Saturday Mini Camp Notebook

Thomas Howard stopped by the Raiders' facilities to take care of some personal business Saturday and got his first up close look at rookie running back Darren McFadden. Needless to say, the Raiders' linebacker was impressed with what he saw.

"The future's looking nice," Howard said after watching McFadden put on an impressive display that included taking direct snaps from center, hauling in a nice one-handed sideline catch and juking one teammate onto the turf with a shifty move.

In all, it was everything McFadden was billed to be when the Raiders made him the fourth overall pick in the draft. Granted it came in non-contact drills against players most of whom won't be in the NFL at all in the upcoming season, but it was still highlight reel worthy stuff.

"He looked real comfortable in a number of different things that we did with him today," Oakland coach Lane Kiffin said. "We did some individual things where he was actually at quarterback. We put him outside with some receivers so he's picking up things real well but at the same time we've got to be real careful."

McFadden lined up in the backfield and ran the ball effectively inside and outside. On one play he dipped his right shoulder and appeared ready to cut inside before quickly changing direction and heading outside, leaving a teammate grasping at grass.

The Raiders also had him come out of the backfield as a receiver and line up wide at the line of scrimmage. But it was what he did away from the team drills that caused the most curiosity -- taking direct snaps from center from an assistant coach.

McFadden threw seven touchdown passes during his final two seasons at Arkansas and the idea of using him in a similar capacity with the Raiders has Kiffin intrigued.

"That's why we're looking at it," Kiffin said. "It's something he brings to the table that's very unusual so we'll always explore everything."

The Raiders also had Michael Bush coming out of the backfield as a receiver during the practice, a sign the team is intent on getting the running backs more involved in the passing game.

"To have both those guys along with Justin (Fargas), who is more of a classic running back, is exciting," Kiffin said. "We'll open the competition up and who knows? Michael Bush may be the best of the three."

· Todd Watkins, a 6-foot-2 wide receiver out of BYU who was most recently with Arizona, opened some eyes with several leaping catches. On one particular play, Watkins made a nice catch over the middle despite being thrown to the ground during a non-contact drill.

· Sixth-round draft choice Trevor Scott made two very nice plays, including getting into the backfield to stop Bush well shy of the line of scrimmage.

· Free agent quarterback Sam Keller completed several throws but it probably doesn't matter even though Oakland currently has only two quarterbacks on its roster. While Keller has looked sharp at times during the first two days of the mini-camp, it's likely the Raiders will try to bring in another veteran quarterback to help tutor JaMarcus Russell through his first season of starting.

· Seventh-round draft pick Chaz Schilens made a leaping reception early in the workout but later was running a fly pattern and failed to turn around when the ball was thrown at him.

· According to Kiffin a few players suffered minor hamstring injuries but nothing serious. · The three-day camp ends Sunday. Oakland begins its OTAs next week.

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