Wednesday Dennis Allen took to the podium to discuss injuries for the first time since before the bye week following Raiders practice. Allen also discussed the challenge of facing Dick LeBeau’s defense and just how important this next stretch of games are for the Raiders who are 2-4 heading out of the bye week and are looking to make a run against a batch of fellow sub .500 teams.
Transcript from the Raiders official website
Coach Allen: I’ll go over the injury report to start with. Tyvon Branch didn’t practice.Andre Gurode did not practice. Kaluka [Maiava] did not practice. [Tony] Pashos did not practice. Menelik Watson did not practice. [Stefen] Wisniewski was back out today limited and Tracy Porter was limited today in practice. I thought we had a good practice. I think our guys are focused in. I think we understand the challenge that we have in a good Pittsburgh Steelers team coming off of two-straight wins against two tough opponents and we know what the challenge is set in front of us and it’ll be key for our guys to come out and play well. We have a chance to come back out in front of the home crowd after being off for a week and we’re excited about it, so I’ll open it up to questions.
Q: How encouraging is it to have Wiz out there on Wednesday and how much of a lift will it give the team?
Coach Allen: I think that’s huge. I think what he means to our offensive line, the type of player he is, his intelligence level helps us with a lot of the communication not only in protection schemes, but also in the run game. I think having him back out there is a big boost for us.
Q: Even more so against a team that brings so many different looks and blitzes?
Coach Allen: Yeah, absolutely. Communication is going to be critical against this defense and making sure we can identify where the rushers are coming from. Wiz has done a great job of that for us all year long, so it’s good to have him back out there.
Q: So you feel pretty good about the way he practiced more so than him being out there?
Coach Allen: I felt like he moved around pretty good. All signs are that he’s going to be ready to go.
Q: How much did the week off help Darren [McFadden] physically?
Coach Allen: I think it helped all our guys. Obviously, some of our guys still aren’t able to get back out there yet, but I think having that time off really helped a lot of guys to get closer to being back out there if they’re not. And some of the guys that were a little bit banged up having that time off really got them refreshed and guys look fresh out there. They’re working this week.
Q: Do you think Darren is as close to 100 percent as you can be in Week 7 or 8?
Coach Allen: I don’t know percentages. I don’t think anyone is 100 percent at this point in time of the year, but he looks explosive.
Q: Pashos and Gurode close to getting out there, you think?
Coach Allen: I don’t know. We’ll see what they’re able to do the rest of the week and if they’re able to go, that will obviously be a big boost for us. If not, Matt McCants will go over and play right tackle and we’ll probably look at having to make the move to get Jack Cornell back up to the roster. We’ll see if that’s a possibility or not, but that’s a possibility.
Q: From the outside, it looks like Matt [McCants] has played pretty well at that right tackle spot given his limited experience?
Coach Allen: Well, he’s had the opportunity to go in there; he’s done some good things. I think you guys asked me the question the other day about these young guys getting experience and how that helps us down the road – for a guy like him to get out there and play, he started the San Diego game for us and played a lot in the Kansas City game, so he’s gotten some experience, which will help him come Sunday.
Q: Can you talk about the versatility of your offensive linemen and what has the process been like for you with all the moving parts week to week?
Coach Allen: I’ll say this, in the NFL you deal with this all the time and backup players have to be able to be versatile. They have to be able to play multiple positions because you never know when the injuries are going to come. Guys have to be able to, when their number is called, they have to be able to go out there and perform. I think our guys have done an admirable job of doing that when they’ve had the opportunity. Guys have stepped up and they’re going to have to continue to step up. When you’re down in one area, some other guys on the team are going to have to step up and play big for us. That’s just part of the deal in the National Football League and we’re facing the same challenges that a lot of other teams are facing.
Q: You were talking on Monday about getting better within your core runs and it’s something that you looked at during the bye week. How much of that is blocking and how much of that is your running backs making the correct decisions?
Coach Allen: I think it’s a little bit of everything. I think that’s one area that we want to continue to try to work on and to improve and we have improved in that area. We’ve had some explosive runs not only from some of the zone read stuff, but we’ve had some explosive runs in our core run game. That’s just an area that I think we need to continue to work on to improve because I think we’ve got to be able to be a balanced offense to be able to be effective.
