Oakland Raiders Start Their Hit Parade

Justin Smith@smittstylesCorrespondent IAugust 4, 2009

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 28: Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly #93 of the Oakland Raiders rushes quarterback Jeff Garcia #7 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on December 28, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Basically, as I finished typing my last article, Jerry McDonald posted his first full-pad practice update.

These are some things I took away. Happily, bear in mind that almost the entire blog was positive:

JaMarcus Russell's improved accuracy has carried over into full-contact drills.

At one point, he floated a beautiful 50-yard rainbow in between the safeties to little-known Nick Miller, who claims to have run a 4.28 and 4.3 during his pro day.

Russell also threaded the needle to Chaz on a couple of nice mid-range routes, although he did have one interception when he tried to force it to Zach Miller and Hiram Eugene picked it off.

Tyvon Branch is really fast

One thing that made me smile was reading about Tyvon Branch showing well in coverage, and actually staying stride-for-stride with Darren McFadden downfield.

After watching his aggressiveness on special teams last season when he had a cast on his arm, hearing that he's got that kind of speed makes the threat of the long ball a little less daunting. It also makes for the threat of another bone-crusher at safety.

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Tom Cable got it right

Players were raving about the success of the teaching practices, noting how everyone to a man knew their assignments and there wasn't close to the level of confusion as in the past. Huddles were quick and sharp, and people knew their roles.

Jerry McDonald reported that from his own perspective the team certainly seemed much more crisp and effective than in the past, but noted that the actual tempo of practice was pretty much status quo.

He also noted that it appears they have given more responsibility and freedom to JaMarcus and the offense, implementing pre-snap audibles and such.

Paul Hackett and Ted Tollner were great hires

Further to the freedom afforded the offense, the credit seems to lie with these two men.

Praised for their work thus far by many who see an obvious positive change in Russell, the guys knew they had their work cut out for them, but they've been up to the task.

Russell's pocket awareness and footwork were atrocious last season. His talent and arm strength alone really gave him the limited success he had, which says something about just how talented he actually is, but his fundamentals were sorely lacking.

The word from camp is that he's much more poised and aware in the pocket, and his fundamentals have improved quite a bit. This is obvious, as the reports about his throwing keep getting more positive as time goes on.

This has to be in no small part related to Hackett and Tollner, their experience and knowledge, and their willingness to tear Russell down and build him back up from a fundamental standpoint.

The early returns are encouraging.

The D-Line looks fairly good

Okay, this is stretching it, but we need some positives from this unit.

Ellis and Tommy Kelly (who hasn't jumped offside in two days, apparently) both blew by their blockers, which isn't good from an O-Line standpoint, but is great to hear from a D-Line standpoint.

These two guys will be key in getting pressure on the QB, although it would be nice for Kelly to also hold the line and stop the run on a regular basis. The line played solidly, with no real mistakes to speak of.

Marshall is more aggressive than Ryan...or is he?

As we all know, the Raiders don't blitz nearly enough. But that seems to be reserved only for the regular season.

They blitz like madmen in camp. Rob Ryan did it, and Marshall has continued the tradition. Nnamdi was skeptical that it would carry over into the season, and nobody really knows for sure.

But one thing was clear: the players are impressed with Marshall and his knowledge, and are grateful for the learning time to absorb the nuances of a new coordinator. They seem to feel more comfortable and knowledgeable with assignments and positioning.

Fargas isn't going anywhere

The reps for the running backs were mostly even, and there was little reported about their running games.

But Fargas was singled out as easily the best blocker amongst the three, and as such, he's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Fargas picked up numerous blitzes, including one up the middle which afforded Russell the time to throw the aforementioned rainbow to Nick Miller. That's good stuff.

I still fully anticipate D-Mac and Michael Bush to carry the ball quite a bit, but we need Fargas chipping until those guys can improve their blocking. Bush shouldn't have any issue considering his size and strength.

Things are very good in Raiderland right now, but things are very good in everyone's land right now. Still, this practice and the subsequent comments from the players have seemingly validated Cable's decision to go with teaching first and hitting later.

Not so fast, Jeff Garcia

After barely participating in drills during the practice sessions to keep himself "fresh," Garcia missed today's practice with a mild calf strain.

The irony is delicious.

Anyhow, Garcia's posturing about being a starter may make sense in his own mind and the minds of many football fans out there, but he's got to take the field to win the job.

And JaMarcus is doing more than enough to keep it right now. Far more, from the sounds of things.

Not so fast Jeff. Hope you like the picture.

Just kidding, we love you Jeff.

It feels great to go into the season with no controversy and no real issues to speak of, with a team that is committed to each other and their coaching staff. The vibes are good, but not in the typical way. I know it's camp, but it's something more.

There is a distinctly different feel about the team this season, and one that is very much encouraging. I hope to keep reading positive practice reviews right up until the preseason.

So far, so good.

Of course, for all the facts visit Jerry McDonald's Inside the Oakland Raiders blog here.


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