Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

August 9, 2008
No Run DMC on kickoffs yet

Notes from Lane Kiffin's conference call today:

He said the thumb injury to Tyvon Branch won't cause him to miss any games but would likely cost him the kickoff return job because he'll have a cast on his right arm.

"I don't know how he'd be able to do that," Kiffin said. "We don't know the time frame on how long it'll be until he can do that again so we'll have to look at some other guys."

One of those guys won't be Darren McFadden.

"In preseason games to put him back there would be a little bit dangerous," Kiffin said.

McFadden has practiced kickoff returns. Kiffin said McFadden could be an option in the regular season.

Johnnie Lee Higgins and Jonathan Holland are candidates to fill Branch's role on kickoffs. Chris Johnson filled in last night.
****
Kiffin had praise for Andrew Walter. He was beaten down physically in 2006 only to be beaten more mentally last season when he was the fourth quarterback and not even dressing for games.

Walter completed 10 of 12 passes for 82 yards and remains the leader to be JaMarcus Russell's backcup.

"It was only one game and we've got to keep it up for the rest of the preseason," Kiffin said. "Anytime someone does that well, especially at that position, it builds your confidence in them. Like I said before Andrew's gone through a lot and I think it's made him stronger."

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Javon Walker didn't make any catches in his brief time on the field. Here's Kiffin's assessment of Walker.

"Unfortunately the one ball he went up for he wasn't able to get. But he came back well off the line of scrimmage on one of Andrew's two incompletions, he overthrew him. It really wasn't a difficult throw. Javon made a good move at the line and got himself in position to make a play. Unfortunately we overthrew him."

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Speaking of the passing game, Kiffin is still far from confident in relying on the offense to win a shootout with Russell throwing the ball a lot.

Kiffin was adamant last year the Raiders couldn't win games throwing the ball. That hasn't changed yet, even with the new additions.

In fact, the new faces give Kiffin more reason to be cautious.

"I'm not confident in that yet. The first unit didn't play that long and I don't know that we can be a pass-heavy team and throw the ball all over the place. With the right tackle (Cornell Green) that was injured the last half of the year coming back and a new left tackle (Kwame Harris) and not very much line depth there's no part in me right now that could tell you we could change from where we were last year."

Simply put, I hope you all enjoyed the Fargas-McFadden-Bush Show because chances are they will have to carry the Raiders on offense.

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Kiffin sees improvement from this time a year ago in run blocking which can be attributed to many of the players having a year's worth of experience in the zone-blocking scheme.

They're cutting defensive linemen better this time around.

"At the same time John Wade's new here, Kwame's new here so they're like rookies as far as the system goes," Kiffin said.

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Last night's unheradled player that played well was running back Louis Rankin. He ran for 91 yards with a long run of 72 in only eight carries.

But earning a roster spot at running back is about as daunting a job as there can be with the Raiders.

Fargas, Bush and McFadden have tailback taken care of. Justin Griffith and Oren O'Neal are the fullbacks. Griffith can also carry the ball if needed.

"It'll be a tough unit for (Rankin) to crack but it'll be similar to what Adimchinobe (Echemandu) went through last year," Kiffin said. "I think he was the second leading rusher in the AFC in the preseason or something like that."

Echemandu made the team out of camp but was eventually released to make room for Dominic Rhodes when he returned from his suspension.

Echemandu is one of the backs competing with Rankin for a job this camp, too.

If Rankin continues to play well, the Raiders will be in a tough spot if they want to keep him.

Rankin is an ideal practice squad player. Rankin can return kickoffs so he's a nice player to stash away in case of an injury to a running back.

But with good play, he might be snatched up by another team if let go by the Raiders and not have a chance to be added to the practice squad.

And to think the Raiders weren't even sure Rankin would make the training camp roster.

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Kiffin mentioned Tommy Kelly, Derrick Burgess and Thomas Howard that stood out on the first-team defense.

Kelly looked strong in the middle while Burgess was in some different spots as the team continues to move him around to free him up to make more plays. Kiffin liked the way Howard attacked the fullback at the line of scrimmage rather than meeting him on the Raiders side of the line.

--Jason Jones

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About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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