Improved Heyward-Bey, McFadden have Raiders on the up and up


Would you believe it? I continue to hear good things about the progress of the Oakland Raiders.

In speaking with some people within the organization, there's been a lot of hype surrounding second-year receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. He struggled mightily with his confidence last year as a rookie pretty much immediately, according to sources, and never got over that mental hurdle. New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who is earning rave reviews, "is pushing him to be great," according to a team source, and bringing out the best in him.

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Heyward-Bey is an elite speedster, we know that much, but is erratic with his technique and drops too many easy passes. Earlier in the offseason those traits continued to stunt his development, but for several weeks now he's been hitting the Juggs gun before and after practice, and his concentration is improving. He made big plays in OTAs.

"If he stays on this track I really think he's going to do some exciting things," the team source said.

Less in the news has been the performance of another former first-round pick, running back Darren McFadden. He, too, is making an impression.

"He's very humble and is working his (backside) off," the source said. "He's finishing every run to the second level and doing extra work. It could be a breakout year."

And finally, I believe quarterback Jason Campbell will be a very competent quarterback for the Raiders this season, far and away better than anything they have seen at that position in a long time. Campbell was tossed from one system to the next in Washington and often asked to be something he wasn't; what he is, however, is an upright, dropback passer who should thrive in the vertical game.

That's Raiders football.

Campbell was hampered by having so many coaches in his ear over the years, at times three or more on what were often bloated coaching staffs in Washington. Now he is back in a system that fits his skill set, and with just a single, daily voice dictating everything -- Jackson's. He's helping Campbell understand coverages and if players like Heyward-Bey and McFadden truly blossom, he should have ample targets (Louis Murphy is already a nice young receiver, and Chaz Schilens is back from injury).

The early reviews on second-round pick Lamarr Houston have been great. He's a defensive tackle who can now learn from newly arrived John Henderson.

As many of you have caught on by now, I believe the Raiders are going to surprise a lot of people this season and be a very competitive team. Nothing I have heard through their offseason work has changed that.

With the Chargers dealing with so much contract drama and the prospect of having their star left tackle and star receiver skipping out on training camp and possibly a majority of the regular season, I have a feeling the AFC West is going to be more interesting than it's been in recent years.

Time to unload Haynesworth

Count me among those hardly surprised that Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth opted to skip mandatory minicamp and demanded a trade. It's been a long time coming, and I said weeks ago that I wouldn't rule out Haynesworth staying away from mandatory work.

Haynesworth has lost support
Most of the time, NFL players tend to support fellow players. That doesn’t appear to be the case surrounding Albert Haynesworth, NFL Network's Charles Davis says. More ...

» Redskins players rip Haynesworth
» Shanahan: Redskins were betrayed
» Shanahan: Trade is possible

The reality is that this relationship is broken. Flash back to what Brandon Marshall and the Broncos went through a year ago. If Haynesworth is there during the regular season, Redskins fans can brace for more of rolling around in the grass, barely getting through games, and not making much of an impact. At least that's my prediction.

And all for what? To squeeze one more season out of him? Because if the Redskins don't trade Haynesworth and he does play there in 2010, I can't fathom it going well. There will be epic clashes with the coaching staff, and we already know he knows pretty much nothing about Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme as it is.

In all likelihood, the Redskins would be looking at more turmoil and minimal returns if you keep him, and the pedestrian trade value that already exists isn't likely to increase under those circumstances.

When you're highest paid guy is in this kind of mode, nobody wins.

So I continue to make the argument that it makes all the sense in the world now to get rid of him. Take the third-round pick and move on. Mike Shanahan is letting it be known there is a new sheriff in town, and the culture is changing at Redskins Park. Eliminating this lingering distraction and combustible element from the locker room would send the right message to the entire team; and there are no shortage of Redskins players who want Haynesworth gone and this subplot eradicated.

Reed works to return

The Ravens continue to keep their hopes high as star safety Ed Reed recovers from hip surgery last month. Reed has been rehabilitating in Colorado, and it's very likely the rehab process will continue into training camp, with him unable to participate fully until sometime in August. Reed remains committed to getting on the football field in 2010 and is shooting to be ready for Week 1.

Reed will be back in the Baltimore area in late July, however, for two charity events. His inaugural Baltimore football camp will take place July 21-22 at Randallstown High School (go to for details), and his charity golf tournament will take place July 23 (go to for details).

Lombardi Trophy on display

Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will be taking the Lombardi Trophy to his annual charity events in his hometown of Excelsior Springs, Mo., from July 7-9. The 84-person field for the golf tournament is full, but the Gregg Williams Foundation is accepting names on the waiting list. An auction and reception will also be held, and anyone interested can call 816-260-0637 for details.



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