Raiders roundup, May 10, 2009

The Raiders wrapped up their three-day minicamp Sunday and head coach Tom Cable came away feeling pretty good about things. Find out what went on in the final day of practice and see what SBI senior writer Michael Wagaman thinks about it all in his latest Raiders Roundup.

Head coach Tom Cable stood at the podium a short distance away from the Raiders' practice fields and was asked to grade the team's three-day mandatory minicamp, which featured the debuts of Oakland's newest draft class as well as the team's newest collection of free agent acquisitions.

Cable didn't hesitate one moment before answering.

"I would give it a B-plus," Cable said Sunday. "What I'm seeing is good teaching going on and a lot of hunger from them, wanting to learn and wanting to get it right. It's not perfect. It's not even close by any means. But we wanted to come out and work hard and learn the new things, get the new players involved, and we accomplished those things."

The Raiders crammed a lot into the three days of work while trying to acclimate their newest class of rookies to the NFL and get the veterans more comfortable with the new coaching staff.

Most of the work centered around the offense, where quarterback JaMarcus Russell and recently signed backup Jeff Garcia split time running the offense. Third-stringer Bruce Gradkowski also took reps with the backups and connected on a long pass with wide receiver Todd Watkins but struggled with his accuracy for much of the camp, something that likely didn't sit well with Andrew Walter, who took part in individual drills but didn't take one snap during the team sessions.

Walter is a longshot to make the Raiders' regular season roster. Unlike in years past, he did not take part in the team's offseason workout program and quarterback school. That's why Cable said he didn't take any reps with the offense in practice.

But Oakland likely won't make a roster move with Walter until the end of training camp. A trade is highly unlikely given that Walter has spent nearly all of his NFL career on the sidelines after entering the NFL as a third-round pick in 2005, and Al Davis doesn't want to get rid of Walter before the end of camp just in case one of the three QBs above him on the depth chart should get hurt.

Cable has sidestepped questions about Walter's future in Oakland and instead focused on what he felt was a solid minicamp.

"I know this, we really started building a foundation there with the three days of practice," Cable said. "It's night and day different for them. A lot of them kind of struggled to get through it but today was a good example, we had a good practice, kind of took to everything we're trying to do and it's a process. We just have to keep building every day. We're not close yet."

Wagaman's take: Gradkowski had a rough minicamp all the way around but the Raiders need to get him as much work as possible if they're intent on keeping him so that he can work the kinks out. Walter? The guy has to be frustrated and understandably so. He needs to get out of Oakland if he has any hope of salvaging an NFL career.

Highlights and notes from Sunday's practice:

X Left tackle Robert Gallery's strained left calf kept him out of practice for a second straight day. Gallery is expected to be fine and ready for training camp.

The former No. 2 overall pick is also helping organize a cruise to raise money for the children of the four Oakland police officers who were killed in the line of duty by a lone gunman on March 21. The cruise is set for June 6, 10:30 a.m., in Dublin.

"They just do a lot for us and I'm a huge supporter of them, and when something tragic like that happens, those families are in need," Gallery said. "I thought it was a good thing to do it for them."

Wagaman's take: The calf injury isn't serious at all and the Raiders are just taking a cautious approach so that it doesn't get worse. As for the cruise, a big tip of the cap to Gallery for stepping up to the plate. At a time when so many pro athletes are in the news for the wrong reasons, Gallery deserves to be recognized for doing the right thing.

X In addition to Gallery, defensive tackle Gerard Warren (pectoral muscle), second-round pick Mike Mitchell (hamstring), backup offensive lineman Paul McQuistan (still recovering from knee surgery) and defensive end Derrick Burgess (stomach flu) were all held out of practice.

Wagaman's take: None of the injuries are serious but one has to wonder if Burgess was really sick or if he was sending a message to the team regarding his contract status. The two-time Pro Bowl pick was promised a new contract three years ago by a team official who was eventually fired. Since then the Raiders haven't even discussed a new deal with Burgess.

X Ricky Brown returned to practice after sitting out Saturday's workout. A starting strongside linebacker for Oakland last year, Brown is spending most of his time at middle linebacker working behind starter Kirk Morrison.

Wagaman's take: Brown played fairly well at the SAM linebacker spot before getting hurt early in the year but he's better suited to play inside. There's been talk the Raiders might be looking to move Morrison to an outside spot but he's staying in the middle for now while Brown will take the backup reps. If something should happen to Jon Alston, though, Oakland won't hesitate to push Brown back over to the strong side spot.

X Defensive tackle Terdell Sands has drawn more attention the last two seasons for what he hasn't done rather than what he has done. In minicamp, the veteran defender turned heads with his new trimmed down shape.

"He's absolutely a lot lighter," Cable said. "He proved a couple years ago, three years ago now, that he was a real fine player at a certain weight. That kind of got away from him a little bit and now he's back where he was before. For him, it's significant in that he realizes it's time to get back being the kind of player I want to be. And we need him to. With the changes we've made on defense and all that, we can't have him too big."

Wagaman's take: Sands played a significant role in the run defense three years ago but hasn't done much since signing a $14 million extension in 2007. He's dropped at least 20 pounds and looks as svelte as he ever has since joining Oakland as a free agent in 2003. It remains to be seen how much that will help him stop the run but it should help his mobility and conditioning, which will be key.

X Quarterback JaMarcus Russell was off target with many of his throws during the practice. Several passes landed near receivers feet or sailed wide. One was intercepted by Stanford Routt.

"As you look at it, some of this is new for him too, some of the concept that is going in, yet it plays to him, because it is down the field more," Cable said. "I think it's just a matter of getting comfortable with it."

Wagaman's take: Russell made several similair low throws last year and it's something the Raiders need to address. QB Coach Paul Hackett and passing game coordinator Ted Tollner have worked a lot with Russell in the offseason but he's still making too many throws toward receivers' feet. That could be a thing where he's trying to hold the ball too tight or too long. Whatever the issue, it needs to be corrected by the time training camp ends and the regular season begins.

X Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who has formed a close relationship with Russell, didn't have a great practice either. He jumped offsides twice, once drawing Terdell Sands across the line with him.

Wagaman's take: Kelly needs to prove he was worth the $50 million that Al Davis dumped in his lap a year ago and jumping offsides in minicamp isn't exactly the way to do it. The Raiders need a lot out of Kelly this season, not just on the field but in the locker room where there is a serious void of leadership outside of Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, fullback Lorenzo Neal and backup quarterback Jeff Garcia.


SB Report Top Stories