Oakland Raiders  

 

Raiders rookies try to impress coaching staff

  • By Associated Press
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Darren McFadden's spot on the Oakland roster was assured the minute the Raiders used the No. 4 overall pick on him in last month's draft.

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Darren McFadden is expected to give the Raiders an offensive boost.

For most of the other players at the team's rookie minicamp Friday, it was time to prove to coach Lane Kiffin and his assistants that they too were worthy of NFL careers.

Because of a variety of trades, the Raiders' second pick in the draft didn't come until the fourth round, when they selected safety Tyvon Branch out of Connecticut. They also added receivers Arman Shields (fourth round, Richmond) and Chaz Schilens (seventh round, San Diego State), and defensive end Trevor Scott in the sixth round from Buffalo.

Considering that Kiffin cut one of his third-round picks last season, defensive end Quentin Moses, before the start of the regular season, these four players know that getting drafted offers no assurances in the NFL.

"I'm not really nervous about it, but I know I have to perform to stay around," Branch said. "You've got to perform in this league, and that's what I'm looking forward to doing."

Branch figures to be best positioned of the second-day draft picks to make the team because safety was a weakness for Oakland last season. Branch also was an accomplished kick returner in college and the Raiders lost their top two kick returners -- Chris Carr and Dominic Rhodes -- in the offseason.

Brach averaged 28.9 yards per kick return with two touchdowns and also played on coverage units last year for the Huskies, offering versatility that is important when it comes to filling out a roster.

"It's definitely a great opportunity for me," he said. "They lost both their returners so I'm looking forward to stepping up and competing for that job. Just working hard and hopefully getting on the field. Whenever you can come out and play special teams it adds value, and this is a league where you've got to have some value in order to play."

The draftees were joined on the first day of a three-day camp by undrafted free agents like former Washington running back Lewis Rankin, players on a tryout like former Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller and a few returning players who had not accrued enough playing time to lose their rookie status.

The most intriguing of those was running back Michael Bush, a fourth-round pick who missed all of last season recovering from a broken leg. Now Bush is expected to compete to be in the rotation at running back with McFadden, returning starter Justin Fargas and LaMont Jordan.

Bush and McFadden were scheduled to address the media on Saturday.

Branch and Schilens are hoping to put themselves in the mix at receiver after struggling with injuries their final season in college.

Branch had 11 catches against Vanderbilt in the season opener for Richmond last season before a knee injury essentially ended his year. After rehabbing his knee, Branch got invited to the NFL combine where he shined and caught the Raiders' attention.

"I think Shields would have gone much higher if it hadn't been for him missing his senior year except for the first game," Kiffin said. "It was kind of those deals like Michael Bush, where the value right there exceeded the other people on the board at that time."

Schilens missed four games with a stress fracture in his foot, but had 22 catches for 495 yards in his final three games at San Diego State. Kiffin said Schilens was a player who looked better in workouts than he did on film and was worth taking a chance on in the seventh round,

Schilens wasn't sure he was even going to get picked before Oakland used the 226th selection on him and was prepared to join the Raiders as an undrafted free agent to get to work with receivers coach James Lofton.

"I always felt that I was a player who got better year to year and game to game," Schilens said. "I feel like I'm constantly learning. As far as numbers-wise, yeah, they weren't the greatest, but I consistently took steps forward to make myself better. The whole thing with my foot really held me back. So, you just got to keep working."

Scott is a converted tight end who turned himself into an NFL prospect when he switched to defensive end for his final two seasons at Buffalo.

"I can't describe to you how excited I am, just to be fortunate enough to get the opportunity to play here," he said. "Even though it was a late round, I wasn't even expecting late round. I was expecting free agency so I'm very excited and just because I was late round it's not going to determine my style of play or how well I'm going to do here."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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