After having spent the weekend at training camp, I was able to get a good look at where the wide receivers stand. Yesterday, LDizzle did an excellent job of outlining the speed of that group. He is correct that they are fast, and it would seem to be that they would make an excellent 4×100 relay team. This has caused great consternation in the Raider Nation, as many believe that they are “track stars” who lack football skills.
My observations don’t bear this out as truth. The receivers were running solid routes, and whilst there were times that there were problems with drops. It is not nearly time to push the panic button as it is only May. The Raiders have until September to get the kinks worked out.
The talk centers around wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. DHB has been under scrutiny since he was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the seventh overall pick in the draft. He was gangbusters in the opening day of training camp. Other than issues shagging punts from Shane Lechler in practice, there was no signs of the stone hands that he had been accused of. The second day, he did have problems holding on to the ball. The bigger concern from my standpoint, was his inability to finish the minicamp. He missed the second practice of the second day with cramps and soreness in his hamstrings. Coach Tom Cable said that he was being held out solely as a precautionary measure.
The other receiver the Raiders drafted, Louis Murphy, had a strong start to his minicamp before he went down with soreness in his hamstrings. Like DHB, Cable said that he was being held out as a precaution. He practiced intermittently for the remainder of camp.
With the focus being on the rookies, it is overlooked that both returning starters Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens had very strong performances in minicamp. They showed off their speed and athleticism, and they also showed off their hands. Both of them hauled in all of the balls that were thrown in their areas.
Todd Watkins, who spent 2008 on the fringes of the roster, also had a very productive camp. He was catching balls all over the field. He was also all over the special teams drills. He has a reputation of being a strong practice player, but has trouble sniffing the field. That raises some questions.
The biggest questions surround Javon Walker. He surprised the Raiders by having a knee surgery last month without first notifying the team. Apparently, he didn’t want to distract them from their draft preparations. (HUH?!?!) This could get the Raiders off the hook for their guaranteed portion of Walker’s contract if they want, as it was a violation of his contract.
Arman Shields continued not playing his way off the team. The knee injury that cost him his entire rookie season continued lingering and kept him on the sidelines for the entirity of minicamp.
Samie Parker impressed the team enough to get a look for training camp, whilst Drisan James didn’t get the same. Overlooked undrafted free agent Sean Bayes made some spectacular catches.
It is easy to classify these guys as “speed guys” because they are undeniably fast, however, they are more than just speed burners. There will be many eyes on these guys come training camp, and I will keep you updated.
Check out my article on the entire offense at EXAMINER.COM
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