Hayden HarperRaiders first-round selection, D.J. Hayden, is apparently close to making his debut. According to coach Dennis Allen, Hayden should see action in Week 3 of the preseason.

Said Allen: “We’ll re-evaluate that with the doctors after that but the plan going forward is that he would be up and going for the Chicago game.”

Hayden practice in full-pads today, going through both positional and team drills. Though he was wearing the red, “no-contact” jersey, he didn’t shy away from collisions with offensive players. In fact, in 11-on-11 team drills, Hayden mixed it up in the run game. It should be interesting to see how active he is once he’s officially cleared for  contact, which Allen intimated might be as soon as Friday.

The sooner Hayden is able to join the secondary, the better. In Week 1 of the preseason, the Raiders secondary surrendered 20 completions on 30 targets for 226 yards — 97 of which came after the catch. Still, it’s hard to place all of the blame on a secondary that was asked to cover Dallas receivers for an average of 2.79 seconds — which would be in the bottom 10 of the NFL by 2012’s standards.

The larger is here is the Raiders have yet to field their starting defensive line. Pat Sims, Vance Walker, and Lamarr Houston have not practiced consistently, and some (namely Houston and Sims) haven’t seen the practice field in weeks. Houston’s absence is particularly vexing, given that his 54 total pressures in 448 pass-rush snaps last season were the best on the Raiders and top-15 in the NFL. Without him pushing the pocket, the Raiders secondary is getting fleeced.

Skinny Posts 

– Speaking of the Raiders secondary, they actually looked pretty sound today. As far as I could tell, the defense — and the secondary in particular — is light-years ahead of the offense. This, I would imagine, is pretty standard as far as training camp practices are concerned. After seeing the same plays/formations for weeks, they should be fairly easy to predict. Still, you’d like to see receivers winning offensive battles.

– Most of the passing game that I saw was reminiscent of the first drive against Dallas last Friday. Lots of short, dump-off passes. Flynn seems particularly adept with the short throws. On one such throw, I thought that he had thrown the ball too far behind the receiver. But, after the play was made, it was apparent that Flynn’s ball placement allowed the receiver to maximize his yards-after-catch.

– Terrelle Pryor continues to impress me. To be honest, he didn’t perform much better than Flynn, except on one play. With the pocket collapsing around him, Pryor stepped-up and found a wide-open Conner Vernon. The ball could have been thrown better and sooner and all that. But, Pryor’s mobility and pocket awareness were obvious improvements over Flynn’s and not to mention they’re incredibly exciting to watch (Flynn was sacked twice, by the way, in 11-on-11 drills).

– Charles Woodson got the day off. Usama Young took first-team snaps in his place. I mostly noticed Brandian Ross and Reggie Smith, however, as each were particularly active. Smith intercepted a tipped Pryor pass.

– I don’t know what chance Chance Casey has at making the roster. But he looked sharp and fast today in practice. One thing to keep an eye are his snaps in the slot. He saw seven of such snaps in last Friday’s game — behind only Joselio Hanson. If Hanson continues to struggle, then… well… anything can happen.

In all seriousness, though, Casey is buried on the depth chart right now. For him to make the team, a veteran would have to not. Those are some seriously long odds. While Casey is the perfect practice squad candidate, he could certainly be on other teams’ radars, so the Raiders might not want to risk it.

– Andre Gurode practice with the first-team at right guard. That Gurode-Alex Barron right side you’ve dreamed about is close to being reality.

– Marquette King can kick the ball — I mean, really kick it. He booted a punt from one 20-yard line to the other, drawing “Oohs” and “Aahs” from teammates and other onlookers. He also looks pretty fast, turning a botched snap up-the-field for a sizable gain (this drew mostly laughs).

Photos

Here are a few photos because, well, I took them — 145 of them, actually. These are the good ones (and yeah, imagine what the bad ones look like).

Moore Gaither

Sio Moore (55) and Omar Gaither (52)

Tracy Porter (31)

Tracy Porter

Brandian Ross (29)

Brandian Ross

Nick Roach (53)

Nick Roach

Kaelin Burnett (95)

Kaelin Burnett

Kluwe

Chris Kluwe