Had it not been for the wind, the weather would have been just as torturous as it was on Tuesday. With a high of 97 degrees out in Napa, the temperature was palpable thanks in large part to a brisk breeze that wasn’t cool by any means, but kept it from feeling like you were stuck in an oven.
The play of second-year wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey definitely didn’t cool down today. Even though I’ve had to adjust to seeing him in the #85 jersey, the biggest adjustment that I’ve had to make has been recognizing it’s him with the added bulk in his shoulders. Say what you want about this kid from Maryland, but don’t say that he hasn’t been doing something right in the offseason.
When the Raiders’ quarterbacks have chosen/practiced deep passing routes, DHB has had little trouble being open or catching the pass. When he was asked to run short comeback routes, Heyward-Bey ran them well and had no trouble pulling in the pass when it came his way. When Jason Campbell or one of the other quarterbacks needed a receiver open over the middle and in traffic, DHB was there with the catch. Simply put, the wide receiver the Raiders were ridiculed for on draft day in 2009 doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
The best example I can think of in DHB’s favor was when the Raiders were practicing a third and eight situation and Yamon Figurs jumped prior to the snap. The coaches called the players back into the huddle in disgust to give the offense another play. On that play, Campbell found Heyward-Bey over the middle in traffic for 13 yards and a first down.
Nobody is anointing him as the next Raiders Pro Bowler just yet, but it will be interesting to see if the determined receiver can translate his practice performance to the game on Saturday night.
For the most part, the day’s practice ran like clockwork. They did seven on seven drills, practiced schemes pitting the offense against the defense, and while very few balls hit the turf on passing plays, I didn’t get the impression that either side of the ball was outperforming the other.
One memorable play on the day was a delayed blitz by rookie linebacker Travis Goethel. Goethel waited for the tight end to clear and ran straight to the quarterback past right tackle Langston Walker, who had already moved to his left to help right guard Cooper Carlisle. Had it been an actual game, Goethel would have had a clear shot at a crushing quarterback sack.
Walker, who had missed Tuesday’s practice with tightness in his lower back, returned to practice Wednesday along with Richard Seymour and Chris Johnson. Chaz Schilens (knee), Samson Satele (ankle), Alex Daniels (groin), and Jay Richardson (knee) did not practice. Head coach Tom Cable said the four who sat out would be questionable for the coming game.
Chris Morris has fallen out of favor as the replacement for Samson Satele. Instead, Cable confirmed that rookie Jared Veldheer would get the start against the 49ers as the snapper. “I think it’s a heck of an opportunity for him, no doubt about that,” said Cable about Veldheer getting the start.
Cable continued, “He’ll get a chance to play against another team’s ones. We did that a little bit last week with him against Peppers. He’s tasted that a little bit being in the game early. This is the next step for him.”
With linemen, one of the biggest worries with moving them to different spots on the line is hampering their development. Cable credits Veldheer’s head for his ability to handle different positions so easily. “At first we worried about [moving him] from tackle to center,” said Cable after practice. “He has handled that very well and really has not had any setbacks. He’s a pretty bright guy. He’s been able to handle it mentally. That’s usually the challenge.”
So what’s Veldheer’s secret to playing different positions every week? “Just got to get in your play book and reps and just have to study film and put in the work off the field so you can be productive on the field.” He makes it sound so simple, but few linemen are able to pull off his kind of versatility. He’s already had time at left tackle, left guard, right tackle, center, and tight end in goal line situations.
Practice Thursday will be an early 8:30 AM event before the team prepares to leave Napa for the year.