Three and Out: Getting Hayden up to speed; McKenzie's mindset
Raiders' running back Darren McFadden showcased uncanny agility late in the morning practice on Friday. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Practice summary: The Raiders’ first training camp practice was surprisingly clean. The morning session featured good balance, with both sides making plays during a practice conducted in shells.
Running back Darren McFadden has a clean bill of health, which means he looked as good as ever in the early going. While there is no contact, he seems more comfortable searching for gaps in the new man-blocking scheme.
Quarterback Matt Flynn is clearly the No. 1 guy at this point, and looked the part with several accurate passes to the right receivers. Coach Dennis Allen liked Flynn’s effort but wants more consistency than the quarterback and other members of the passing game showed on Friday.
There were a few unexpected members of the first-team offense, most notably at left guard. Lucas Nix ran with the No. 1s over Tony Bergstrom. Also, Richard Gordon was generally the first-team tight end. On defense, Christo Bilukidi filled in for an injured Pat Sims at first-team defensive tackle.
Most of the early focus was on rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden. The first-round pick was a limited participant in the opening practice, his first action since having abdominal surgery on May 28.
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Receiver Jacoby Ford looked 100-perent healthy and showcased breakneck speed and elusiveness on several big plays. Ford has struggled with foot injuries in each of the past two seasons.
The Raiders won’t conduct a full-contact practice until Sunday, but that didn’t stop defensive back Chance Casey from getting a lick in. It didn’t seem intentional, but Casey hit receiver Sam McGuffie on the back of the neck following a reception. The receiver was stunned but finished the practice.
Offensive play of the day: It’s always tough to evaluate a rusher without pads or the possibility of contact, but McFadden showcased uncanny agility late in the morning practice. He slashed through the line, cut laterally to avoid a pursuer and stiff-armed another as he made his way through the secondary. With McFadden’s skill set, few backs may be tougher to bring down.
Defensive play of the day: Safety Cory Nelms made a leaping interception of a deep pass from rookie quarterback Tyler Wilson. Receiver Conner Vernon was open down the left sideline, but Nelms ran halfway across the field and swiped the ball out of the air. It was the start of a dismal stretch for Wilson, who threw three interceptions in four pass attempts. The first came on a great play by Nelms, but the next two were poor throws.
Rookie report: OLB Sio Moore certainly passes the sniff test. The third-round pick from UConn rotated in with the first team throughout practice, and never seemed lost or out of place. He played on the strong side and flashed the explosiveness that excited coaches during the offseason program.
CB Hayden was a limited participant but showed good footwork when allowed to cover one-on-one in passing drills. … Wilson had some rough stretches due to poor reads, but he showed quality arm strength after making correct choices.
Roster moves: Hayden was activated off the non-football injury list after passing a team-administered physical on Friday. He was a limited participant in Friday’s morning practice.
The Raiders placed OLB Miles Burris (knee) and DT Pat Sims (undisclosed) on the active physically unable to perform list on Friday. Allen did not give a timetable for when either player would practice, but said Sims’ injury happened recently. Both players are eligible to return immediately after passing a team physical.
On the sideline: OT Menelik Watson, the Raiders’ second-round pick, remained on the active non-football injury list with an undisclosed ailment that Allen said happened recently. Burris and Sims were also sidelined. Those three spent the morning practice performing light activity on a side field and on exercise bikes. It’s uncertain when any will return, but the absence hurts the rookie Watson more than the others. Allen considered it imperative that Watson stays mentally focused on the offensive scheme during his rehab to avoid falling farther behind.
Afternoon tryout: The Raiders brought Pro-Bowl offensive lineman Andre Gurode in for a workout after Friday’s practice attended by Raiders brass. Gourde can play center and guard. He’s played 151 games with 127 starts since 2002. He didn’t play a game in 2012, although he was with Chicago for the last two months of the season.
Quote of the day: “I like being the underdog. We have expectations here, and I believe we’ll reach them.” – Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie