Postcard from camp: Raiders
The Raiders spend summer in Napa, Calif., on fields just behind the Marriott hotel. Normally the climate is relatively mild -- mid-70s or so -- but on Tuesday the temperature climbed to 103. Quarterback
1. It would be an overstatement to say there's a swagger about the Raiders, but there is an air of quiet confidence that should not be confused with the false bravado of recent years, when the players seemed to talk the talk in hopes that they might eventually believe it. This year, the Raiders believe they're going to be good, that their streak of seven straight years with 11 or more losses will finally end.
New offensive coordinator
Meantime, Campbell says it hurts not having all of his receivers healthy. "We have an opportunity to be a real special unit together, but with one guy here and a couple of guys out and a couple of others coming back, sometimes it gets tough to get a comfort level," he says. "You've got to be in practice to build that comfort level. Sometimes they're not there for various reasons, like injuries. It's more important to get healthy."
3. Speaking of injuries: Running back
This is a key year for McFadden, the fourth pick of the 2008 draft. He was slowed by injuries in each of his first seasons, missing seven games and being limited in nearly a dozen others. He spent the summer training at the Michael Johnson Performance center in Texas and looks physically bigger in his upper body. To date, however, his injuries have been lower body (toe, knee and hamstring).
The Raiders released running back
The team's top two picks, middle linebacker
"He's a rookie so he's not perfect," Asomugha says of McClain, "but to me he looks really good. He's a smart linebacker, physical guy. You can tell that he has been taught well. There are those guys that you see and they have that innate, football IQ. You can tell he comes from good teaching. He does some things every now and then that a fifth-year player doesn't even read or doesn't know. He's good in coverage, too. And Lamarr Houston is a quick guy. Oh, my goodness. [He's been] very impressive."
Both are running with the starting defense.
The Raiders have had a busy offseason. The comings include new starters at QB (Jason Campbell, acquired in a trade with Washington), middle linebacker (Rolando McClain, the 8th pick of the draft), outside linebacker (
The goings include their 2009 opening-day starting QB (
Campbell working after practice with second-year wideout
"It's important to him to be good," says coach Tom Cable. "I think he came here thirsting for a fresh start, a chance to start over and make a new name for himself, if you will. I love the fact that he comes out every day and wants to be good and tries to do exactly what he's coached to do and tries to push the envelope to be what you want him to be."
You could count on one hand (no hands?) the number of times that Russell stayed behind to work with receivers. Thus far Campbell, who is the son of a coach, has been everything that Russell was not. Which is exactly what the coaches and players wanted.
1. Oakland tied for last in the league with 17 offensive touchdowns and scored just 197 points overall, tying for second-fewest in the league. But Cable says he believes those struggles will vanish this year.
"Offensively, I think we're finding an identity that we can score points and we can attack you,, that we have some toughness about us," he says.
Oakland has scored 49 points in exhibition wins at Dallas and Chicago. That they did it with playmakers such as McFadden and Schilens on the sideline is even more reason for optimism.
2. Tackle John Henderson was signed to help shore up a run defense that has not ranked higher than 22nd the past seven seasons. But Cable says Henderson's veteran leadership has been an unexpected boon. Henderson currently is running with the second team, but the club has packages to take advantage of his specific abilities.
3. Another smart offseason move was the hiring of
4. The Raiders are one of the last teams to break camp, which is a concern to Asomugha.
"We've been in camp for a while, and I just don't want us to get fatigued by that," he says. "I also don't want us to get off track. We've won our first two preseason games, but in 2006 I was on a team that went 4-1 in the preseason and we won two games in the regular season. We just have to stay the course, and I believe with the types of guys that we have that we will do that."
5. The Raiders didn't make changes on their offensive line because, according to Cable, he knows the players' strengths and weaknesses and believes they will be put in positions to succeed this year. The line took a lot of heat last season, but some of that was due to Russell, the former No. 1 pick who blew protection calls and sometimes held the ball to the surprise of the line when he was supposed to release it on a three-step drop. Campbell doesn't figure to make those same mistakes. He knows that trust is an important factor to an offense's success, and that when he tells the line the ball will be out in three steps, it will. The Raiders also believe that Campbell's ability to complete passes that Russell did not will create running lanes and keep defenses off-balance.