Sunday, August 02, 2009

Raiders Training Camp Notes from Napa, Calif.

Darrius Heyward-Bay is sucking it so far ... big time. Javon Walker looked sharp in rehab drills after looking like a dud all of last year. Between these two guys, if we can get 90 catches, 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns, I don't care who steps up and who gets relegated to the role of one-dimensional WR, ala James Jett.

Walker ascends, DHB struggles

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

Wide receiver Javon Walker, who two days before talked talked with unbridled optimism about his health and claimed to be in the prime of his career, looked to be at least something approaching that as he put on a show with a member of the Raiders athletic training staff.

Walker ran at what looked to be full speed with an effortless glide. He ran short and intermediate patterns, at one point reaching back on a short crossing route and snatching a pass with his left hand without slowing down.

He ran patterns 25 to 30-yard downfield, reaching out and catching the ball at his highest point with good acceleration. Walker dropped exactly one pass that I saw during a drill in which he ran directly forward at the passer on a controlled run.

After the pass-catching was done, Walker was jumping over a series of obstacles set in his path with explosive leaps, showing no sign of a limp. He then jumped and twisted over each obstacle, a drill which would surely cause some pain to a defective knee.

Instead, Walker appeared buoyant as his session concluded, taking off on a run to join his teammates on the field for the end of practice.

When it comes to Walker, I’ve been one of the biggest skeptics since the moment he signed during free agency last year. Now I’m curious and cautiously optimistic.

If the Raiders suddenly have a physical veteran receiver who could get 50-plus catches, 800-plus yards and get in the end zone, it’s a huge bonus. And frankly, a bargain, considering he renegotiated his contact downward to $4.6 million over the next two years.

– Meanwhile, rookie No. 7 overall pick Darrius Heyward-Bey struggled to catch the ball, at one point leaving three catchable passes on the ground, one time punting a drop into the air in frustration. Keep in mind none of these plays came against defenders. That won’t happen until Monday’s first padded practice at 3:30 p.m.

Heyward-Bey gave his Rickey Dudley impression in the presence of Al Davis, who was driven over in a golf cart to talk to Heyward-Bey afterward. Also present was wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal.