With the Raiders bye week officially ending tomorrow, Dennis Allen took to the podium on Monday to discuss Oakland’s matchup with the Steelers, the team’s injury situation and if their 0-10 record after bye weeks is giving the team extra motivation for Sunday.
Allen also discussed Terrelle Pryor’s bye week and his expectations for the quarterback during the second half of the schedule.
Here is the transcript from the Raiders official website.
Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen: All right, I’ll address injuries on Wednesday, so I won’t do anything to address injuries right now. It’s good to be back. It’s good to be back to work. I thought the time off gave them a chance to get refreshed. I thought they moved around well today. I think they’re focused on what we have to do coming back off this bye. We all understand that we’ve got a tremendous challenge with the Pittsburgh Steelers coming in. They’ve won two-straight games. They’re playing well in all phases of the game right now, and listen, they’re a championship team. They understand what it takes to win, so we understand what a challenge it’s going to be. We’re looking forward to the opportunity, and we’re ready to go out and compete.
Q: Are you going to confirm who did and did not practice?
Coach Allen: No, I won’t do anything on injuries today.
Q: You have a lot of guys hurt on the offensive line. Do you anticipate getting any of those guys back?
Coach Allen: I’m hopeful we’ll have some guys back, but again we’ll know more on Wednesday.
Q: If you didn’t have guys returning, would you be confident with the guys that are healthy now?
Coach Allen: Absolutely.
Q: Was everybody back today, or were some guys excused?
Coach Allen: No, nobody’s excused. Everybody was here, and everybody’s ready to go.
Q: Pittsburgh traditionally has had one of the best pass rushes. They struggled a little bit getting to the quarterback this year. What have you seen from them in that aspect so far?
Coach Allen: Well yeah, I don’t know if they’ve had a ton of sacks, but they can get pressure on the quarterback. They’ve played really well on defense. Obviously LaMarr Woodley is one guy that has had some success in getting to the quarterback, so again, we’ll have to do a great job in protection and giving Terrelle [Pryor] some time to throw the football. Then we’re going to have to do a good job executing in the passing game. They play a good brand of football. They play a tough physical brand of football in all three phases, and we’re going to have to be able to match that.
Q: Was this practice more focused on yourselves, or was this an extra game practice?
Coach Allen: No, this was more getting ready for Pittsburgh. It was kind of an introductory to Pittsburgh and getting ready for those guys. Our players will be off again tomorrow, just like a normal week, and we’ll get into a normal game-week schedule on Wednesday.
Q: Is the fact that your own offense has gotten to practice against your own defense that does a lot of exotic blitzing help prepare better for Pittsburgh than maybe other teams?
Coach Allen: I don’t know. I mean, we’re different than them from a standpoint of what we do defensively, but yeah our guys have seen a lot of looks — a lot of different stuff. Really it’s going to get down to in the game, can you identify who’s who from a protection stand point and then identify what the coverage is that they’re playing behind it because they do have different looks behind some of their pressure looks.
Q: The last game you played was against Kansas City. They’re the only undefeated team in the NFL. Does that surprise you at all?
Coach Allen: Not really. I thought they had a talented football team, and they do have a talented football team. They play exceptional on defense. They play very sound in the kicking game. They create some field position for their offense with their defense. They create field position in the kicking game with their offense, so in our own division we’ve got a couple of teams that are playing pretty good football.
Q: What type of team is Pittsburgh offensively? They talk about how they used to be a power running team, but now they’re throwing a lot. What kind of team are they?
Coach Allen: I think when you look over the last couple of weeks they’ve gotten back a little bit more to running the football — the power running game. They did that in this game against Baltimore. They ran the ball a little bit more effectively, or a little bit more in the Jets game. I think it’s going to come down to really — and it does this way most weeks — but the turnover/takeaway ratio is going to be a big factor in this football game. We’ve got to do a better job at taking the ball away defensively. We’ve got to do a better job in the kicking game getting our offense set up in scoring position. Then we’ve got to do a better job offensively of when we have the ball we’re going to protect it better.
Q: Do you think that the experience that some of your backup offensive linesman gained against the Chiefs may help you if you get back in that unfortunate position where you have a lot of injuries?
Coach Allen: Yeah, I mean there’s no replacement for experience. Unfortunately at times guys have got to get their experience in a tough situation — in a game environment, but that’s the way you get better as a football team. You look at the best football teams in the National Football League, and they’ve got depth. They’ve got guys that can go in when called upon, and they can go in and play well. The fact that we’ve had a lot of guys get some experience and get some play time will help us down the road.
