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Mini Camp Wrap: Vets shine, Rookies watch

While everyone seems to be talking about how this year’s rookies are doing in mini camps, the real attention should be paid to the second and third year players. The rookies are just getting their feet wet and trying to sort out the differences between the college and pro game, which is legion. There is little that can be learned from their performaces so early on. Give them a year in the pros and then take a look at their mini camp performance.

Tom Cable had this to say:

“When you look at the last two years’ draft class- (Michael) Bush really showing up, (Darren)McFadden really showing up, (Chaz) Schilens showing up, Jonnie Lee (Higgins) showing up. On and on and on. I think Mario (Henderson) is showing up more and more. And Trevor Scott. Tyvon Branch really had a really nice camp. So it good to see those guys in year two and three really starting to develop and make plays. So you can see what our future is.”



This Terd won’t stink

It was just a couple years ago that Terdell Sands was thought to be the DT in the middle for this team and he got a nice contract that reflected that. Then he really started to stink up the joint. Oddly enough, it had a lot to do with him gaining weight. The hope is that all that will change this coming season.

“Terdell is lighter”, Tom Cable pointed out. “He is absolutely a lot lighter. He proved a couple of years ago that he was a real fine player at a certain weight. That kind of got away from him a little bit and now he’s back to where he was before. So for him it’s significant that he realizes it’s time to get back to being the kind of player he wants to be. And we need him to, with the changes we’ve made on defense we can’t have him too big.”

With the changes, he can’t be too big? That sounds intriguing. Just how different is this new scheme anyway?

“It’s night and day different for them”, says Cable. “A lot of them struggled to get through some of it. But Today was a good example, we had a good practice, took to everything were trying to do. It’s a process, you just gotta keep building it every day. We’re not close yet.”

This is good news considering how bad the defense looked under Rob Ryan’s tutelage, a complete departure can only a good thing. And perhaps all these “good players who don’t always play like it” will start to do just that. From the prevent defense, the only direction they can go is up right?

Frantz Joseph is all about versatility

If you had a chance to read my article about Patrick’s recent interview with undrafted free agent signee, LB Frantz Joseph, you can see that he has a unique mixture of confidence and humility. So it comes as no real surprise that he has the utmost confidence in his ability to play any of the linebacker positions.

“I’m a student of the game so when I was inside the classroom all I had to do was learn the terminology. Because football’s been played the same way for a hundred years. There’s the 4-3 and the 3-4. I was lucky enough to have played in the 4-3. Coming out here I definitely know the schemes very well. They had me playing both positions at the mike and weakside linebacker and I understand them both completely. I (also) played SAM my freshman year at Boston College so I would be comfortable as far as knowing what to do and the physicality of taking on the fullback. I feel I could excell at that too. I feel I could play any of them”, Said Joseph.

Also unlike most new young players, his heroes aren’t just those players he grew up watching. Which is great for the Raiders considering most of the great defensive players in Raiders history were roaming the field before he was born.

“Players that I like don’t even play football anymore”, Said Joseph. “Two main guys are Dick Butkus and Jack Lambert. The nastiness, the tenacity, the meanness. I really feel like that’s what my game implements. Honestly when I’m on the field, I’m not a nice guy, I’m not trying to be your friend. I’m really trying to hurt you. The violence inside the white lines. Off the field, I’m a gentleman. But on the field, it’s a different world.”

If I didn’t say it before, I will say it now; Welcome the Raider Nation Frantz.

For Pears, it’s apples and oranges

After the draft I was none too happy that this team had not picked up a single offensive guard in the offseason or the draft. But now it seems to be coming clear. Cable has been loading up on tackles that all have the versatility of moving inside and playing guard if he so chooses.

“Eric Pears looks good, he’s a good player, he was a good pickup. He’s mulitple, he can play inside or outside on either side right or left so I think he brings a lot to the table”, said Cable

It is all making sense now because another acquisition was OT Marcus Johnson from Minnesota who can also play guard. Combine that with Paul McQuistan proving two seasons ago that, despite being a guard, he can really hold his own at the right tackle position and the Raiders have a solid line of interchangeable parts. This scenario could also leave Cornell Green and Cooper Carlisle as the odd men out.

Veterans’ homecoming met with salute

Both Jeff Garcia and Lorenzo Neal have decided to return to their roots to finish their careers. Both are northern and central California natives which is also where they chose to spend their college years. This makes them fan favorites as well as Al Davis favorites. But their presence as seasoned, pro bowl veterans, makes them popular with Tom Cable and respected by their teammates.

“As I mentioned when we got Jeff (Garcia), there was a purpose behind that”, Cable said. “I saw in an interview with Lorenzo (Neal), he and I had talked the night he got here and you can see it already taking affect. Hearing them out there in and around the huddle, how their coaching young guys and just how they talk and communicate with people really was what I needed. This team needed that.”

Oh, did it ever. We have talked a lot this offseason about the dearth of veteran leadership on this team. And now the Raiders finally have some. Hell, when Neal is finished playing, they should ask him to stay on board as a coach. I don’t think there is a single guy on this team that wouldn’t break out a notepad when he starts speaking. My military background would make me want to salute him when he walks in a room. If he can stay healthy and make this team, he could be the most valuable addition this team made this offseason.

So while the message boards are filling with those quick to call Darrius Heyward-Bey a bust because he dropped a few balls in his second practice and then went down with fatigue, soreness and cramps (along with Mike Mitchell and Louis Murphy), Let this be a lesson to you.