Sunday marked the first padded session of the Oakland Raiders offseason, a time that head coach Dennis Allen has been looking forward to since the end of 2013. Ending the 2013 year on a low note, Allen has been motivated ever since to prove to owner Mark Davis that he is the coach to lead the team during their rebuild to (hopefully) playoff contention.
Adding significant depth, Allen has been expectedly excited during his interviews with the media about the future of the team following their second straight 4-12 season. Today was the first day that Allen got to see his team compete with pads, a moment that NFL head coaches consider far more “real” than the unpadded session during camp as well as during the lead up to training camp in OTA’s and minicamp.
So it was no surprise that Allen was upbeat when talking to the media on Sunday following practice, eagerly discussing the team’s first padded session with enthusiasm. Following practice Allen discussed a strong practice from his quarterbacks, rookie TJ Carrie, Marcel Reece’s weight loss and a variety of other topics from another day at Napa.
Here is an excerpt of Allen’s quotes from the Oakland Raiders official website:
Q: What is your assessment of the offensive line and the run game so far?
Allen: “I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself with just watching it with the naked eye out there. I’ll go back and look at the tape, but I’ve said all along I’ve got confidence in the offensive line, I like what we’re doing from a run game perspective. I thought in the nine-on-seven period there were some runs in there where we created a few holes and I thought the backs did a nice job. I think it’s exciting to see what we can do potentially with our run game.”
Allen: “Not just today, I think he’s had a good camp to this point. He did some things in the spring that we were impressed with. He’s a guy that since I’ve gotten here he’s continued to get better and better every day. He’s very, very valuable to us on special teams, so if he continues to improve, I think Chimdi’s a guy that can help us this year.”
Q: Which areas has he gotten better?
Allen: “I think just his understanding of what we’re asking him to do defensively as well as what the offense is trying to do. I think he’s got a good understanding of the offense and how they’re trying to attack him. I think his technique has gotten better, and that happens because he continues to work extremely hard.”
Q: How did he handle the situation of being drafted and on the roster and then being put on the practice squad?
Allen: “He handled it great. He handled it like a true pro. He understands he’s got an opportunity. We’ve given him an opportunity here and he’s taken advantage of it. I think any time you get a guy that has talent and works extremely hard, they’re going to get better as a football player, and he certainly has.”
Q: Marcel Reece looks like he lost some weight …
Allen: “I think he’s a little bit lighter and I think that’ll be beneficial, specifically as we go through the second half of the season. I think that’s going to help him.”
Q: The weight loss wasn’t specifically to try to get him in the passing game or anything like that?
Allen: “I don’t think he would have done it and we probably wouldn’t have encouraged that if we didn’t think it would help him as a football player. So, yeah, I think that’s going to help him.”
Q: How would you assess the special teams unit as a whole?
Allen: “Well, we’ve really only worked two phases so far. We worked a little bit of punt the last couple of days. Today was the first day that we really worked some punt return. A lot of what we’re doing right now is more technique oriented, individual type of drills. I think when you look at the depth on our football team, when you have quality depth, you’re going to have quality special teams. So, I think with [special teams coordinator] Bobby April and [assistant special teams coach] Chris Boniol, I’m excited about the prospects and what we can do from a special teams standpoint.”
Q: Where does Matt McGloin fit in?
Allen: “I mean I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t predict what the future is going to hold, and I’ve said this all along, I love our quarterback room. I think we have an outstanding quarterback room, all the way from one to four on the depth chart. Matt’s a guy that we feel very confident if we needed to call on Matt to go in and perform and win a game for us that he could go in there and perform at a high level. Again, I go back to the depth on this football team. That’s another area where I think we have quality depth, at the quarterback position.”
Q: You mentioned that TJ Carrie jumped out a bit during the offseason. What impressed you about him and has that continued?
Allen: “To be honest with you, I relate it back to a kid that we had when I was in Denver: Chris Harris. He was an undrafted free agent, nobody really knew anything about him, and then every day you go out there and you watch him practice and every day he’s making a play that kind of catches your eye. At first, you don’t really think a whole lot of it until Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six, and he continues to make plays. That’s really how TJ was. We drafted him in the seventh round. We thought he had some talent. We thought he had some ability, but I think he’s more mature than maybe I would have known from a rookie DB coming in from Ohio. He’s got a better understanding of what we’re asking him to do and what the offense is trying to do to him. I think just instinctively, I’ve been very impressed with his knowledge of the game.”
