Notable quotes from Jack Del Rio and other members of the Oakland Raiders, ahead of their primetime Week 9 matchup with the Denver Broncos.
The Raiders continued their road dominance in Tampa Bay last weekend, pulling off a thrilling 30-24 OT victory behind Derek Carr’s franchise record 513 yards passing, with 4 TDs and no picks.
Carr became only the third player in NFL history — joining the legendary Y.A. Tittle and the someday to be legendary Ben Roethlisberger — to throw for 500+ yards, 4+ TDs and no picks. Not too shabby.
The Raiders are pedal to the metal, all-out balls-out fun to watch this season, even if they’ve caused a fair share of grey hairs amongst Raider Nation. With a record of 6-2 and sitting in a tie for the AFC West lead halfway through the season, this team has exceeded expectations and are having a good time doing it.
But this week, things are a little different. They aren’t quite as light or playful. Things are a little more serious, a little more reserved. A little more intense.
This week is Broncos week.
So let’s check in around both teams to see what they’ve got to say about each other and the upcoming game, which is literally the most important game the Raiders have played at this point in a season since 2002.
T.J. Ward has had a lot to say for the Broncos in the last couple of days. I guess with Talib suffering a back injury someone needed to step up into the mouthpiece role on the Broncos. Ward, a California native, has filled that role nicely.
"“We’ve never liked the Raiders,” Ward said in an interview. “It’s always come in the same way, regardless of their record. You ever not like someone and you don’t know why? It’s just a dislike we have for them, and that’s not going to change.”"
Ward went on to deride the Raiders dynamic receiving duo of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, who are both in the top 5 in catches and yards, with Crabtree also among lead leaders in TD catches.
"“I think they have two good receivers,” Ward said of Coop and King Crab. “I don’t feel they have two elite receivers.”"
The humble and respectful Carr had a different take on Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, the Broncos two best cornerbacks.
"“Of cornerback tandems, they have to be the best. They’re two of the best corners in the game and to have them on the same team, it’s ridiculous,” Carr said of the duo. “I think the world of them. They know how to communicate in the secondary, so I think they’re some of the best, not only in this league, but that we’ve ever seen together.”"
Ward backed off the trash talk a bit when discussing Carr, who is impressing even the most difficult of critics these days. He even complimented the receivers — albeit moreso as praise of Carr.
"“He’s doing some good things this year,” Ward said of Carr. “He seems to have a handle on the entire offense and his receivers are catching some great passes from him. They’re clicking right now.”"
Fellow corner Bradley Roby, who may see more time if Talib’s back injury is serious enough to keep him out of the game, is impressed by Carr as well but isn’t planning on changing anything.
"“He’s getting the ball out a lot faster. They’re doing a great job of protecting him. He’s making decisions, and good things like that,” Roby said of Carr. “But nothing changes. We do our job. At the end of the ay, him getting it out fast doesn’t change what I’ll be doing, really.”"
Broncos LB Shane Ray continued the praise of Carr and opined on his keys to getting him rattled.
"“With how he’s been playing and his pass attempts through the game, he’s a QB you definitely have to have pressure on or he’ll pick you apart. They’ve been a really good balanced team as far as running the ball and passing the ball,” Ray said. “Carr is definitely making an impression on the league right now.”"
So much so that the third-year Raider is being discussed seriously as a mid-season MVP candidate. While it’s nice, and Carr acknowledges “it’s something you dream about as a kid,” the young leader of the Silver & Black isn’t buying into the hype.
"“It’s nice, but halfway through the year it means nothing,” Carr told reporters. “I’d rather not hear anything, just hang out with my family, to be honest. But it’s part of this business, part of this job.”"
Carr is humbled to be considered but isn’t thinking about personal awards, especially with the Broncos coming to Oakland for a Sunday night primetime tilt:
"“Trust me, I’m very honored and thankful. At this point in the year that stuff’s — that’s cool, but it’s not for me.”"
Carr’s teammates love him too. Donald Penn tells anyone who will listen that he’s loved the guy from day one and that he’s not surprised by his success. Fellow young leader and all-Pro Khalil Mack too.
"“D.C, that’s my dog,” Mack said to reporters Wednesday. “He deserves all that. Hell of a player. Hell of a quarterback. Hell of a person. I’m glad he’s on my team.”"
The soft-spoken Cooper praised Carr for his constant leadership and encouragement.
"“He doesn’t yell at me or snap at me for dropping a pass or making a mistake, he’s always positive, always encouraging,” Cooper said. “That’s something I really like and admire about him.”"
Coach Jack Del Rio, who was the Denver defensive coordinator for three seasons fairly recently, didn’t downplay the rivalry but doesn’t want his team to make the game bigger than life. He wants them to get used to playing these types of games.
"“For us it’s about recognizing you get these opportunities as you earn them. We earned these. We’re ina couple of prime time games by playing well last year and people thinking we may be decent this year. As we become the good football team we’re becoming we’re going to get more and more of these opportunities.”"
Del Rio is very familiar with many of the Broncos vaunted defensive unit, and calls Chris Harris Jr. “the most competitive player I’ve been around.”
"“That’s who I am, I’m never going to change. As soon as I get on the field, I’ll challenge anybody,” he said. “Jack knows that. His receivers have to be ready to compete all day. He’s probably telling them about me.”"
The Raiders particularly respect the pass rush and defense of the Broncos, one of their strengths.
"“A lot of different players are capable,” said Raider coach Del Rio. “Ware is one of the more decorated pass rushers of the past 10 years or so. They have a bunch of guys that can get there. They have good cover people. Rush and coverage make up good pass defense.”"
Harris thinks that the uber-confidence Carr has is his arm and his receivers will afford the opportunistic Denver D some chances to make plays.
"“They threw the ball everywhere, Carr has so much confidence in Crabtree and Cooper, he’ll just throw it up to them, so we have a lot of chances to get picks,” Harris Jr. said. “He’s going to give us a lot of chances to make plays.”"
Given that Carr is completing 66.3% of his passes with only 3 picks on the year, that isn’t actually true – but whatever Harris wants to think.
At this point in the season, this game is huge. The Raiders, though 6-2, have made their bones against losing squads and this game presents a hefty challenge. Players and coaches alike on both sides aren’t taking it lightly or downplaying it’s importance.
"“It’s a big game, a playoff game, a divisional game,” Ward said. “It’s not going to get more intense than that. We’re trying to win this division again.”“This is a championship game,” Harris Jr. agreed. “You can’t win the Super Bowl unless you win the West, so this is the first step.”"
Carr made it clear his focus is Denver this week, and that regardless of what he or the Raiders have done to this point, it means little until they can handle the Broncos head on. Carr gave the Broncos plenty of respect.
"“I already started on the Broncos in the locker room, my mind is already there,” Carr said after his tour de force in Tampa on Sunday. “The road to win the division goes through them. The road to the Super Bowl goes through them. They’re on top. Everyone wants to crown us because we haven’t won for so long and now we are. But we’re not on top.”"
But stopped short of giving them too much.
"“We respect everybody – but fear no one,” Carr stated."