In the third week of Oakland Raiders OTA’s head coach Dennis Allen has continued his job in preparing the team for a demanding 2014 schedule that is among the most difficult in the NFL this upcoming season. Missing 2013 first round pick DJ Hayden for the second consecutive week, Allen commented on his young cornerback’s return timetable in addition to a variety of roster related topics during his media availability on Monday.
Topics Allen addressed included:
- Menelik Watson’s comeback from an injury riddled 2013 season.
- Third round pick Gabe Jackson’s role on the Raiders offensive line.
- Darren McFadden returning kickoffs.
- How much Derek Carr has improved since coming into the Raiders organization.
- Justin Tuck and Kevin Burnett’s practice absences.
Following is the official transcript from Raiders.com of Allen’s press conference quotes:
“Week Three OTAs, the guys just continue to work hard. We’ve still got a lot of things that we’ve got to get cleaned up, a lot of things that we’ve got to get better at. But, the guys are working at it and we’re trying to get better. I think it’s all about really a mindset, and a mindset that every day we come out here we’re competing against the other 31 teams in the National Football League. With that being said, that’s what we’re trying to do and I’ll open it up to questions.”
Q: Do you expect DJ Hayden back before training camp?
“It’s hard to tell. Initially I was hopeful of that. Again, we’re day by day with DJ. Hopefully we’ll have him out here, because he needs to work.”
Q: What would you say has been the most significant progress since the beginning of OTAs?
“I think we’ve made progress in a lot of different areas. One, just coming together as a team. We’ve got significant turnover on this football team from where we were last year, so I think that’s been the most significant progress. But there’s still a lot of learning that has to be done. We’re probably about halfway through as far as the installation is concerned, of what all we’re going to put in and kind of the core of what we’re going to be as a football team. I’ve seen a lot of areas where we’ve improved, but there’s still a lot of areas that we’ve got to continue to work on, and that’s what this time of year is for.”
Q: What have you seen from Tyvon Branch and are you pleased so far?
“Tyvon, he’s the same Tyvon that we’ve had here. He comes out to work every day; he competes every day and I’ve seen some good things from him, just from understanding the system and what we’re trying to get accomplished and learning. I think he’s gotten better on some technique issues that he needs to work to improve on. If he continues to work the way that he has, I would expect that we’d have a good player in him.”
Q: You don’t feel that he’s lost a step at all?
Coach Allen: “No, not at all.”
Q: What have you seen from Menelik Watson?
Menelik Watson is a guy that obviously didn’t get much work last year and so he was behind the learning curve, but I’ve seen significant improvement in Menelik this year. Number one, he’s been out here every day and I think that’s important for him. He’s improving on his technique and I think that’s where you get young guys specifically, they’ve got a lot of technique and fundamental work that they’ve got to improve on, whether it be footwork, hand placement, whatever the case may be. I’ve seen some improvement in that regard from him and he’s got to continue to work on that and I think his mindset is in the right way. He’s attacked this offseason with a purpose and the purpose to earn a starting spot on that offensive line. Hopefully he’ll continue to improve the way he has so far in the OTAs.”
Q: With everything that happened last year, getting injured right before training camp – when you talked to him at times he seemed really down and disappointed. Did you have to have a talk with him to get him out of that or was that any concern at all?
“Some of that, this game is a psychological game. It’s 90 percent mental and so you have to evaluate each case on an individual basis and sometimes you want to see guys that have setbacks or have adversity, you want to see them be able to fight through and how they go about fighting through that. Sometimes it’s a case where you’ve got to pick a guy up, sometimes you’ve got to kick them in the tail. The thing I like about where Menelik is right now, I like his mindset. I like his mentality. I like the way he’s going about doing his job, the way he’s working.”
Q: Darren McFadden got a lot of work today returning kickoffs, is that an option?
“I think anything is an option. Again, we’re looking at a lot of different things, a lot of people in a lot of different areas. There’s a ton of things that aren’t set. Everything is written in pencil right now, so we’re going to continue to look at not only that, but a lot of other areas where guys can help our team win.”
Q: How much have you seen Derek Carr improve?
“Well, I think he’s had significant improvement. From a reps standpoint, he probably hasn’t got as many reps as the other guys, but again, like I said before, he’s very smart. He’s a highly intelligent guy. He comes out here and he works every day and that’s to be expected. That’s one of the reasons why we took the player, because we liked the player, we like his skill set and we like his mindset.”
