We all know the routine. Tom Cable said he wanted open competition at every position and still somehow Darrius Heyward-Bey and JaMarcus Russell were given starter roles coming out of camp. The usual suspect, as it is with all things Raider, is Al Davis pulling the strings from high above.
Eventually J-Russ was leapfrogged by both his backups while DHB had to succumb to a mystery injury before seeing his job lost to a second stringer.
So here we are again. This time it’s Hue Jackson preaching the same competitive philosophy. What is going to be different this time around?
Certainly the Raiders owe it to themselves to figure out if the money they’ve invested in young players is cash well spent. Only way to know that is to give them more reps. Problem is at what point does DHB’s emotional well-being become more important that the success of the team?
I hate to continuously bang on Heyward-Bey like he’s Sarah Palin after competing on Jeopardy but Denarius Moore could be the guy that puts Coach Jackson’s philosophy to the test.
Steve Corkran points out how much better Moore has been that any other receiver in camp thus far. It stands to reason the rookie should see some kind of an expanded role as the season nears.
Before we get too carried away I’m willing to acknowledge that practice is one thing and the game is quite another. Anyone who has ever played sports has certainly known a teammate that killed everyday it in practice yet never showed any of the same in an actual game.
That being said Moore looked pretty good in his first taste of NFL action against the Cards last week.
The DHB dilemma was evident from the start. During his first NFL season fellow rookie Louis Murphy made a seamless adjustment to pro football while Hey-Bey toiled grabbing just 9 balls in 11 starts. Flash forward to his second year and Jacoby Ford again made DHB look like the rookie. Now we’ve got a 5th round pick in Moore who, once again, is making Heyward-Bey a candidate for demotion on the depth chart.
To be fair Heyward-Bey looked as good as we’ve ever seen him in limited action last week. His route running is much improved to the point where he was getting open with ease thanks to that 4.3 speed. Those that have seen Darrius in camp are also singing his praises.
Still no player is turning heads like Denarius Moore.
So the question is simple: Will Coach Jackson put the best players on the field regardless of contract or expectations?
Mr. Davis has long been known as a meddler. There are definite instances when his meddling took precedence over the team (see Marcus Allen). There are also instances when his absence in decision making has hurt the team (see Bruce Gradkowski starting against the Dolphins last season).
Truth is nobody really knows how often Mr. Davis is pulling the strings on his marionette coaches. That the same defensive principles have been in place sine the 1970’s no matter who the defensive coordinator is says a lot. But if you look closely enough you’ll see subtle differences in Check Bresnahan’s philosophy thus far.
Time will tell just how committed Coach Jackson is to putting his best foot forward at all costs. If Darrius Heyward-Bey outplays Denarius Moore then he deserves the benefit of the doubt. If Bruce Campbell – whom Mr. Davis loves – returns healthy and earns his job on the O-line then so be it.
However if we’re subjected to another year of lackluster DHB production while the likes of Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford toil in lesser roles then I’m afraid well know about all there is to Coach Jackson’s early regime.