week two or later of the regular season.
Raiders will have Javon Walker back for this Saturday’s game against New Orleans, and everyone will have their eyes on him. He has already made over $20 million dollars while with the Raiders since signing in 2008. Last year he was still hampered by a reccurring knee injury and eventually went on injured reserve after going down with an ankle injury.
Walker has made reporters drool while going through drills with a trainer. Let’s see if he can do that in a game like he claims he will.
-Mike Mitchell will have a hard time getting work in with the Raiders defense due to his hamstring injury. Tyvon Branch has been impressive with 3 interceptions in the last two days , and with Mitchell competing with him for the position it seems all but clear Branch will start at strong safety. Something to keep an eye on will be what they decide to do with Mitchell when he is healthy. Sit him? Maybe even let him get a chance at free safety? That second round pick doesn’t look too good right now.
-The three headed monster rushing attck the Raiders have is very intriguing. Tom Cable hasn’t named a starter for the regular season yet, but will start Michael Bush this Saturday against the Saints to see what he can do with the first team after giving Justin Fargas and Darren Mcfadden the nod in the previous two games. Mcfadden will have to get 20 or more touches a game regardless.
-Kirk Morrison may not be starting, and not because of his injury. Although Cable hinted that Morrison was ahead in the battle for the starting middle linebacker slot with Ricky Brown. Brown was noticeably ahead in practice and in pre-season play as he always seems to be around the ball.
-Greg Ellis has been the veteran presence that Derrick Burgess could not. Ellis volontarily offers advice to the younger players and pushes them to get better. He will fair better against the run than Burgess did, but the Raiders should give him the neccessary breaks like Dallas did to keep him fresh when it counts.
–AJ DeMello, TFDS Guest Contributor