Raiders notes: Supporting McFadden, practicing sharper, etc.

Allen: Charles Woodson plays the game with a swagger

Raiders notes: Supporting McFadden, practicing sharper, etc.
May 28, 2013, 4:15 pm
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Darren McFadden missed 13 games over the past two seasons. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

ALAMEDA -- Asked about his expectations for running back Darren McFadden this season -- health and otherwise -- head coach Dennis Allen said the team will be prepared no matter what happens.

That preparation began on Day 3 of this year's draft, when the Raiders selected UCF running back Latavius Murray in the sixth round. But if all goes as planned, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound back won't be needed.

"I'm hoping that he's going to get back to the explosive guy he was two years ago," said Allen, speaking of McFadden. According to the head coach, this year's schemes fit the top running back a bit better.

But McFadden's health issues are well documented. In 2010, the former No. 4 overall pick had a career year with 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns. But the 25-year old has missed 13 games since then. When healthy, he's one of the best, but Allen and the Raiders need to be prepared.

The first play in seven-on-seven team drills Tuesday was a Matt Flynn handoff to McFadden. The very next play was a handoff to Murray.

Allen spoke highly of the rookie after watching the team's second OTAs: "He's a big physical runner. Probably the thing that's been most impressive is that he's picked up everything offensively from a schematics standpoint. Assignment-wise he's done a great job. He's done a nice job in pass protection. That's one of the things you see with young backs that they struggle with at times. He's a pretty intelligent player."

Rashad Jennings, Jeremy Stewart and Deonte Williams are the only other true running backs on the roster, though you can't discount the ever-intriguing Marcel Reece, who poses a serious matchup problem as a 6-foot-1, 255-pound fullback that can do more than block.

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After four days off, the Raiders had an up-and-down practice, and they took full ownership of it from the top on down.

"We weren't as crisp, mentally, and into it as we needed to be," head coach Dennis Allen said.

"I've got to be better," said quarterback Matt Flynn, adding that he thinks everyone on the team would have liked to perform better on Tuesday.


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The Raiders allowed the sixth-fewest sacks in the NFL last season (27), and they've got a number of competitions brewing on the offensive line.

Stefen Wisniewski appears entrenched as the center, Jared Veldheer looks to have the left tackle position locked up, and Mike Brisiel should be the right guard. But left guard and right tackle didn't appear so decided on Tuesday.

Lucas Nix (23, 6-foot-5, 320) and Tony Bergstrom (26, 6-foot-5, 310) are locked in a battle for the starting left guard position, with Nix getting the majority of the first-team looks on Tuesday. Allen said that was by design, as each are getting their "days" to prove themselves.

Khalif Barnes (31, 6-foot-6, 321) and Willie Smith (26, 6-foot-5, 310) went back-and-forth Tuesday at right tackle, but second-round draft pick Menelik Watson (24, 6-foot-5, 315) should also increase the competition.

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Dennis Allen announced that, at this point, Matt Flynn is the team's starting quarterback. Indeed, he took the first-team reps in OTAs Tuesday, and looked cleaner than second-string QB Terrelle Pryor, who also took first-team reps.

Interestingly, though, the Raiders also got fourth-round draft pick Tyler Wilson on the field to take a few first-team reps. And he looked good. Crisp spirals were delivered on time in each of his few drills.

Wilson, 23, owns 29 records at his alma mater, Arkansas, including career passing yards with 7,765. He stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 215 pounds.

Flynn may be the announced starting quarterback, but expect Wilson to make things very interesting in what was already an intriguing position for Oakland.

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Jason Hunter, the free agent defensive end brought in from Denver this offseason, got a taste for what Raider fans are capable when Charles Woodson arrived to a mass of excited fans last week.

Hunter, who is comfortable rushing the passer from both sides, was one of the few players to get outside, greet the fans and soak up some of the energy they provided.

"Raider Nation is in full affect," he said. "I just wanted to get out there and have a little fun with Woodson."

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Usama Young took the first-team reps at safety alongside Charles Woodson. And when incumbent starter Tyvon Branch took the field, he replaced Woodson, not Young.

[RELATED: Woodson -- 'This team will compete']

It appears as if the Raiders want to give an extended look to Young, the seven-year veteran signed this offseason as a free agent.

Young, 28, stands 6-feet and weighs 200 pounds and looked comfortable and vocal in the Raiders secondary.

[RELATED: Hayden hospitalized with 'abdominal issue']

He acknowledged after the practice that he'd been texting with hospitalized teammate D.J. Hayden, and that the rookie cornerback "says he's doing a lot better" after his procedure. Young also noted that Hayden "looked the part" during the team's first OTAs on May 20.