With a practice in shells and shorts on Wednesday and an off day on Thursday, you would expect a well-rested football team and a good practice performance on Friday. According to Dennis Allen, the Oakland Raiders lacked focus and tempo on Friday and will hope to rebound on Saturday morning. It's all about mental toughness, according to Allen, fighting through distractions like the heat and fatigue.
Although the defense was hardly immune to making mistakes on Friday, they appeared to have the upper hand in the Napa Valley heat. There were numerous would-be sacks of Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart and a couple interceptions. The linebackers and secondary didn't allow many, if any, big passing plays. The only offensive player of note was Darren McFadden.
McFadden moves quickly to the edge and is such a weapon in the passing game as well, but even he was bottled up at times and the linebackers were quick to put a body on him in coverage
The linebackers as a group had a good day. Philip Wheeler is an extremely active player and is almost always around the ball. Wheeler has also been spending a lot of time pressuring the quarterbacks. Miles Burris defended a few passes in the flat and made sure they could go for no more than a short gain and also intercepted Matt Leinart thanks in large part to good pressure from the defensive line.
Rolando McClain also had one of his better days of camp as he made at least two plays in coverage and also did a good job of bottling up the run. McClain's success against the run could also be attributed to good work by the defensive line.
Matt Shaughnessy appeared to be getting quickly into the offensive backfield and the entire pocket appeared to collapse around Palmer and Leinart. The pressure, combined with good coverage, likely attributed to some issues completing passes to wide receivers.
Shawntae Spencer had another good practice and yet again was able to limit Jacoby Ford. Ron Bartell wore pads for the first time and performed well. Michael Huff, playing free safety, at one point diagnosed a passing play and made the correct check. As a nickel cornerback, Huff was able to completely blanket Juron Criner on one play.
Particularly active in the secondary was Mike Mitchell, healthy and playing with the No. 1 defense because Tyvon Branch was held out of practice with back spasms. Mitchell intercepted a Palmer pass, was able to run with and cover fullback Marcel Reece and also broke up several other passes.
Unfortunately, Mitchell is also making some mistakes, because his passion and enthusiasm for the game get the best of him. Mitchell landed on tight end Brandon Myers and he hurt his shoulder. Myers went to the locker room with trainers. Mitchell made a little too much contact with Rod Streater on a pass breakup.
Mitchell acknowledges, he's got to do a better job of protecting his teammates. "I'm still learning to be a professional." Mitchell said. "That is keeping everybody up and staying off the ground.
"They're going to let the chains off on Monday night. I can't wait. No one is going to be telling me not to do this, that or the other. The chains are off and I get to just go play ball."
Mitchell is excited to be healthy and to play without restrictions, but he's also really excited to play in the new defensive scheme being installed by Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.
"The defense in the past hasn't been as fun." Mitchell said. "It felt like you could know what we were in every down by the third series of the game. Where as, now, we've got a lot of...great stuff."
The diversity on defense, though, is not as complicated as you might think, according to Mitchell. "Coach (Tarver) does a great job." Mitchell said. "It's dummy simple. We're not all rocket scientists out here. He does a good job of making it easy.
"(Tarver) is a genius." Mitchell said. "I love his defense because we are always coming from everywhere."
Despite a day in which the defense got the best of the offense, Palmer is impressing with his ability to move out of the pocket and deliver accurate passes on the run. Palmer is impressing not just the media, but also the defense. Mitchell praised Palmer's ability to read the defense and said preparing against him will help when he goes up against Peyton Manning. Mitchell says Palmer challenges him not to give away the coverage with his body position and he expects a big year from him.
Lonyae Miller and Rashawn Jackson continue to get the bulk of the carries behind McFadden while Mike Goodson recovers from a sore neck and Taiwan Jones from a hamstring. Goodson said his neck is just sore and will get back on the field as soon as he's cleared by the medical staff. Jones worked out with the trainers off to the side.
It's Jacoby Ford's job to lose as the team's primary punt returner. With Denarius Moore nursing a sore hamstring, Ford has seized the job as the primary punt return man. With the emergence of Rod Streater and Juron Criner, Ford's primary role could be as a special teams ace and used on offense in ways that accentuate his speed.
Left practice: Darrius Heyward-Bey (knee), Brandon Myers (shoulder), Zach Hurd (head)
Missed practice: Mike Goodson (neck), Taiwan Jones (hamstring), Eddie McGee (hamstring), Denarius Moore (hamstring), Richard Seymour (knee), Jack Crawford (foot), Shane Lechler (knee), Aaron Curry (knee)
Curry was allowed to seek a second opinion and see a specialist in Los Angeles for his ailing knee.
Christopher Hansen is a Lead Blogger at Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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