RB Darren McFadden is entering his second season with the Silver and Black. -**
A distinct sound echoed at the Napa Valley Training Facility on Monday afternoon—the smack of pads hitting pads. The Raiders were in full regalia at practice for the first time since training camp workouts began on Thursday. The tempo also picked up, as the coaches focused on execution.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha noted that the four days of learning-intensive practices made a difference on the field for the defense on Monday. "Motions and shifts, things that an offense can do to confuse you, defensively we were on point," Asomugha explained after practice.
According to many players, sometimes in early in training camp, the defense is slightly ahead of the offense in terms of polish. Asomugha says it is because the offense has more to process on a day-to-day basis during camp than the defense does. "[The defense] has less to learn as opposed to the offense. [The offense] is putting in new plays every day, whereas we're either in man, cover two, or a blitz," Asomugha explained. "We're basically playing off of them, so they're going to have a tougher time getting everything down."
Despite the benefits of the previous four days, Asomugha said that the players were ready for today. "Guys have been ready to put on pads and start lighting it up a little bit, so everybody's happy," Asomugha added.
Running back Darren McFadden was one of players enjoying the added speed and physicality on Monday. "It feels good to go out there and get the pads on—[we] get to go full speed," McFadden said. While he liked the feeling of shifting to another gear in drills, he certainly saw the reasoning behind a slower tempo the first four days. "I feel like the four days with no pads and no full speed, it helped us out a lot. There weren't too many mental mistakes out there," the second-year back out of Arkansas added.
McFadden was also pleased with the offense's execution on Monday, "There's some good progress out there. JaMarcus [Russell] is throwing the ball real well. The backs are hitting holes. The fullbacks are doing a great job picking up the blocks. So, I feel like, for the most part, it was a good job out there," McFadden said in praise of the entire offensive unit.
The former Heisman Trophy runner-up is certainly more comfortable in his second training camp than in his first. "I feel more mature right now. I feel like I know the offense—I know the passing schemes, the blocking schemes. I know where I need to be at the right time," McFadden explained.
After going four days without throwing the ball in full-team drills, the Raiders offense came out firing. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell says team is throwing the extra passes because the coaching staff is already confident in the running game. "Coach knows we can run the ball, so what he wants to do is see all the young guys get together and throw and catch the ball," Russell said.
Russell, who is coming off of his first full year as the starting quarterback of the team, has a veteran presence in on the roster at quarterback in 11th-year player Jeff Garcia this season. Russell sees having Garcia around at camp this year as a positive.
"It's good. When you go inside and [look] on film and you see something where he might see something totally different, but once [we] get on the same page, you put it in your mindframe—something you can think about for next time," Russell noted. "It's wonderful when a guy has been playing as long as he has to be in your corner, pushing you."
Russell is being mentored by a couple of new coaches this year—quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett and passing game coordinator Ted Tollner. The third-year quarterback has been impressed by the additions to the staff. "I think they are some of the best coaches I've been around for quite some years," Russell opined. "What they're doing is putting us in a place for success."
Head Coach Tom Cable has seen a positive difference in Russell at camp this year. "His confidence grew, which in turn, allows this team to grow around him that way," Cable said about his starting quarterback. "And I think that is the most important thing."
After practicing only one time on Monday, the Raiders will pick the pace back up on Tuesday for another round of two-a-days. Tuesday will mark the second week the players have been at camp and the 10th and 11th practices since arriving.