Lechler at quarterback? He could be just a play away

Just got back from watching the beginning of the Raiders practice. Here are a few observations:

  • Bruce Gradkowski (shoulder), Travis Goethel (back), John Henderson (foot), Chaz Schilens (knee), Brandon Myers (concussion), and Thomas Howard (knee) did not participate in the portion of practice that I was able to attend. Goethel and Gradkowski were out on the field, but both were nothing more than observers.
  • Kyle Boller and Jason Campbell were taking turns under center. There wasn’t a clear change of offense for either player, so it’s accurate to say that both players were taking snaps with the first team. Hopefully, Tom Cable will let us know who his starter is later today.
  • Another player taking snaps under center was All-World punter Shane Lechler. We weren’t lucky enough to see the punter step back and pass, but he was pretty good with a pitch right and a few handoffs. You could tell that Lechler wasn’t quite comfortable in his role and while in the huddle, the entire offense had big smiles on their faces — no doubt there were some pretty good one-liners being given in the huddle. If Boller starts and the Raiders sit Gradkowski and Campbell, Lechler would be the backup. There must be something to Lechler getting time under center, but I won’t know until I ask Cable.
  • Mario Henderson never took a snap at left tackle. In fact, all of the snaps that Henderson was a part of was at defensive tackle for the scout team. Jared Veldheer looks to be the starting left tackle for now, while Henderson and fellow rookie Bruce Campbell work at defensive tackle against the first-team offense.
  • On defense, the Raiders were lining up in a lot of nickle and some dime formations. When I first came out on the field, Quentin Groves was back at weak-side linebacker next to Rolando McClain and Kamerion Wimbley. You would think that with Groves back at linebacker, Trevor Scott would be back at right end…he wasn’t. Matt Shaughnessy, who has been playing great the past two games, was working at right defensive end while Scott watched. Scott came in for Groves when he came on the field.
  • Darren McFadden and Michael Bush were both on the field working with the offense. McFadden had said he planned on testing his injured hamstring today, and he didn’t seem to be hesitant while we had the opportunity to watch. If he finishes practice and feels no pain on Thursday, it could mean that the Raiders have what Tom Cable would call a ‘tandem’ of running backs for Denver.

Khalif Barnes could get his first NFL catch this Sunday

With Brandon Myers sitting with a concussion, offensive lineman Khalif Barnes could finally get a pass reception. “I don’t think there will be any deep balls going on,” said the 6’5″ 325 pound lineman. Barnes has always joked about being a little guy at heart, once saying that’s why he gets along so well with receivers and backs.

During the season, Barnes has reported as an eligible receiver a number of times, but he has yet to be targeted in the passing game. He’s already certain that he’ll be on the field more this Sunday. “It might be a little bit more this game because Brandon’s out, but if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.

Whether or not Barnes is campaigning for balls behind the scenes isn’t known, but he’s already saying all the right things about the guy who may be his quarterback this Sunday. “Kyle looks very good. He’s a veteran quarterback,” said Barnes of Kyle Boller.

If you go top to bottom with our quarterbacks, even Charlie before he got hurt, we have a good (group) of quarterbacks. I feel good about either one of those guys stepping in because they all prepare like professionals, they’re all pros, and they all know that at any point their number could be called.

Michael Bennett full-go

If McFadden can’t go this Sunday, it looks as though Michael Bennett will at least be able to fill in. Asked how his hamstring was doing, Bennett said, “Super. Excellent.” Bennett also said that he’d be full-go this week and that he isn’t feeling any lingering affects from the hamstring injury. “Everything is good. I’m looking forward to going out and working with the boys.

Bennett, who has served stints with Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and San Diego before becoming a Raider, will see a familiar face on the Broncos if he lines up in the backfield. “You look up front and a guy that I played with and know about, Jamal Williams, he’s as good as they get,” said Bennett. “Even with his age he’s still a great player.

Stanford Routt remembers Orton from his draft year

The Broncos pass offense trails only San Diego and Indianapolis in yards per game this season. Kyle Orton is carrying around a 94.2 QB rating and three players have at least 32 receptions or more; Jabbar Gafney (ranked #4 in NFL with 37), Brandon Lloyd (ranked tied for #10 in the NFL with 34), and Eddie Royal (ranked #16 in NFL with 32).

To put that into perspective, the Raiders leading pass catcher is Zach Miller with 30 receptions on the season.

Looks like the Raiders will be playing quite a bit of pass defense this week, and that is just fine with Routt. “As a corner you definitely would much rather play a team that passes the ball rather than lines up in the wing-T or the wishbone and just runs it,” said the sixth-year corner obviously joking about the running formations that you only see in college.

Routt and Orton both came into the NFL the same year and the Raiders’ corner isn’t surprised with the amount of success Orton has had with Denver this season. “I remember – me and Kyle came out of the same draft I think, in ’05,” said Routt.

I think he was a third-rounder that year, and to my knowledge [Orton] broke basically all of Drew Brees’ passing records at Purdue. So, once again, the talent’s always been there. He’s playing with, I guess, a better crop of receivers, maybe a more complex or a much more quarterback-friendly scheme than maybe he was in Chicago. I don’t know. But I’m not one bit surprised.

Mike Mitchell just wants to make a name for himself

Mitchell was drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft, but reports were out that the Raiders coaching staff wanted to dump him in the final cuts of this year’s training camp. Despite those reports, Mitchell has been getting plenty of playing time the last two weeks covering the likes of Antonio Gates and Vernon Davis. According to Mitchell, there’s been improvement.

Well, Vernon didn’t have a catch this week on me so I guess that’ an improvement,” said Mitchell before practice on Wednesday. “I gave up one against Gates and I gave up none this week, this past week. I just want to keep getting better, keep progressing. I think the coaches and the players on my team, I think I’m gaining their respect, slowly but surely. I just got to keep working and find out what I didn’t do good last week and improve going into this next game. That’s what this thing’s about – 16 games, every week you’ve just got to keep getting a little better.

Mitchell was also asked if he thought there was a chance of a letdown this coming week — since the Broncos don’t have that sort of talent at tight end.

Uh, no. Because I don’t have a name yet and I’m trying to develop a name as being a good player in this league so every opponent I face, I’m getting up for. This is the NFL. It’s the best of the best. There are no slouches or any bums or anything like that. Everyone is going to be a great player so every week I’m bringing my “A” Game and, you know, we’ll just let the chips fall where they may.

More later…