Raiders practice: Ken Norton Jr. sees defensive improvement over two preseason games

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 12: Wide receiver Jeremy Ross
GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 12: Wide receiver Jeremy Ross /

The Oakland Raiders had Todd Downing, Ken Norton Jr., Vadal Alexander and T.J. Carrie all meet with the media after practice on Wednesday afternoon.

It was an action-packed day at the podium after the Oakland Raiders’ practice on Wednesday. Offensive coordinator Todd Downing, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., offensive lineman Vadal Alexander and cornerback T.J. Carrie all met with the media.

Downing went first. He preached creating “a culture of accountability” and the importance of building “genuine relationships” with his players. Downing already has a great working relationship with Raiders star quarterback Derek Carr. It is now taking flight with the rest of the Raiders offense this summer.

Downing spoke on the backup quarterback battle between EJ Manuel and Connor Cook saying “it’s a great competition…both guys have approached it with a great attitude.” He would mention that Manuel had earned those early extra reps in camp. Cook was “unsatisfied” with that and used that as motivation to have a great game versus the Los Angeles Rams last week.

While Downing wouldn’t take specifically about how he will best feature his players in his offense, he would that the tight ends will continue “to attack the field vertically in the seams.” He believes this position group is quickly becoming a strength of this team and will “continue to give them opportunities to make plays” in the passing game.

Norton would take to the podium next. Despite being under fire after his defense has largely struggled in the first two preseason games, he answered all questions with a great deal of poise.

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To him, Norton sees improvement on tape and in the practices from preseason games. When asked about how the fans should feel about the state of the defense he would say that it’s understandable for them to be impatient, as the coaching staff feels the same way.

He would mention a great deal about “eye violations” as what inevitably unraveled the secondary against Jared Goff and the Rams. Norton expects the No. 1’s to play more this week against the Dallas Cowboys.

Overall, he’s liking how the defense is growing and sees assistant head coach John Pagano as a great addition to helping him get the secondary right.

Alexander has had an impressive camp thus far, taking advantage of his increased opportunities in the Donald Penn holdout. When asked what it’s like to go up against Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin every day in practice, he would respond, “You have no choice, but to get better.”

“You have no choice, but to get better” Vadal Alexander on going up against Khalil Mack in practice every day

Alexander says the game has slowed down for him and he is in better physical shape than he was this time a year ago.

He mentions that studying film has been a boon to his improved play, as he is better able to recognize defensive alignments and the tendencies that come from them.

Carrie would be the last of the four to make it to the podium. Like Norton, Carrie was under fire after a rough game against the Rams. He struggled to contain rookie slot receiver Cooper Kupp on multiple occasions.

Carrie would own his poor game against the Rams, citing that he felt that he let his teammates down. He attributed this to rampant eye violations and not being on point with his leverage.

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To get better prepared for the Cowboys on Saturday, Carrie said that he has been getting in some extra reps after practice with the wide receivers. He wants to focus on how to best stop stacks and bunch formations without using his hands at the line of scrimmage. With Pagano stressing the little things, Carrie feels that will help, as well as improve the secondary’s overall cohesiveness.