Raiders postcard (cont.)
New face, new place
Garcia is the one to watch. Fans already are debating over-unders for when he'll replace Russell as the starter. One fan's e-mail put it at seven games. I say five. If Russell doesn't play well the first four weeks against the Chargers, Chiefs, Broncos and Texans, it will be hard to send him out the next three weeks against the Giants, Eagles and Jets, who all should field elite defenses. The pressure to make a change will be greatest from within the organization. Question is: Will Davis be willing to make the change? It is Davis' call, right? (That's a rhetorical question.)
After signing a five-year deal that guarantees him $23.5 million, first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, a talented but inconsistent wide receiver at Maryland, joined his teammates and promptly dropped the first pass thrown to him.
Arguably no rookie will be more scrutinized than Heyward-Bey, who was the seventh player and first wideout drafted last April. The Raiders passed up higher-rated receivers in part because Davis was infatuated with Heyward-Bey's blazing speed. Heyward-Bey had a reputation for possessing slippery hands in college, and it could be a long year if he struggles while Michael Crabtree, the consensus No. 1 wideout prospect, excels across the bay in San Francisco -- if Crabtree ever signs, that is.
Wide receiver Javon Walker doing individual drills on the sideline. Slowed by injuries in three of the past four seasons, Walker appeared to be moving well during his workout. He says the knee that was operated on in the offseason -- unbeknownst to the team -- feels good and should keep him out only two or three more weeks.
Garcia says Walker is important to the passing game not only because he's a threat when healthy, but also because he's the only player at that position with legitimate NFL experience. "He has to lead by example," Garcia said. "He has to step in and step up."
1. Cable says the Raiders must improve their "discipline, team chemistry and throwing the ball" to reach their potential. In order, that means cutting down on penalties (Oakland ranked 30th with 109 last season), being more concerned with team goals than individual stats and averaging more than 148.1 yards passing per game, their league-low last season. As to the penalties, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly has to find a way to stay onside. He would have been flagged at least three times in Thursday's practices.
2. Cable says the game tapes from last season confirmed that the offense was noticeably better when 2008 first-round pick Darren McFadden was on the field. Cable, who will call plays, says he will do more to involve the speedy back as a runner, receiver and passer. That's fine with McFadden, who believes his increased comfort level with the offense should allow him to make more plays this year.
3. Cable is talking playoffs, but I don't see it. The Raiders should do cartwheels if they manage eight wins.
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