NAPA — The Raiders have not gotten their money's worth out of way too many players.
JaMarcus Russell? That was obvious. Same goes for three other notoriously high-paid, low-production players: cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, running back Darren McFadden and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly.
Asomugha, McFadden and Kelly simply have not made enough plays to justify the loot they've snagged from one of the NFL's feeblest — but far from frugal — franchises.
Chats with all three players Friday revealed an encouraging sign: All are determined to make a difference instead of just another buck in 2010.
Of course, other players deserve scrutiny for failing to live up to the Raiders' colossal investment during this seven-year spell of doom.
Robert Gallery is one, but he has shown signs of emerging as a Pro Bowl-caliber left guard, when healthy. As for the Raiders' top picks of the past two drafts, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and linebacker Rolando McClain, they are just getting started.
Let's examine how the costly Asomugha-McFadden-Kelly trifecta looks as training camp begins:
"You always want numbers because numbers help the team out," said Asomugha, who is in the second year of a three-year, $45 million deal that set a new bar among cornerbacks. "If you're thrown at 10 times a game, you want the ball all 10 times. I want as many turnovers as I can get.
"It's frustrating, but we're doing things now to get me more action."
Such as: mixing up their coverage techniques, having him blitz from the edge and perhaps assigning him regularly to the opposition's star receiver, of which there is an abundance on this season's schedule (see: Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall).
An eighth-year pro out of Cal, Asomugha has been a splendid spokesman and community role model. His coverage skills might be second to none, and he is coming off his second straight Pro Bowl. His play-making prowess, however, must improve.
"I'm in the best condition I've been in a long time," McFadden said. "I don't feel I ate right the last two years."
Instead of slipping out of training camp and tending to fast-food cravings, McFadden vowed to eat healthy: "I had grilled salmon the other night. I'm sticking around here, eating salad and veggies and stuff kids don't like."
In his two seasons combined, McFadden rushed for 856 yards and five touchdowns. His only touchdown last season came Sept. 20.
"There's been a lot of pressure," McFadden said of being drafted fourth overall, "and no one puts more pressure on me than myself."
He spent the offseason running hills near his Arkansas home as well as a month at former Olympian Michael Johnson's training facility in Dallas.
"Like most of the defense, I want to improve my technique and surpass the numbers I had," said Kelly, who also claimed he needs to shave 10 pounds off his 320-pound frame. "Most definitely I want to bounce back from last year."
Kelly had only one sack last season to go along with 55 tackles. His 2008 contract was the largest ever for a defensive tackle and will net him $25 million through the first three seasons.
After stating the obvious mission to "stop the run and get after quarterbacks," Kelly was asked if he knew the Raiders' Week 1 matchup. He answered correctly: reigning NFL rushing champion Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans.
Circle that date: Sept. 12. It is when the regular-season games — and paychecks — start flowing.
Schilens' workload to be lightened. Page 7