Oakland Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain (55) during training camp at the Napa Valley Marriott.
The moment has finally arrived. When the pads go on and hitting begins. Now is when the true judge of what kind of talent the Raiders have can be judged. This is when the intensity picks up and things begin to get real.
Those not able to take part in the hitting festivities were tight end Richard Gordon who went down with a hip flexor injury in yesterday's practice and Denarius Moore who aggravated a hamstring strain he suffered in OTA's. They join Aaron Curry, Shane Lechler, and Travis Ivey watching practice.
With the hitting to begin, the guess on who would get in the first fight began to trickle in. Most guesses involved Lamarr Houston and/or Mike Mitchell. The winner of that guessing game was anyone who said Tyvon Branch or Thomas Mayo. They got in a little scrap not long after team drills began.
Darren McFadden has looked very fast all camp. That alone is not shocking. He always looks fast. But today, he continued to look fast. He even added some pop. On one play he ran right over rookie Miles Burris who met him near the line. Dmac just kept running like we have come to expect from him.
Running back Mike Goodson was held out the last part of practice on Tuesday with a hamstring issue but he was back with no ill effects today. In fact, he looked very impressive. With hitting now allowed, when running backs gain yards, it is usually not a product of the defense playing hands-off. Goodson showed impressive burst and speed and appears to do very well in finding his blocker and the one-cut-and-go style that the zone blocking scheme calls for. The competition at running back is pretty interesting.
After an impressive camp thus far, Carson Palmer took a step back today. For whatever reason he was out of sorts, throwing short a lot of times as well as behind receivers. It could be just getting adjusted again to full contact after seven months of touch football.
The defense stepped up in practice yesterday but they went above and beyond that today. They were truly dominant. While it is just one practice, it is good to see the Raiders supposedly suspect defense flex its muscles so early on. The offense has been more solid and I expect it to catch back up. But for today, the defense is showing some edge.
Among those defenders who played well include rookie defensive end Jack Crawford who got into the backfield for as many as three would-be sacks running with the second team.
Rolando McClain again looked good in coverage and Dennis Allen was pleased with his play as well. He covered Darren McFadden on a long pass that fell incomplete and had a diving pass defended against tight end Tory Humphrey.
Demarcus Van Dyke continued his fine play filling in for the injured Ron Bartell and at this rate, Van Dyke has to be considered as a contender to start. DVD picked up right where he left off in putting a shroud over Darrius Heyward-Bey in coverage.
Even when the ball was getting to the receivers, there were a lot of drops. Duke Calhoun was the worst offender. He can't afford to have those drops. He is already a longshot to make this team.
Darrius Heyward-Bey had a couple of nice catches today but it wasn't a flawless day. He too had an on target drop. His route running looks great... at least when Van Dyke isn't on him. Against other corners, DHB broke into the open a couple times but he still has lapses where he leaves his feet and gut catches the ball.
The team will have a day to rest their sore muscles after this first day of hitting. There is no practice Thursday with the camp resuming Friday afternoon.
I will be back live tweeting on Friday. Follow me on Twitter @LeviDamien.