Oakland Raiders Training Camp Report: Winners and Losers from Day 3
Every practice, like every game, has winners and losers. There is a winner and loser on every play, in every series and in every game. Coaches are constantly watching video to see which players are winning more than they are losing.
Training camp is one opportunity for players to prove they are winners and not losers. In some cases a player simply has to win more opportunities than the next best at his position to be the starter, but winning football games is about being better than the opposition.
On Wednesday, the Raiders strapped on the pads for the first time in 2012 and Dennis Allen wanted to see how his team would compete. Competition is just a device coaches use to determine winners and losers on the football field. There is no winner or loser without conflict.
It's important to remember that a training camp practice is just a small battle within a much larger war. Every day is a new day in football and one good day is not even enough of a sample to shift the depth chart.
Take it from the Raiders' rookie head coach Dennis Allen. "The evaluation process takes time," he said. "We're not going to jump out after one or two practices, one practice in pads, and flip the whole depth chart around.
"We notice when a guys make plays. We keep track of that. When a guy makes enough plays eventually he gets a chance to move up the depth chart and see if he can do it against a different level of competition."
Winner: Jack Crawford
Once the pads are on, the real evaluation of the offensive and defensive lines can begin. It's hard to evaluate any player that makes their living clanging their body into another guy without pads.
On Wednesday, Jack Crawford, the rookie defensive end out of Penn State, spent a lot of time in the offensive backfield. Crawford had three would-be sacks of quarterback Matt Leinart. Crawford applied pressure quickly and it was not the result of good coverage downfield.
"I've been pleased with Jack," Allen said. "He’s a big guy that’s got athleticism, and he wants to be good. And if you have athleticism and some football instincts and you’re willing to work to get there, then he’ll, at some point, be a player for us.
"He’s willing to do the things that are necessary to be good. Some guys are willing to go that extra to really be good and some guys are looking for some shortcuts to take. They want to be good but they’re not willing to pay the price to be good. And he’s one of those that’s willing to pay the price to be good.”
Crawford's performance came against the reserves, but if he keeps making plays the coaching staff is eventually going to give him a chance against the starting offense.
Loser: Duke Calhoun
Terrelle Pryor displayed his athleticism, rolled to his left after feeling pressure and threaded a pass to receiver Duke Calhoun. It was a great play, but the pass clanged loudly off of Calhoun's hands and fell incomplete near the left sideline.
It was one of two drops on the day for the sophomore receiver. Dropping passes isn't going to put him closer to earning a roster spot and convincing the Raiders to keep more than five wide receivers.
Chalk it up to camp jitters, but he can't afford many more performance like the one he had Wednesday if he wants any chance of making the final roster.
Winner: DeMarcus Van Dyke
Another solid performance from DeMarcus Van Dyke, which makes three solid performances in a row.
On one play, Van Dyke ran with Darrius Heyward-Bey on a deep pass down the right sideline, got his head around and perfectly timed his jump on an underthrown pass by Carson Palmer. Van Dyke was in perfect position, and it would have taken an amazing play by Heyward-Bey to come down with it over the back of Van Dyke; the pass fell incomplete.
While Van Dyke was good in coverage, he did completely miss Taiwan Jones on one open-field tackle attempt.
"He still makes some young player mistakes that we've got to get coached out of him, but he continues to make a little progress everyday," Dennis Allen said, perhaps alluding to his run support.
Van Dyke's solid play is not going unrecognized by his teammates, "(Van Dyke) and Chekwa have been making some big plays for us," Tyvon Branch said. "(Van Dyke) these past couple days has been doing some great things."
Veteran cornerback Shawntae Spencer also praised Van Dyke, "He's made some very, very good plays," Spencer said via Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. "Very quick corner, very fast corner, very long corner as well. Great instincts and things like that. So I'm very impressed with the young man's game. He has a nice game."
Loser: Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer looked sharp for the first two days of practice but didn't have as good of a day in pads on Wednesday.
On the play where Van Dyke ran with Heyward-Bey and broke up the long pass, Palmer's pass was short, which made the play a little easier for Van Dyke and harder for Heyward-Bey. A few of Palmer's other passes came in high or wide of the mark.
Throws Palmer made the first two days he just wasn't making on Wednesday. Palmer acknowledged Tuesday that he's still getting comfortable with the offense, "We have really long way to go," he said. "There's been things that we've really connected well on. A couple of different routes that we've repped so many times that I'm starting to feel comfortable. I'm not completely comfortable until I do a certain route with a certain guy maybe 50, 60, 70 times. Have a long way to go."
It's just the growing pains of a new offense and nothing to be concerned about unless it becomes a pattern.
Winner: Darrius Heyward-Bey
It might sound odd, but an incomplete pass might have been the best play of the day for Heyward-Bey. Van Dyke ran with Heyward-Bey down the field, Palmer threw the pass short of the mark and Heyward-Bey stopped, broke back toward the ball and made a leaping attempt over the back of Van Dyke.
Heyward-Bey wasn't able to bring the ball in thanks to a fine play by Van Dyke, but it shows improvement from Heyward-Bey when it comes to elevating for the ball.
It wasn't the only good play of the day for Heyward-Bey, as he also beat Shawntae Spencer down the middle of the field for a long gain.
Allen seemed pleased with Heyward-Bey's progress this offseason. "He's improved as a receiver, as a total receiver," he said. "His route running is better, he's catching the ball cleaner and his blocking has been good.
"We are going to ask our receivers to do a lot of things and he's really our most veteran receiver, so we're expecting him to stand up and be a leader for us."
Loser: Tommy Kelly
Offsides, No. 93, defense. Offsides, No. 93, defense. Tommy Kelly was actually quite good on Wednesday, except for what would have been two offsides penalties.
Kelly can be a dominate force at defensive tackle, but would he be better if he stopped committing penalties? The answer to that question is not as cut and dry as you might think.
Kelly committed 10 penalties in 2011, 10 penalties in 2010, five penalties in 2009 and three penalties in 2008, according to ProFootballFocus, but he's been a more effective pass-rusher when he commits more penalties. He had 14.5 sacks over the past two years compared to just 5.5 total sacks from 2008 to 2009.
Are the penalties worth the sacks? Probably not. If penalties and sacks were equally weighted negatively and positively, you might say Kelly was minus-5.5 the last two years and only minus-2.5 from 2008 to 2009.
The Raiders would probably like Kelly to come into positive territory this season, but Allen didn't seem overly concerned with the penalties on Wednesday.
"It's part of the process." Allen said. "That's what happens when guys begin to get tired. They lose their focus a little bit and that's the thing we need to continue to push through. I have been a bit pleased with the penalty issue overall, but we still got to keep working on it."
Winner: Mike Goodson
One day after being unable to finish practice due to a hamstring, Goodson returned and had several explosive runs against the third-string defense. Goodson looked decisive and burst quickly through the hole.
For running backs, the offensive line usually doesn't get enough credit, but left tackle Jared Veldheer was very complimentary of Goodson.
"He can be a very explosive guy," Veldheer said. "You see him hit the hole at a million miles per hour and bust right through. I'm excited to see him in action when it comes game time.
"It makes us look real good when you've got guys that fast. You get in the right position and can block your guy block for a second or two, those guys will be by you and make you look real good."
Christopher Hansen is a Lead Blogger at Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.