NAPA -- Jack Crawford spent his rookie season thinking too much and playing too little.
So when the second-year defensive lineman out of Penn State took over the opening sequence of the second half against the New Orleans Saints, Raiders fans could be forgiven for wondering, "Who is No. 91?"
On the second-half kickoff, Crawford flattened Preston Parker on the 26-yard line. He then sacked Seneca Wallace for an 8-yard loss on first down, stopped Travaris Cadet for a 4-yard gain on second down, then forced an incompletion from Wallace on third-and-14 with a strong pass rush.
In the days leading up to the game, Raiders coach Dennis Allen cited Crawford as a player who needed to step up and show something.
"It just came from hustling and knowing your assignments and trying to make a play," Crawford said. "That's just how it happened -- I happened to get in every play on the series."
Next up for Crawford and the Raiders are the Chicago Bears, who visit O.co Coliseum on Friday at 7 p.m. The Raiders began preparing for the Bears on Monday as if they were a regular-season opponent, with detailed scouting reports and excusing the media for team sessions once warm-ups and drills began.
At 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, Crawford struggled in adjusting to the speed of the NFL and absorbing the defensive philosophy. Born in London, Crawford played soccer as a youth, moved to the United States so he could play basketball and wasn't coaxed onto the football field until his junior year of high school.
Crawford believes he is getting to the point where he can simply play instead of having to think everything through.
"That's football, really," Crawford said. "You can't think. That's something I did way too much of last year. I still do it. When you're in the game you have to take the thinking out of it. You really have to react and play your game."
Crawford was strictly an end at Penn State and as a rookie, but the Raiders have moved him inside in the nickel defense, taking advantage of his quickness and height for additional pressure on passing downs.
Crawford, who said things happen more quickly inside, believes he has been making progress all along and that circumstances just put him in the right place against New Orleans.
"Friday just happened to be the game where I made some plays and things were going my way," Crawford said. "It was nice to get that off my chest. I hadn't really done that before, and it was a good feeling."
"It felt like a normal practice for me, and it's good to feel normal again," Hayden said.
The first-round draft pick had surgery for a torn blood vessel leading to his heart in November and then had a procedure to remove scar tissue from his abdomen in late May.
Reporters didn't see Hayden's interception -- it occurred during a team-only session that isn't open to the media.
"We're trying to ease (Walker) back into it, and I thought the first day back he did some good things," Allen said.
Asked if his burst had returned, Ford said: "Yeah, it's definitely back. Before it was kind of hard to accelerate and I was a little bit more timid, but now I'm just one-hundred percent full go."
Wide receiver Juron Criner remains out of practice, as does running back Latavius Murray and defensive tackle Pat Sims, who was on the field for only a few drills midway through camp before aggravating a hamstring injury.
If Friday's home exhibition game against Chicago is sold out, it will be shown live on KTVU, and the NFL Network can show it beginning at 8 p.m.
If the game is blacked out, it will be only on tape-delay on KICU beginning at 9 p.m.