Oakland Raiders Training Camp Report: Defense Rising

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystAugust 1, 2012

DeMarcus Van Dyke had another good practice on Day 2.
DeMarcus Van Dyke had another good practice on Day 2.Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

DeMarcus Van Dyke had a somewhat disappointing rookie season. After starting four games and playing reasonably well, Van Dyke was phased out of the defense.

According to ProFootballFocus, Van Dyke would only play in 52 snaps after his Week 9 start; Van Dyke played 52 snaps in Week 9 alone. An injured hamstring caused Van Dyke to miss Week 10 and could have been an issue the rest of the way.

A healthy and more experienced Van Dyke will be given and opportunity by the new regime in 2012. Van Dyke has spent the last two days with the No. 1 defense while Ron Bartell heals from a hamstring injury suffered while training prior to the start of training camp. In two days of practice in shells, Van Dyke has been a standout.

Asked on what Van Dyke did after last season, he said, "I went home and my momma told me, 'DeMarcus, I'm your No. 1 fan, but you dropped too many interceptions last year.'"

Van Dyke said he's been working on catching the ball and turning his head when the ball is in the air, but he added that the new defense helps, "Look at quarterback, watch what he's doing and try to make plays."

The new defense is helping Van Dyke make the most of his opportunity with the starters. Van Dyke has been breaking on the ball and has broken up several pass breakups in coverage, with his only failure being a dropped interception opportunity on Day 1. Van Dyke has been blanketing receivers and tight ends in coverage for two days and receptions have been hard to come by against Van Dyke, which could explain the quiet start to camp from Denarius Moore.

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Van Dyke has yet to come up with an interception, but his teammate Mike Mitchell jumped a pass from Carson Palmer to Juron Criner and went streaking down the sideline for a would-be touchdown. Mitchell is one of the more enthusiastic players you will see, and he broke up a pass earlier in practice, jumped up and pounded his chest with his fist.

Mitchell's intensity was not matched by the entire team, and Dennis Allen was a bit concerned with how his team looked in the middle of practice, "Today, I felt it was necessary to bring them all in together, let them know what I was observing and give them a chance to get it corrected," Allen said. "I thought they did a pretty nice job of responding."

Receivers appeared to make catches with ease on Day 1 and Allen welcomed the rebound from his defense, "It was nice to see us make a few plays, Mike Mitchell made a nice play on the interception so that was good to see."

Shawntae Spencer and Tyvon Branch rounded out a solid performance from the secondary by bracketing Eddie McGee on a deep pass down the seam. Rolando McClain and Philip Wheeler also had a nice day, sticking with tight ends and running backs in coverage. Wheeler and David Ausberry got tangled up a couple of times on Day 2. 


Matt Leinart continues to be sharp behind Palmer in practice and a resource for his teammates off the field. Palmer said he doesn't want to disrespect his coaches, but it's different hearing it from a player. "Your coach can tell you the same thing over and over again and every once in a while Matt will chime in and say, ‘You know, I hit this on this play against this team’ or whatever. It’s nice to get a coaching point from a player some times."

It's not just Palmer getting tips from Leinart. Darrius Heyward-Bey said he asks Leinart a lot of questions, "(Leinart) is a good guy to lean on when it comes down to this offense," he said.

Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford have been the most sure-handed of the receivers during the first two days of practice, but Heyward-Bey isn't worried about catching the ball and spent the offseason working on his run after catch. "Understand, it's a mindset also," he said. "When you have the opportunity to break tackles and do different things you have to try and take advantage of that." 

Practice Notes

- Rookie Rod Streater has been impressive so far and said he chose the Raiders after going undrafted partly because the Raiders were his favorite team growing up.

- Taiwan Jones ran with the No. 2 offense for the second day in a row, but failed to secure two passes before turning up-field.

- Tony Bergstrom and Joseph Barksdale worked on the left side on the first day of practice, but were back on the right side on Tuesday.

- The players put on the pads for the first time tomorrow and Allen seems excited for his first look, "We’ll put ‘em on, we’ll mix it up a little bit, and we’ll find out who’s going to compete when we put the pads on.”

Christopher Hansen is a Lead Blogger at Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.

Follow Christopher on twitter (@Raidersblog) for practice updates on Wednesday. Practice starts at 8:50 a.m.

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