Rookie Receivers and Run Defense: The Raiders prepare for the 49ers on Saturday

After locking horns in joint practices this week, the Raiders and 49ers will meet this Saturday in the annual Battle of the Bay.

The Raiders won this fixture one year ago. In fact, it was the only win the Raiders experienced in the 2008 preseason. That game introduced the NFL to Johnnie Lee Higgins who burned the 9ers for a 53-yard punt return, striking pay dirt and opening the preseason scoring for the Silver and Black.

This year, a few more young receivers will get their chance to introduce themselves to the world of professional football.

Chaz Schilens, the man who emerged as JaMarcus Russell’s go-to-guy in camp, went down with a broken bone in his foot this week. With Javon Walker not expected to return to practice until next Monday, the path has been cleared for rookies Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy to take a lot of snaps with the first team. DHB started against the Cowboys in the preseason opener last week and caught just one ball for eight yards. Russell attempted to do deep to Heyward-Bey twice in that game, in both cases DHB’s speed drew two defenders as he watched one ball sail over his head and the other was slightly under thrown.

Murphy, on the other hand, had an impressive showing in his first NFL action. The former Florida Gator caught two passes for 40-yards. Murphy played against the Cowboy second and third string last week, so it will be interesting to see how he fares when facing the likes of Nate Clements in San Francisco. Murphy has been held out of his fare share of practices with a hip injury but was healthy enough to return to practice late in the week.

With Schilens out and Walker’s status still uncertain, there is also a chance for one of the marginal receivers to make the roster. Expect a heated battle between Todd Watkins, Nick Miller, Shawn Bayes and Sammie Parker.

Perhaps the most disturbing trend in the young preseason has been the inability of the Raiders to contain the run. The run defense was exposed as weak at best once again by the Dallas first team and Frank Gore in practice this week.

Over the last six years, the Raider run defense has been ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in all categories. Little was done in the offseason to address the defense and it would appear things are just as bad as they’ve ever been.

Reports were that Gore ran through and around the Raiders like Usain Bolt with rockets on his feet in practice this week. After being thoroughly embarrassed, John Marshall is going to have to make adjustments if his defense has any chance of containing Gore this Saturday.

Tune in to the Optimum Scouting show tonight as I’ll be a guest discussing the state of the Raiders. The show starts at 9pm Eastern. Here is the link:


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Tags: Chaz Schilens Darrius Heyward-Bey Frank Gore JaMarcus Russell Javon Walker John Marshall Johnnie Lee Higgins Louis Murphy Nate Clements Nick Miller Sammie Parker Shawn Bayes Todd Watkins Usain Bolt

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