Raiders' Jackson sees big year for ex-Terp Heyward-Bey

Darrius Heyward-Bey weaved his way across the middle of the field past a pair of linebackers, caught a quick throw from quarterback Jason Campbell, then burst upfield for a big gain.

Plays like that in training camp have been common for the Raiders wide receiver since he entered the NFL two years ago. Duplicating it in games has been another story altogether.

The former first-round draft pick out of Maryland is determined to change all that.

“Practice does make perfect, but at the end of the day Sundays are when things need to happen,” Heyward-Bey said Tuesday. “I've shown flashes of that, and it's been fun doing that, but I hope to make that a more common thing.”

After sitting out most of the team's first practices for undisclosed reasons, Heyward-Bey went through his second straight day of workouts without a setback and is eager to play in Thursday's preseason opener against Arizona.

Though he's being eased back into the swing of things, Heyward-Bey was on the field long enough to burn cornerback Stanford Routt for a nice catch in seven-on-seven drills, then came back later in a similar drill to make another nice reception.

“But again, it's about performance in the game,” Raiders coach Hue Jackson said, echoing a message the former Ravens quarterbacks coach has delivered to Heyward-Bey repeatedly this summer. “He now needs to go make those plays in the game. Will he make some SportsCenter plays this year? There's no question in my mind that he will. He has that kind of ability and now it's time for him to do it on a consistent basis.”

Much like his first two seasons in the NFL, though, Heyward-Bey has been easily overlooked in camp so far.

While he has taken his time getting back on the field, rookie Denarius Moore has garnered the most attention with daily acrobatic catches that have left his teammates raving about the young receiver's abilities.

Moore has taken advantage of the absences of fellow receivers Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy and Nick Miller, all of whom have missed practice time in camp with a variety of injuries. Except for Ford, who has a broken hand, the Raiders haven't revealed what the other players are suffering from.

Moore's performances have been exactly the type of stuff the Raiders expected Heyward-Bey to make when they made him the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft.

Instead, he remains an unknown commodity in an offense that has struggled to throw the ball for several years. After catching only nine passes as a rookie, Heyward-Bey upped his numbers slightly to 26 catches for 366 yards and one touchdown in 2010.

“When a guy's drafted in the first round, we all want to see instant numbers right away, and sometimes that doesn't happen,” Jackson said. “Sometimes you have to do things to get guys the ball. He was very instrumental sometimes in some of the things Jacoby was able to do, that Louis Murphy was able to do and even Darren McFadden was able to do.”

Not surprisingly, critics — from fans to writers and even opposing players — have taken their turns blasting the Raiders and Heyward-Bey. The talk only grew last season when Heyward-Bey went long stretches without even having a pass thrown his way.

Rather than sulking, the negative attention provided all the motivation Heyward-Bey needed this offseason.

He joined his fellow receivers and Campbell for workouts in Washington and attended the Atlanta workouts organized by Campbell and defensive lineman Richard Seymour. Even while he missed more than a week of camp, Heyward-Bey was on the field during practice helping coach some of the team's younger receivers.

“I know where I've come from and I can't let those things bother me,” Heyward-Bey said. “I'm not going to sit here and lie and say it hasn't, but I just have to go out there and do my job. My job is to make plays and be the playmaker for this team but there are also other things to be done. When I come to work I'm all about my job.”

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