No your eyes are not deceiving you; Darrius Heyward-Bey actually practiced and it sounds like he looked like a legit NFL receiver. I say it sounds because that is all I have to work with. It was a lot more fun when I could report on the Oakland Raiders training camp based on my own notes, but I have once again been reduced to reporting on what the eyes of others picked up on. So all the information I am about to pass on comes from the excellent notes and reporting of Vittorio Tafur, Jerry McDonald and Steve Corkran.
Let's start off with the enigma that is the "-." DHB made it on to the practice field in a game type situation for the first time this training camp. Why he was out is anyone's guess. DHB was targeted five times when someone was guarding him. He got four and dropped one. Chris Johnson did manage to knock one out of his hands after he caught it. That is not surprising. DHB has not had a lot of practice tucking the ball after a catch. If he plans on catching the ball with any regularity he may want to practice this skill.
As long as his undisclosed injury stiffens up then he is likely going to start in the preseason opener on Thursday. And that means that the likely starting receivers will be the brothers enigma: Chaz Schilens and DHB.
Hue Jackson hasn't said how long he plans on playing his starters, but I wouldn't expect either of these guys to get too many reps, and that is just fine with me—especially with Chaz. Just keep him healthy. I'm more concerned with seeing him start in Week One than what he can do in the preseason.
Besides the need to keep these guys healthy, Hue has to judge the rest of the receivers to see what he has. One guy I expect to get a lot of action is the recently acquired Derek Hagan. Hagan was reportedly solid in just his second practice with the Raiders. His precise route running stood out at practice, and that is something the Raiders sorely need.
The Raiders will likely keep six receivers. The odds are the Louis Murphy, DHB, Schilens, Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore have their spots on the roster. That leaves Hagan, Nick Miller, Shaun Bodiford and Chad Jackson to battle it out for the final spot.
While it certainly seems that Hagan has the inside track here, punt returning may give the edge to Miller. The Raiders have tried Moore out at punt returner in practice, but he has struggled. Taiwan Jones may be an option, but he will have to get healthy and back on the practice field before the Raiders are comfortable sticking him back there. Bodiford has also gotten reps at punt return in practice.
Jump over for some bullet points....
- Samson Satele and Stefen Wisniewski continue to split reps at center, and Wisniewski also is getting time at LG. I am still hoping the Raiders just decide to give the center position to Satele and let Wiz wrestle away the starting LG spot from the underwhelming Daniel Loper.
- Some have been quick to assume that Wiz would replace Carlisle at RG, but I am happy to see him on the left. Carlisle brings more to the table than Loper—he is excellent on the second level—and Wiz comes off as a better bull-dozing LG than a right guard who is asked to pull more.
- It was mentioned that Wiz and Boller had a fumbled exchange, and I guess that Action Jackson was none too pleased. I am assuming this was done when Boller was under center. It is worth noting that Wiz struggled a bit with the shotgun snap while I was watching practices.
- Khalif Barnes seems to have a firm grip on the right tackle spot. There is still plenty of time for Joe Barksdale to usurp Barnes, but it sounds like this is what he will have to do. It also seems as if they are content on keeping Stephon Heyer as the backup left tackle.
- Denarius Moore continues to shine. He had a drop at practice, but reportedly bounced back strong. And you better believe his teammates are taking notice. Here is DHB on Moore: "Denarius, that's a ball player right there, smooth. We just call him 'Smooth.' Doesn't look like he's going fast, but he's catching everything,"
- Maybe the most promising sign of Campbell and the passing game comes from this Jerry McDonald tweet: " Passing game upgraded last year, but even moreso this year in terms of scheme, philosophy."
- Of course the other side of this is that they are beating the DBs. And to that end, I am getting a little nervous. DVD is struggling a bit in practice. Chekwa has been out. McFadden and Ware have not caught anyone's attention. Sterling Moore has made some plays, but he still has his work cut out for him to make the roster. Nickel and dime sets are a bit of a concern, and I don't even want to think about injuries.
- I am still hoping that the Raiders will sign former Colt, Kelvin Hayden. They were reported to have interest in him. On Monday he was visiting with the Bears.