Oakland Raiders Minicamp Observations

Steven SmithCorrespondent IMay 14, 2009

ALAMEDA, CA - MAY 08:  The Oakland Raiders huddle together during the Raiders minicamp at the team's permanent training facility on May 8, 2009 in Alameda, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

I’ve been on B/R for a couple months and still haven’t written an article about the Raiders? Shame on me.

Recently I’ve noticed some interesting thoughts about the Raiders and the results of the OTAs that occurred during the weekend. Whether it was about the rookies, JaMarcus Russell, or Javon Walker, all signs pointed toward doom in the eyes of Raider fans.

I think it’s time to put the brakes on. Now is not the time to worry, but there are some things to monitor.

Things Raider Fans Should Not Overreact to

Darrius Heyward-Bey Dropping Passes

Wasn’t that partly the issue that everyone said was the reason he shouldn’t have been drafted where he was?

That’s very true, but people are forgetting something—these are OTAs. This is his first series of practices with his new squad. This is his first time biting into the playbook, which will undoubtedly make his head spin and make him overthink his routes. This is his first time catching passes from the cannon that is attached to Russell.

Dropping three straight passes, as was reported by NFL writer Jerry McDonald, is not a good thing, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate that is what will happen during the season. These are facts that should only interest Sports Illustrated writer Peter King.

Javon Walker’s Secret Surgery

When the Raiders gave Walker the $12 million deal, it was in the confidence that his surgically repaired knee had no more issues and the only task would be for Walker to play himself back into his Pro Bowl form from 2004. Now, according to Walker, he’s been playing with pain since his first surgery and was only 65 percent during the season.

This should be a major issue. Whoever did Walker's physical and gave the Raiders organization the confidence to give major dollars to a wide receiver with one leg should probably be fired.

Still, I am not concerned with this because I never expected Walker to make a major contribution in the first place. This actually works in the Raiders' favor. It was already known that the Raiders were going young at wide receiver. Walker nursing his knee (again) allows more reps for a group that desperately needs them. Walker will have to work his way back into a starting role.

JaMarcus Russell’s Inaccurate Passes

That would normally be a huge problem, but it shouldn’t be at this junction of the offseason. Reports have said that Russell was very sporadic with his passes. One minute he showed his upside with throws whistling straight and true to their target, and then there were others where he threw behind the running back on a simple swing pass.

Similar to Hey Bey-Bey (yes, that is Heyward-Bey’s new nickname), this shouldn’t be a concern right now. Russell has been a regular at the Raiders' facilities, and with the new throwing options still finding their way, you shouldn’t expect the chemistry to be there quite yet. We should see better results in training camp.

Although the bad passes aren’t a big concern now, there is something that the Raiders might want to take a closer look at.

Things Raider Fans Might Want to Be Concerned With

Jeff Garcia Beats Russell on Water Breaks

Garcia runs to get water. Russell walks.

Garcia gets angry whenever he misses a pass. Russell doesn’t.

To me this clearly shows both players' character, as well as leadership abilities.

Garcia outwardly shows his competitive nature and style of headship. Garcia is a scrapper, and although perfection is unattainable, he works toward that goal.

This is not to say Russell is not a leader, but it’s something that isn’t expressed in his body language. This is partly good because he won’t show any external frustration over bad plays. At the same time, it means outside sources (fans, media, etc.) have no clue where his head is.

He has the same problematic image that Eli Manning had before his Super Bowl season. Without the results to back him up, he seems like a complacent, unproven, and somewhat confused QB with no leadership qualities.

This upcoming season may change that, but for now he’ll have to deal with the unproven label until he shows otherwise.

Even with the Russell concerns, there are still some positives that came out of last weekend.

Darrius Heyward-Bey Is a Football Player

Thank goodness.

There was a tidal wave of criticism over the Raiders' choice of picking Heyward-Bey with the No. 7 pick. Many critics stuck Hey Bey-Bey with the negative label of “a track star playing football.” That basically means he’s doomed to fail.

That was proved wrong with a spectacular catch where he readjusted on an underthrown ball by Bruce Gradkowski 40 yards down the field. Only a football player makes that catch.

Mike Mitchell Had to Be Lectured

It seems that the Raiders' second-round pick has some boundary issues. Mitchell was lectured about his physical play by head coach Tom Cable and to keep the contact to near nil. Turns out he couldn’t help himself as he ended up knocking TE Chris O’Neill down on the sideline.

Got to love a player that can’t help but be physical. He may be the reach of all reaches, but he’s got the attitude that the entire defense needs to inherit.

Shane Lechler Has His Head in the Clouds

There were reports of a hawk feeding on a snake on a communications tower that occupied the time of some Raiders who were watching practice. All of the players soon turned their heads to the practice at hand, except Lechler. He wasn’t doing much, so he didn’t have to worry about what was going on.

I personally think that Lechler was calculating the location of where to kick the ball in order to get the proper trajectory to allow the ball to fly like the hawk, as well as the proper bounce to have the ball stick into the ground like the hawk's talons.

That’s what all Pro Bowl punters think about...right?

Your comments are more than welcome.


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