Q: Did you talk to the players who participated in the basketball tournament last week for charity?
“Number one, I’m happy that we were able to get through that without any injuries. I think the intent is the right intent, to raise money for charity. I wasn’t in agreement with the way in which they went about doing it, because again, they’re paid to play football and any time you put that at risk you’re taking a significant risk. Again, these are grown men and they make decisions on what they want to do with their personal time and that was a decision that those guys took part in. Again, the thing I’m happy about is we were able to get out of that without any injuries, and really my focus now is solely on this team and this team getting better and what do we need to do to continue to improve out here on the football field.”
Q: Justin Tuck and Kevin Burnett’s absence …
“They were things that I knew about. Again, I’m really focused on what we’re doing out here on the practice field.”
Q: Why was James Jones off to the side?
“He’s got a hamstring.”
Q: What have your first impressions of Gabe Jackson been?
“I liked him when he came out in the draft. I’ve liked what I’ve seen on the practice field. Mentally is where he’s got to really work to continue to improve, because any time you get in this situation as a rookie, you’re behind from a mental standpoint and just picking up the offense. Not to mention the physical aspect of the game. The things I like about Gabe, I think he’s a good athlete for a player of his size and I think he’s got very good power, and he’s a lot better pass protector than people might think. I’ve been impressed with him. I’m pleased with his progress and he’s got to continue to work.”
Q: How much has Gabe being a four-year starter in the SEC helped with his transition?
“I think that helps. Anytime you can play at that high of a level in college and have that many repetitions, I think that’s positive. It doesn’t matter how many plays you play in college, you come in and you’re behind. He’s playing catch-up from a mental standpoint, but we’ve got some time to get him up to speed and if he continues to work, he’ll have a chance.”
Q: What do you think of your offensive line?
“I like where we’re at. I like the versatility, I like the depth. It’s all about using this time in OTAs, mini-camp coming up next week and then when we get into training camp, meshing together as a unit. The one thing that we didn’t have an opportunity to do a lot of last year was get the same five guys working together and I think that’s important, especially at that position because all five guys at that position, the offensive line, really have to work as one. They have to all see the picture the same exact way because the picture changes once the ball snaps. I’ve been pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish offensive line wise and I like where we’re at.”
Q: How excited are you to watch the offensive identity come together?
“Well I think that’s part of any time you have as much turnover as we’ve had, I think the exciting part is trying to figure out exactly what that identity is going to be. I think we have a core set of values of what we want to be able to do and how we want to be able to attack people offensively. Now it’s about breaking it down to the minute details and really being precise in what we’re doing, not only offensively, but defensively and in the kicking game as well.”
Q: How does having the center back ease the transition for other guys?
“I think ‘Wiz’ has been a solid piece to that offensive line. He’s a little bit of the glue that kind of holds the thing together because he’s highly intelligent. We put a lot on him from a recognition standpoint, whether it be fronts, stunts, blitzes. All that is part of the process. To have somebody of his ability level and his intelligence level kind of running things in there is key for our success.”
Q: What did you like about Donald Penn from his years in Tampa?
“Donald has great feet. He’s really good and has been really good in pass protection, and so that was one of the things that we looked at. Not to mention the fact that ‘Ollie’ [offensive coordinator Greg Olson] has had an opportunity to work with him and kind of understand him a little bit and what the buttons are that you have to push to kind of drive him a little bit. I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen out of Donald and I’m hoping for a big year out of him.”
Q: What have you seen with Denarius Moore this offseason and if he’s ready to take the next step?
“I think we’re still working through that. He’s not unlike a lot of guys we have on the football team. He’s still got a lot of improvement that he’s got to make. I’ve seen some strides and hopefully he’ll continue to make those strides. I think, like I was talking about earlier, with all these guys attention to detail is where we’ve got to work to continue to improve, and that’s with all these guys. Because the margin for error in the NFL is very minute, very small, so the ability to be precise in everything you do is critical to having success.”
Q: Do you need to have a homerun hitter at wide receiver or can you get by with having a group of good guys?
“You need a bunch of good football players and you need your good football players to step up and make plays when you need them to. There’s a lot of different ways that you can accomplish that goal. I feel like we have some weapons on the offensive side of the ball and our job as coaches is to put them in position to let them have success and that’s what we plan on doing.”
Quotes provided by the Oakland Raiders official website