Tuesday marked another step in the Oakland Raiders push towards the 2014 season as mandatory minicamp began with no holdouts and only a few injury absences for head coach Dennis Allen who other than missing DJ Hayden, Carlos Rogers, Kevin Burnett and Lucas Nix had a full house for the team’s first mandatory practice of the year.
Post-practice Allen took to his usual position behind the podium to talk to media members on hand Tuesday answering questions about the following:
- The differences in tempo between OTA’s and minicamp in the process of preparing for training camp.
- Miles Burris taking first team reps.
- Derek Carr’s comfort level in working in multiple new formations as well as his progress to date.
- Using Khalil Mack in different positions in early practices.
Following is the transcript of Allen’s press conference from Raiders.com:
Q: What have you seen from Derek Carr for him to be taking second team reps today?
“Derek’s a guy that we like, a player that we like. I think he’s got a lot of potential. Like I said before, we’re going to look at a lot of different guys in a lot of different lineups. I wouldn’t read too much into that, but obviously it does say that we’ve seen some good things out of him and we’ve liked some of the things that we’ve seen.”
Q: How much more up-tempo is this than OTAs?
“Very similar. The rules don’t allow you to … There’s no full contact, no live contact, so the practice tempo was a little bit similar. I think the guys understand mini-camp by nature, just by the name of it, you get a little bit more excitement. I thought the guys responded well to it today.”
Q: Is Miles Burris taking first team reps an indication that you think he is completely healthy?
“Yeah, everything we’ve seen so far out of Miles in this offseason has indicated that he’s healthy and he’s ready to go. He had a really good year for us two years ago, unfortunately last year he was injured for most of the season and we really didn’t have the Miles Burris that we think he’s capable of being. I think he’s had a good offseason and he’s put himself in the mix and we’re going to continue to look at different lineups and let that thing shake out as we go through training camp.”
Q: Update on DJ Hayden
“He’s still in the boot. I don’t expect to have DJ out here for this mini-camp. The only guy,Lucas Nix, had a procedure today on his knee. He’s the only guy as I see it right now that might be questionable for the start of training camp. I don’t see any of these other injuries really being an issue.”
Q: Still a sprained ankle for Hayden?
Q: James Jones seemed to land on his left shoulder in practice. Is there an update on that?
“I don’t. Again, it’s not anything serious. Whether it keeps him out for the next two days or not, I don’t know, we’ll have to see how he is this afternoon and how he is tomorrow morning.”
Q: How has Derek Carr dealt with the information that he’s been thrown since he got here and what have you seen be applied?
“You see every day, you see him do something. Today, he made a nice protection call, was able to get a pressure blocked up, get the ball out to the receiver. I’ve seen some progress from that standpoint. The thing about Derek is, and I’ve said this from the beginning, he’s highly intelligent. He’s able to take things that you teach him in the classroom and be able to apply those things to the field. There are still things that he misses, but that’s why we practice.”
Q: The list of running backs to come back after several years in the NFL and have exceptional years is short, what do you see from Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew?
“When you watch them practice, you see guys that still have explosion, guys that still have run skills, guys that can make people miss. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to what the statistics may say, I just see what I see with my eyes and I see a couple of guys that look like that if they can stay healthy, they still have the ability to perform at a high level in this league.”
Q: Were there things that you couldn’t do with Nick Roach last year, since it was his first year in your system, that you might be able to do with him this year?
“I think as he gets more comfortable in the system and really gets a good feel and an understanding exactly what we’re trying to ask him to do, and what we’re trying to ask everybody else to do within the concept of the defense, it allows for some more flexibility. Again, he’s another guy that’s a really smart player, so the volume really hasn’t been something that he struggled with. But I think as he gets more comfortable in what we’re asking him to do and how we’re fitting up certain runs and how we’re doing some different things in pass coverage, he’ll continue to get better.”
Q: Are you exploring with Khalil Mack and putting him all over the place?
“Yeah, we’ve got his head spinning right now, which is a good thing. We’re going to try to throw as much at him as we can throughout the rest of this offseason and really even into the early part of training camp, and then at some point we’ll settle down to the things that we can execute as a team and execute at a high level.”
Q: There are a lot of new faces on the offensive line. What do you see out of those guys?
“It’s funny, I was sitting down at breakfast this morning and was talking with ‘Wiz’ (Stefen Wisniewski). I think that’s a group that I’ve begun to see the beginning signs of that group gelling as a unit, and so you don’t want to get too high or too low when you’re out here in underwear, but that group there I think is beginning to show signs of coming together, and I think if they continue to work and continue to improve, I think we have the makings of a pretty decent offensive line. I like the depth that we have there too.”
Q: Have you seen any different approach from Menelik Watson this year?
“I don’t think there’s any question I’ve seen a difference in his approach. I think he was very disappointed in last year. I think he’s even said this, that he didn’t come into this fully prepared for what he was getting into and I think he understands what it takes to play in the National Football League. Nothing’s given to anybody in this league, you’ve got to go out and earn it. He’s come out here every day and worked to earn the reps that he’s been able to get and I’ve seen a lot of improvement. The biggest thing I’ve seen from him, really is just his mental approach to what we’re trying to get done.”
Q: Rahsaan Vaughn
“He was a guy we worked out a couple of weeks ago, I guess it was, and did some impressive things in the workout. He’s a good athlete, he can run. That’s one of the things you look at, at the wide receiver position. We’ve done a nice job around here in the last couple of years of finding guys that kind of come out of nowhere and end up being a part of the team and being able to help us out, so we’re going to continue to look for those guys. I think there’s probably some guys that are out there right now that not a lot of guys have heard of but are going to have an opportunity to make this team and an opportunity to help us.”
Q: Is this mini-camp a dress rehearsal of sorts for training camp for the way you’re going to practice in training camp?
“Yeah, a little bit. The schedule is going to be similar to what we’re doing now. Obviously we’ll put the pads on in training camp, that’ll be a big difference. But, as far as the schedule is concerned, we’ve tried to design this to where it’s going to be similar to what we’ll do in training camp.”
Q: In terms of Derek’s progress, would you prefer to bring him along as slow as possible?
“That all depends on him. As with any of these young guys, the more they can handle, the more we’re going to throw at them. If they can handle it, we’re going to keep throwing it at them.”
Q: How much of a setback is it that Hayden has missed the last three or four weeks?
“It’s definitely a setback, there’s no question about it. I mean, DJ’s still a young player, he needs a lot of reps, but I don’t think it’s the end all, be all. I don’t think it’s something that he can’t overcome, but he’s got to stay into it mentally. He’s got to do a little extra work over the offseason. Once the players get out of here, make sure he puts himself not only in the best physical shape, but also the best mental shape.”
Q: Has Matt Schaub done everything up to this point that you’ve expected to see?
“Yeah, I think he’s been outstanding. That’s what you’re looking for in a veteran quarterback. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of what we’re going to see out of Matt Schaub. Even though he is a veteran player, it’s still a different offense for him, it’s still something new. He’s still learning, but I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve seen out of him so far. I’ve been pleased with watching him over here in his uniform throw the ball, he looks pretty good.”
Q: Carlos Rogers
“He’s got a calf. Again, I don’t think that’s anything serious. I think he’ll be fine.”
Quotes courtesy of the Oakland Raiders official website.