No one is looking forward to quarterback JaMarcus Russell finding a rhythm with his wide receivers more than Zach Miller.
Miller, the Raiders' third-year tight end, led the team in catches last season and increasingly became the focal point of opposing defensive coordinators as the year went on. He was frequently double-teamed and routinely had to fend off multiple defenders to get open.
With some added production from the wideouts, Miller believes he can be more effective.
"That's definitely a good thing," said Miller, who caught 56 passes for 778 yards in 2008. "I want him to get as much timing and as much trust in all those wideouts because teams can just bracket me, they can put guys on me to jam me, things like that. If we have wideouts that they're scared of or they have to pay attention to, that only opens me up more.
"We'll get our throws and we'll get our thing going but I'd like to see the ball spread around as much as possible."
Miller has maintained a low profile during training camp so far. That's a far cry from the past two years when the young tight end has regularly been among the team's biggest playmakers in camp.
He has made several nice catches so far, but the emphasis on camp so far seems to be on getting Russell more comfortable with his wide receivers.
"Certain teams paid a lot of attention to me," Miller said. "They knew JaMarcus would come to me, especially a big-time play where he started scrambling and that sort of thing. Teams knew, their safeties knew, to cheat my side and red Russell's eyes. Once we burn the corners and the other safeties with our wideouts, I think that will open me up more."
Other news and notes from Thursday:
-- Wide receiver Javon Walker is almost certain to miss the preseason opener and might not be available until after the team's second exhibition game while recovering from offseason knee surgery.
Walker has not practiced with the team yet and continues to work out on the side with a trainer.
"We are getting close," head coach Tom Cable said. "It's kind of the same thing with Jeff (Garcia); we don't want to put him back out here too fast. Everything is going great with both of them. Javon's has obviously been process, so we just want to be as sure as we can when we pull the trigger there."
-- NFL referees made their annual trek to Napa to go over the various rule changes with the Raiders players and coaches. The group of officials will continue to work practice for the next few days.
-- Defensive back Jason Horton had a rough day. He was beaten for a touchdown in the morning by Johnnie Lee Higgins then gave up another score to Samie Parker, who made a very strong over-the-shoulder reception. Horton later was called for defensive holding.
-- Rookie Louis Murphy had another in a long line of good days. The fourth-round pick reached over Stanford Routt to make a catch in the morning then made a sliding grab in front of the goal line, beating … Horton. Murphy later ran a deep pattern and had to come back to make a catch on an underthrown pass from Bruce Gradkowski.
-- Safety Michael Huff is taking reps with the second defense but is also getting work in with the starters when the Raiders go to their Wolverine formation, which utilizes three safeties.
-- Running back Darren McFadden is going to be used a lot more in the passing game than he was as a rookie but the second-year player dropped two easy passes before beating Justin Miller for a long TD from JaMarcus Russell.
-- With Robert Gallery still on the mend from appendicitis and Paul McQuistan being limited to one practice a day, Chris Morris got reps in with the starting offense.
-- Linebacker Ricky Brown, playing in SAM position, made a nice play to intercept a pass from Russell, reaching out with his left hand to bat the ball in the air then grabbing it for the pick.
-- Catch of the day goes to wide receiver Chaz Schilens, who made a leaping touchdown in front of linebacker Ike Ekejiuba. The tall lanky wideout is having an impressive camp and may be ready to assume the No. 1 spot if Walker isn't ready.
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