It is day five of Raiders training camp. Today it was all about the linebackers. Whether on the field or signing contracts, today was their day.
On the field it was Rolando McClain who garnered all the attention. He is extremely vocal at the middle linebacker spot. When he isn’t laying into his defensive teammates for a lapse, he talks trash with the offense.
He and Rock Cartwright got into it a couple of times. Rock is not one to back down from a confrontation and that makes for some pretty fun jawing sessions between the two of them. The first time, Rolando took Rock to the ground on a tackle and Rock popped up and smacked him on the back of the helmet. The second time, Rolando hit Rock pretty hard and again Rock popped up and the two had a heated exchange.
McClain wasn’t without his flaws on the field and he has yet to cash all the checks his mouth is writing. Still, he is on his way to the bank, mostly because his mouth is writing some big checks.
Speaking of big checks…
Kamerion Wimbley finally signed a long term deal with the Raiders, and it was a big one. Five years, $48 million with $29 million guaranteed. It has not been revealed yet what his cap number will be this season but it will come down considerably from the $11.8 million hit the Raiders would have taken had he remained the franchise player.
The Raiders have been desperate to get this deal done to get some cap relief. It was one of their primary concerns so that they could afford to offer Zach Miller a new contract.
Today Zach Miller was in Seattle talking to the Seahawks where his former head coach Tom Cable is coach of the offensive line. Yesterday Hue Jackson seemed very positive about the Raiders getting the deal done with Miller. Today his tone and his words were less positive saying, “Hopefully he’ll get back to us.”
It is more than a coincidence that the day it appears Zach Miller got tired of waiting for the Raiders to get a deal done with him, the Kamerion Wimbley deal gets done. I have no doubt that deal got done today because of Zach Miller talking to the Seahawks. That is also why Kamerion’s deal was so lucrative. The Raiders gave him a lot of money to make sure the deal got done today and they could show Zach the money too.
The funny rule now is that Wimbley was practicing up to yesterday as the franchise player. But now that he has signed a new deal, he can’t practice again until August 4 with the rest of the newly signed players. Playing on the strong side in Wimbley’s stead was Travis Goethel.
On the other side, Quentin Groves has looked pretty good. The Raiders entertained the idea of signing the newly released Lofa Tutupu but it appears as if they declined because the last word, per John Clayton’s Twitter page, was that Tatupu was headed to Washington.
Groves is playing well enough, in practice at least, that he looks improved. He said he has been working more on locating the ball carrier and trusting himself. He has also been working on his tackling and he laid a couple of nice pops out there today. What I noticed and pointed out to him was he was doing a better job of staying home. To which he finished my sentence for me saying “protecting the backside.” That has been one of the issues with the run protection — gap discipline and protecting against the cutback run. For now it appears he has done some good work fixing the issue.
In the absence of Zach Miller, the other tight end hopefuls are getting some good work in. The two rookies looked especially good today.
Richard Gordon was drafted this year out of Miami as a blocking tight end. He caught a total of 10 passes for 60 yards in four seasons at Miami. But you wouldn’t know it by how he was catching the ball today.
He ran a quick out and caught a pass leaning out of bounds on one play and then a couple plays later, he ran a crossing pattern and looked the ball in for a nice catch in stride. He turned and ran up field. With just cornerback Sterling Moore in his way, Gordon put a shoulder into him and kept running for a would-be touchdown. He has a Brandon Manumaleuna feel to him.
The other rookie tight end is David Ausberry. He was a wide receiver his first three seasons at USC before switching to tight end, and he looks it. Ausberry is quite big for a wide receiver and could stand to add some bulk as a tight end. He expectedly has tremendous hands. After practice, Hue Jackson commented about Ausberry’s speed as well. I have long had him pegged for the practice squad but if he can show some quick progress as a blocker it is possible he makes this team.
One good fight at practice and it was started by, who else, Lamarr Houston. He was held by an offensive lineman, or so he thought, and got in some extracurricular shoves. Then left tackle Jared Veldheer came shooting in to protect his line mate by shoving Houston away and it was on. A bunch of shoves and ‘rabble, rabble, rabble’ later and it was back to work.
Turnovers were something that Hue has been hoping to see more of and he was disappointed again. Hiram Eugene was in position to make one when Kyle Boller had a miscommunication with his receiver, but it was slightly behind him and he couldn’t come down with it.
Denarius Moore continues to impress. He has suffered from rookie jitters at times but he seemed very comfortable today. He caught balls cleanly as a receiver and also worked with the punt return unit. With Taiwan Jones still nursing a strained groin muscle and Jacoby Ford out with a broken hand, Moore, Nick Miller, and Shaun Bodiford fielded punts. Moore looked the best of the three both in hauling the punts in and running after the catch.
After practice Hue Jackson had this to say of Moore:
“I saw a guy who had a zest for making big plays, extremely gifted, talented, can catch the ball. I see the same things out here. He looks like he belongs. It’s not too big for him. He’s done a great job with the installation. He’s handled that well, and then he’s come out here and he’s competed. He doesn’t shy away from the big guys. He wants to get up there against the Stanford Routts and the C.J.’s and anybody else that we put out there. I really like the young man. He’s done a terrific job.”
Rookie undrafted free agent fullback James McCluskey was shaken up in practice and walked gingerly off the field. I will keep an eye out for him on Wednesday.
Darrius Heyward-Bey is still sidelined but according to him he is day to day. No one will even say what his injury is. Last season he was out for an extended period of time with what Tom Cable said was “fatigue.”
Chimdi Chekwa went out two days ago with a shoulder injury. He is still out but he is not wearing the sling he was wearing yesterday so it appears he is recovering.
Bruce Campbell is still out with a knee injury but unlike the previous two days, he wasn’t using an icepack on it.
Jacoby Ford broke his left hand two days ago. Hue Jackson said yesterday that Ford would be out two weeks. He revised his statement a bit today saying only that he will be ready by the time the season starts. That sounds more plausible than two weeks for a broken hand.
Trevor Scott is still rehabbing and there is no timetable for his return.
There is no practice tomorrow but there will certainly be plenty of news. Hopefully the next headline you see on TFDS is some form of “Raiders re-sign TE Miller.” I know I will be on pins and needles.