Q: Does it matter to you at all or to anybody in that locker room that this team has not won a post-bye game since 2002?
Coach Allen: I think we’re all aware of that, but like I told the players today, the past has no relevance to the future. Any of the outcomes that have happened after a bye in the past won’t dictate how we go out and play against Pittsburgh. What’s going to dictate how we go out and play against Pittsburgh is how well we prepare during the week, and then how well do we go out and execute that plan on Sunday. I think we had a good plan in the bye. I think we got some guys freshened up a little bit. Now the key is we’ve got to focus in on the preparation. We’ve got to do the things that are necessary to go out and play well on Sunday.
Q: Are you still considering bringing a third quarterback, or is that kind of on the back burner for now?
Coach Allen: Well I don’t think we’re going to do anything right now, but that’s obviously something that we’re going to continue to look at. We’ll see as things move forward if that’s the direction that we go.
Q: Do you think a veteran guy is something you need in the quarterback room?
Coach Allen: Obviously having a veteran can be a benefit, but that won’t be the determining factor as to whether or not we bring anybody in.
Q: You said before that it doesn’t matter to you how you get your rushing yards. Pryor is still leading you in rushing. But is it important to get more of the steady threes, fours and fives out of McFadden and Jennings?
Coach Allen: Yeah, listen we want to improve our running game. We want to improve some of our, kind of our base core runs — more or less conventional runs I’ll call them. That’s an area over the bye week that we identified that we’ve got to continue to get better at, and we will. I think our guys offensively have done a great job identifying things that we need to improve on — things that we’re doing well but we’ve got to maybe do a little bit more. For our football team having a consistent running game where we can be balanced — run and pass — will be critical to our success as an offense and really as a football team.
Q: Did the bye week come at a good time for Terrelle? What was he able to accomplish during the time off?
Coach Allen: I think really for him — for a lot of us — the bye week is a good time to go back, reflect and look at what happened the first six weeks of the season. We put ourselves in positions to win games, but we haven’t won enough of those games. Now what are those contributing factors? That was one of the things that we looked to identify, and as a football team, we came up with some things that we need to do better at — that we’ve got to continue to work on and continue to improve at. I think the bye week is a good thing for all of us, and coming after six games. you’ve got a pretty good sample size of what you’ve done well or what you need to improve on. I think he, like everybody else, took that time to look at himself and reflect on what he can do better.
Q: Pryor has been pretty resilient. How do you expect him to bounce back after that tough last game?
Coach Allen: Same way. I mean listen, we’ve all had tough games. Everybody in the National Football League has had a tough game at some point in time. How you respond to that says a lot about who you are and a lot about your character. I think he’ll respond well.
Q: Defensively you’ve been pretty stout against the run — tied for the best in the NFL only allowing a 19-yard run as the longest. To what do you attribute the improvement in the run defense this year? (Editor’s note: Correction, the Raiders are the only team to not allow a run of 20 yards or longer so far this season – 19 yards is the longest. 24 is 2nd best)
Coach Allen: Number one, I think those defensive coaches have done a nice job of putting our guys in a position to make plays. I think our players have bought into the system that we’re running, and I think they’ve done a good job of getting off of blocks and making tackles. We get 11 guys running to the football, and that’s what it’s all about. I think sometimes people try to make this game a lot more complicated than it really is. There’s one ball out there. There’s going to be a guy carrying the ball, and when he’s carrying it, you try and get as many hats around it as you can and do a good job of tackling. If you do that you’ll have a good run defense.
Q: Juron Criner has been inactive all season. What does he need to show you to get out of the hole he’s in?
Coach Allen: I think he’s got to continue to do something on a day-in and day-out basis to catch the attention of myself and the offensive coaches. Really when you look at it, the players really determine who plays. The guys that go out and practice the best, the guys that make the most plays in practice then make the most plays in the game, those are the guys that go out there and play.
Q: He is still on the roster so there must be something there that you guys like.
Coach Allen: Yeah, he’s an athletic guy. He’s a big guy. He’s got good hands, but he’s got to be able to do it on a more consistent basis day in and day out.
Q: Do you expect the baseball dirt infield to be gone now?
Coach Allen: I would hope so, yeah.