The Raiders have now completed three of their eight scheduled "walk-through" style practices involving no hitting and plenty of instruction. I've been trying to piece together the puzzle via various sources, because I can't attend camp myself living in eastern Canada (sad as that is, considering the surroundings and team).
Here are some thoughts as to what has transpired through the three practices thus far:
Chaz Schilens Sidelined Again
I'm not getting pessimistic here, because nobody at this point knows if there is anything wrong with Schilens physically, since the Raiders aren't talking. Schilens left the late-session practice last night with no limp or visible sign of injury, which is encouraging. But he didn't participate in the morning session today and watched with helmet in hand, which is not encouraging.
The success of the decision to move forward with the young receivers we have is directly tied to the health and participation of Schilens, who has been our most productive wideout over the past two seasons when on the field. No doom and gloom here; I'm simply recognizing the importance of Schilens and hoping this is all benign.
Passes Are Getting Picked
I've read quite a few tweets where a pass has been intercepted. Once again, not getting pessimistic about this because it's walk-through drills with no hitting, and it seems to be Bruce Gradkowski, Kyle Boller, and Charlie Frye the majority of the time.
Also, the receivers are still young and this is a learning period, so it's better it happens now anyway. I've also read an equal or greater number of tweets about nice pass plays being completed; it seems that only in last night's late session did the passing offense not play particularly well.
McClain in Position
I've read various tweets that speak of Rolando McClain being around the ball often, which is exactly what we expected when we drafted him. Listening to him talk about football, one gets the sense that it is more instinct than feel. He equates hitting with walking and continually references football being a part of him since he was a little boy.
When Coach Cable talked of a culture change, he wanted players that were good people and good football players. But he also spoke of guys that love football, and McClain absolutely fits that mould. I'm loving this guy so far.
Asomugha's Having Fun
From the playful trash talk between he and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to staying behind with Darius Heyward-Bey to work on jamming at the line and help the young receiver in his development, Nnamdi Asomugha seems to be enjoying himself. The good-natured competition between defense and offense led to Asomugha presenting Jackson with a freshly picked Boller pass, which Jackson not so politely declined to accept. It seems good times are afoot in Napa.
JaMarcus Russell Has Left The Building
I suppose playing for the Raiders and the subsequent interview limitations that go with it affords these guys more diplomacy than most, but they have been handling questions about JaMarcus Russell with grace and class. Rather than weigh in with their negative opinions about Russell and his contribution to the struggles of the team and the offense, players have instead morphed questions about Russell into praise for Jason Campbell and Hue Jackson.
There has been no direct insults or bad mouthing of Russell, despite the ammunition his teammates have to deride him. It's telling of the new culture of positivity and looking forward that instead of throwing Russell under the bus, they have chosen to take the high road and point out there's a new guy driving it that actually studied for his license exam.
Base Defense A Little Different Than Expected
Thus far, Richard Seymour has been lining up inside with John Henderson on the second unit. To me, this says that Lamarr Houston is further along than most expected. It was widely expected that the starting line would be defensive ends Seymour and Matt Shaughnessy with Tommy Kelly and Henderson inside, and Houston rotating in.
Instead, Houston's quick development has allowed them to shift Seymour inside and has Houston starting at end. Coach Cable even said it's conceivable Houston would be on the field as much as McClain. With his intensity and desire to win, that's a good sign.
Of course, Houston and Seymour both have the size and strength to play end and tackle, and Cable said not to read anything into this. But I choose to see it as an encouraging sign that Houston is ready for prime-time.
A Few Quick Points
Happy to hear the defense is trying very hard to strip the ball from Darren McFadden whenever they can; even more happy they haven't had any success as of this morning.
Cable continues to form a tight bond with his players in meaningful ways, with he and a few assistants running 100-yard jogs with the players. More than one Raider said they loved it, including Richard Seymour.
Jason Campbell's leadership has commanded the team right away, with receivers speaking in glowing terms of his command of the huddle, work ethic, and ability to put the ball where it needs to be.
All in all, things seem to be progressing nicely for the Raiders during the first few practices. By all accounts, they are more fundamentally solid and having a better grasp of football than in the past. No spectacular plays per se, but no really terrible ones either. Let's hope Schilens is fully healthy and back out there tonight.
I know I'm encouraged with what I've read thus far, Nation. How about you?