-- Looks like Michael Huff has now won the strong safety job outright after splitting time with Hiram Eugene for the first six weeks. Huff took nearly every snap against the Jets, which looked initially to be because New York was running the ball so much, but head coach Tom Cable later made it sound as if Huff has the spot full time now.
"We'll look at the film, but I would believe so," Cable said.
-- Khalif Barnes was a surprising starter at right tackle, and his regular season debut with the Raiders couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. On Oakland's very first play from scrimmage, Barnes, who was signed in the offseason to play left tackle, was plowed over by linebacker Calvin Pace, who knocked Barnes on his back then stripped quarterback JaMarcus Russell for a fumble the Jets recovered.
"I just didn't use my hands well and he didn't even use a move," Barnes said. "I lost balance in my feet and I take full responsibility for that. You can't let the quarterback get hit on the first play of the game because I think that would do something to their psyche. As a lineman, that first touchdown's all on me. That first play is going to haunt me. It's going to haunt me tonight and even going into tomorrow."
-- Rookie wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey doubled his season total with two catches against the Jets for 28 yards, including a 24-yarder from QB JaMarcus Russell in the first quarter that gave a rare glimpse at what Oakland hopes its offense will look like one day.
"That was a positive thing during the game," Heyward-Bey said. "We just as a group we have to do more. The score doesn't show it but the offense, we did good things out there."
-- Punter Shane Lechler saved the day from being a complete wipeout. The perennial Pro Bowl pick punted five times and carried a 53.0-yard average that included a pair of 60-plus yarders. He consistently bailed out the offense and gave the defense some room to work with, though it didn't seem to respond much.
On the opposite sidelines, Jets punter Steve Weatherford had to be puffing out his chest a little bit after pulling off a fake and running 16 yards for a first down against a Raiders coverage team that looked clueless. Oakland was so faked out on the play that at least three Raiders players seemed to be blocking downfield for Weatherford without knowing the ball had never been kicked.
"The whole thing this week was to make sure the ball was kicked,
regardless of the situation and we just didn't do it," Cable said. "We took our eyes off the punter, got into the return too soon and everybody turned and ran to the third man."
-- Javon Walker was suited up but was one of only two Oakland players who didn't get in the game. It's a mystery as to why the Raiders keep him on the sidelines when the offense clearly needs a veteran hand, but then again it was a mystery why they ever signed Walker in the first place.
Still, I give him credit. When Louis Murphy dropped a third-down throw in the first quarter and was fuming about it on the sidelines, it was Walker who calmed the youngster down, wrapping his arm around Murphy's shoulders while talking to him and trying to get the receiver to keep his cool.
-- Justin Fargas seems to add a spark to the running game whenever he's on the field, largely because of his reckless abandon style. Yet he hardly played in the first quarter, and after gaining 67yards on eight carries, went back spending most of his time on the sidelines.
The Raiders will say it was because the score got out of hand early and that took the running game out of the equation. But the truth is, they were down 14-0 early in the first quarter when there was plenty of time to get back into things. Yet Cable, as he tends to do, seemed to abandon the running game almost entirely and instead kept turning to the pass, even when it was clear Russell and Gradkowski were struggling.
With Darren McFadden coming back soon from knee surgery, the Raiders have an interesting dilemma on their hands but without question, Fargas needs to continue to be a major part of the plan.
-- Punt returner Johnnie Lee Higgins is clearly not the player he was a year ago. Cable repeatedly has pointed out that Higgins still hasn't gotten over the big hit he took in the season-opener against San Diego and it's hard to argue otherwise. Higgins had one fair catch in which he had to make a play on the run while his only return netted a minus-one yard.
-- Interesting to see Todd Watkins get as much play as he did. Watkins, who didn't play much after signing with Oakland as a free agent in 2008, caught just one pass but was thrown to four times and was on the field a lot. The kid has some talent, and maybe it's a sign of just what the Raiders think of Walker, but like the rest of the team's receivers, he's young and very raw still.
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