Q: It seemed like Matt Schaub was pretty crisp today …
Allen: “I thought all our quarterbacks were crisp today. I thought it was a good practice and I think a lot of times when you’re looking at practice, when the quarterbacks play well you walk off the field with a good feeling about how practice went. So, I thought all of those guys did a nice job.”
Q: When you see breakaway runs, when do you know when it was a really good run?
Allen: “Usually you go back and you look at the tape and you figure out exactly what happened. There’s times where a guy can potentially make a play, kind of a side shot and we try to keep our guys. If we get an opportunity to front a guy up in the hole, we’re going to front a guy up in the hole, but if we’ve got a side shot on him, rather than taking the side shot and knocking him down, potentially getting an offensive or defensive lineman rolled up in too, we try to take care of each other in those situations. So, you go back and you look at the tape and you get a good feel for exactly what happened on that particular run. If it really truly was a breakout run, or if someone had the potential to make a play.”
Q: Did Khalil Mack jump out today in any way?
Allen: “There were a couple of rushes that I thought were pretty good rushes, pretty impressive rushes. I wouldn’t say there were a lot of ‘wow’ plays, but I thought some of the rushes he had off the edge were pretty good.”
Q: Menelik Watson did a pretty good job against Mack. Is that the sort of two-sided thing you look to in camp?
Allen: “Yeah, to me that’s great competition, that’s how you get better. Not only Khalil Mack going against Menelik Watson, but he lines up against LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck on every single snap too, so that’s how you get better as a football player. Two good players working together and competing against each other. So, that’s how we’re going to develop as a football team.”
Q: How has Tyvon Branch looked coming back from his injury and how excited are you to have him back in the mix?
Allen: “Excited. I think he’s looked really well. One of the things that’s impressed me is I’ve seen him make some plays in the passing game. We all know what a great run defender that Tyvon Branch is and the way that he flies around. He’s a good blitzer off the edge, but seeing him make a few plays in the passing game has been really good to see, and I think the coaching staff has done a great job with those guys and really giving them some things from a technique standpoint that can help them get better and those guys have taken to that and really worked on learning it.”
Q: Did everyone finish practice today?
Allen: “No, Marshall McFadden did not finish practice. I believe it was a hip flexor. And then Rod Streater came down pretty hard out there and didn’t return. I’m not sure exactly what that is. It might be a head, but I’ll have to get with head athletic trainer Rod Martin and find out exactly what that was.”
Q: I saw Tyvon Branch have his hand on his head. What is his status?
Allen: “I think he’s fine. I didn’t notice it and nothing was mentioned to me.”
Q: Why was Jake Murphy out today?
Allen: “Yeah, he got a concussion yesterday when he came down hard there, so he’ll have to go through the protocol and see when he can get back out there.”
Q: You talk a lot about healthy competition. What is the dynamic between Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew?
Allen: “It’s been great. It’s been great. Both those guys are out competing. They understand that both of them are going to get an opportunity to play, both of them are going to get touches and they’re competing really hard. It’s important for both of them. Both of them want to be the starter. They wouldn’t be good football players if they didn’t want that. So they’re competing, but they understand that it’s bigger than just who’s the starting running back. It’s what’s going to be best for the team and how we’re going to win games.”
Q: Latavius Murray lost his rookie year in terms of practicing with the team. What have you seen out of him?
Allen: “I’ve liked what I’ve seen out of Latavius. He’s a big, physical back. This is really our first experience really getting an opportunity to see him, because really, even when we had him last year, he never was fully healthy, and I think he’s back. I think he’s healthy now and you’re beginning to see some of the things that he can do: Get down behind his pads and be able to move the pile, and he’s got the breakaway speed if he can get a crease.”
Q: What are the differences between Matt Schaub and Carson Palmer that stand out to you?
Allen: “Well, I think they’re different quarterbacks. I hate to get into the comparison thing. I think both of them are good quarterbacks, and Matt’s done an outstanding job for us and I would expect him to continue to be outstanding for us.”
Quotes from Raiders.com