That the Raiders are using an array of blitzes in practice isn't unusual. It remains to be seen, however, if that will carry over into the regular season.

Count cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha among the veterans who are skeptical of whether the Raiders are serious about incorporating the blitz into their scheme more than in past seasons.

"That's like a wait-and-see type of thing," Asomugha said, "because even in camps previously we were doing a lot of blitzing and doing multiple things defensively and then we got into games and we were pretty basic."

Defenders always are eager to blitz. However, Rob Ryan seldom relied upon the blitz in his five years as Raiders defensive coordinator (2004-08).

Its effectiveness was evident in practice Tuesday, when outside linebacker Thomas Howard timed the snap just right, sprinted unimpeded toward quarterback JaMarcus Russell and sacked him before Russell had a chance to react.

"In the past, I guess we could have called it more," Howard said of the blitz. "But now that we are calling it, I am not even worried about the past anymore. I am worried about now, and John likes to call pressures."

That's John, as in new defensive coordinator John Marshall, who favored a steady diet of blitzes during his tenure with the Seattle Seahawks the past few years.

  • First-round draft pick Darrius Heyward-Bey appeared past his early-camp struggles until he dropped three passes Tuesday morning. Heyward-Bey dropped numerous passes the first four days of camp before he settled into a groove. On Tuesday, he had a long pass go through his hands, a sideline route hit off his hands and a deep pass go in and out of his hands.

  • Raiders coach Tom Cable said quarterbacks Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye will receive significant playing time in Thursday's exhibition opener against Dallas.

    Gradkowski and Frye are battling for the No. 3 spot behind Russell and backup Jeff Garcia.

    "The battle's not really between me and another quarterback," Gradkowski said. "The battle's between me and myself. That's how I look at it. That's all I can control."

    Cable said Russell and the rest of the starters will play about one quarter before they are relieved.

    Gradkowski and Frye can expect more playing time than usual because of a right calf strain to Garcia that will prevent him from making his Raiders debut.

  • Linebacker Jon Alston (foot), safety Michael Huff (ribs) and cornerback Jason Horton (toe) were among those who missed practice. Huff said he'll play Thursday.