Q: Denarius Moore is on pace for his first 1,000 yard season; what’s been the key to probably his best season yet?
Coach Allen: I think he’s been more consistent. I think his work habits have improved. I think he’s doing a better job of focusing in and understanding what his responsibilities are, what his job is, and he’s getting to the right spots. When the ball is guided to him, he’s made the play. Again, it’s really not that complicated. Guys go out there and work, they focus in, and they do their job and when they get the opportunity, they make the play, generally have success.
Q: What’s Pittsburgh done the last two weeks that allowed them to win after four losses? Did they turn something around that you’ve seen?
Coach Allen: I think as a team they’ve played better football. They’ve put an emphasis on the run game, offensively, which has kept them on the field a little bit longer. They’ve controlled the time of possession and they’ve protected the football. Then their defense has done a great job of keeping the ball in front of them and not giving up the explosive plays. When teams have gotten down to the red zone, they’ve done a great job of making them have to kick field goals. This is a good football team that we’re playing, make no mistake about it. They understand how to win. They know what the formula is to win in this league and they’ve done a really good job of it the last couple of weeks.
Q: What makes Dick LeBeau so good?
Coach Allen: He’s been doing it a long time and been doing it at a high level for a long time. They’ve been a top 10 defense for the last nine years there. I think it’s the consistency of what he does. I think he gives you a lot of multiple looks and makes it look complicated for the offense, but yet there’s some concepts that they have where they’re able to make it easy for their defense. They’ve had a lot of good players play really well for them. I think that’s always key to being a good football coach is having a bunch of good players that go out and play well.
Q: Rod Woodson was saying that he doesn’t even use a call sheet. It’s just all in his head. Does anybody else in the league do that?
Coach Allen: I don’t know. I think we all have the call sheet that we walk out there with, but the great ones are able to adjust. They don’t call the game off a card; they call the game off of feel. He’s obviously done a great job of that.
Q: How crucial is this point here – you’re coming off the bye and then you’ve got two home games? Is this the point where you can turn things around?
Coach Allen: I think it would be big for us to come off this bye and get a win and start the stretch run of the season and start it off right. Obviously, this isn’t make or break, but this is a big game for us and we’ll need to play well. We need to get in these games against good teams and find out ways to win.
Q: Your passing game is last in the league right now; what do you guys have to do to be more effective?
Coach Allen: It’s a lot of different things. I think it’s Terrelle, as a young quarterback, still continuing to learn how to play the quarterback position, to make the right reads, to get the ball out on time, throw the ball with accuracy. I think it’s protection, which is the offensive line, it’s the backs, it’s the tight ends, everybody is involved with that. And then it’s the receivers getting the timing down and making sure they’re in the right spots for Terrelle. There’s a lot of factors that are involved in that. I also think our ability to run the football and run the football effectively will help us in the passing game. There’s a lot of elements that are involved in it. We’ll continue to work on it and I think we’ll continue to get better.
Q: Do you see any similarities in how Pryor and how Ben [Roethlisberger] play? It seems like they’re both good at extending plays and making the most out of broken…
Coach Allen: I think from that standpoint I think there’s a little bit of a comparison, but I think they’re two totally different quarterbacks in my mind. Just from the experience factor alone Ben Roethlisberger has been doing this for a long time at a very high level. He’s one of the better quarterbacks in this league, so I don’t think we need to get into comparisons there. Both of them have mobility. Both of them can extend the play. I’d take Terrelle in a race, but Roethlisberger is pretty big in the pocket and tough to get down.
Q: Is Lamarr Houston stepping up like you guys had hoped he would this year?
Coach Allen: Yeah, I think he’s done a nice job. He’s leading our team in sacks right now. He’s had a lot of pressure on the quarterback. He’s got to continue to work to get better. He’s got to continue to work to get better in the run game, but I think he’s doing the things we need him to do for us to have a chance to have success on defense.
Q: On the heels of the push penalty of the game, the Patriots and Jets game the other day, does it seem like there are too many rules in the game that a lot of coaches and players don’t even really know about?
Coach Allen: There’s a lot of them. There’s a lot of them and sometimes it’s hard to keep them all straight. But that’s part of what our job is and that falls on me as a head coach to make sure our players are informed of what the rules are and make sure we don’t have those costly penalties. But yeah, there’s a lot of rules.