Russell missed several open receivers and sailed a few passes high during Saturday’s lone practice. At one point free safety Michael Huff came diving in to intercept an errant Russell pass just before it hit the ground without a receiver close.
When Russell overthrew another receiver linebacker Kirk Morrison shouted, “Don’t be nervous, don’t be nervous.”
Later the 22-year-old quarterback corrected himself, showing very nice touch on an 18-yard completion to tight end John Madsen. Russell lofted the ball perfectly over a pair of defenders and into the arms of Madsen.
He also looked as if he’s gaining more confidence in the pocket, setting his feet comfortably to throw despite heavy traffic around him before stepping up to throw.
Several times Russell pulled the ball down and took off running. He also showed good movement when he ran a play-fake then took off on a reverse rollout before throwing a laser pass that sizzled through the hands of wide receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins.
“I’m more interested to see him make the normal throws,” head coach Lane Kiffin said. “We’re not going to coach those special throws that he makes where he’s running over there and he throws back and makes those great throws. That’s who he is and very few people can do that. Bu those happen one time a game, maybe two times. We’ve got to get him to do everything right, the little things, the little completions and the timing of everything. That’s all the stuff that wows the fans and people watching but that’s not what makes you a good quarterback. A good quarterback plays with great discipline, he takes care of the ball and he throws things on time. We’re going to have to g et that going with him. He’s continuing to improve on it. We’re giving him a lot of reps. We’re wearing him out on purpose for conditioning, not just his arm but his body.”
Russell’s father and a family friend took in Saturday’s practice, which was cut to 95 minutes instead of the scheduled two hours.
The team will hold its second two-a-day practice on Sunday.
Other news and notes from camp:
· Stanford Routt worked at the nickel back slot, although rookie Tyvon Branch was used when the defense went to its ‘Husky’ package which would be used more against running teams.
· Not sure if it’s a result of his sore right wrist or not but quarterback Andrew Walter continues to have his troubles. He missed two long throws during 7-on-7 drills, overthrowing the intended receiver each time.
· Wide receiver Drisan James had a terrible day, dropping passes during position drills then having the same problem during the team scrimmage.
· It’s beginning to sound like a broken record but rookie running back Darren McFadden made yet another head-turning play. This time the first-round draft pick took a handoff from Russell and headed left when the defense started making a push in that direction and appeared to have the young runner pinned against the sideline.
But McFadden turned on the speed and turned the corner, barely making it through before racing up the field untouched the rest of the way.
· Fred Wakefield, the two-way threat who the team plans on using at tight end and defensive end during the preseason, also took reps at the three-technique position formerly manned by Warren Sapp. With Tommy Kelly taking the day off and working out in the weight room instead, Wakefield worked out with the second-team defense and held his own.
· A day after the offense had multiple breakdowns with fumbles and muffed exchanges between the quarterbacks and centers, the only player to fumble Saturday was running back Michael Bush.
· Left tackle Kwame Harris was held out of practice with a lower back injury so the team moved guard Paul McQuistan over to tackle to take Harris’ spot with the first team. McQuistan filled in at right guard last season and is Oakland’s most versatile offensive lineman but Kiffin says the team intends to keep him strictly on the left side this year.
During one play matching the starting offense against the starting defense, McQuistan manhandled defensive end Jay Richardson and opened a huge hole for Justin Fargas.
“If you leave him at one spot and on one side he does much better,” Kiffin said. “We made him play the left side last year, trained him on the left side, and made him go over to the right side when Cornell (Green) got hurt. That's not an easy thing to do, especially when you're not going from guard to guard, you're going from guard to tackle. So, we put him in a tough position. We're going to try not to do that again this year. Hopefully, we can.”
· Linebacker Robert Thomas has been taking reps with the second defense after the Raiders promoted Ricky Brown to strongside linebacker early in camp. Thomas has taken the demotion well and has made several plays during the first few practices. Saturday he sliced through traffic and gave running back Fargas a sharp thud with his helmet. He also intercepted a pass of Marques Tuiasosopo during 7-on-7 drills.
· The news that running back LaMont Jordan has signed with New England a day after being released by the Raiders wasn’t exactly met with smiles in Oakland. When told of the news one front office employee muttered, “Great, first (Randy) Moss and now LaMont.”
· Seventh-round draft pick Chaz Schilens made safety Darrick Brown look bad on two consecutive plays, using the same move -- inside fake, cut back outside -- both times. Brown caught a break the first time when quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo badly overthrew Schilens in the end zone but the second time around Tui hit the receiver in stride.
· Derrick Burgess has been stellar in every workout so far and gave Cornell Green fits during Saturday’s team scrimmage. Burgess twice raced past Green without much hindrance and made it look so easy the offense had to start deploying additional blockers to help Green, who was later called for a false start during the drill.
· Sebastian Janikowski easily made all three of his field goal attempts, the longest coming from 53 yards out. It’s the first significant kicking Janikowski has done in camp.
· Cornerback Chris Johnson, who has been working with the second-team defense along with Stanford Routt, helped himself by making a nice play to break up a deep pass from Tuiasosopo that was intended for rookie Arman Shields.
· DeAngelo Hall was signed to play cornerback with the Raiders but he just might do a bit more as well. Hall was one of four players who stayed after practice to return punts and could be a factor. Johnnie Lee Higgins showed some promise last year in the preseason but failed to carry that success over to the regular season, while Rashad Baker and Michael Waddell -- the other players returning punts Saturday -- are longshots to make the 53-man roster.