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News

Tarver Looking for Cohesion, Consistency

Posted Aug 26, 2014

Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver spoke to the media after Tuesday' practice as the Raiders get ready to face the Seahawks Thursday night in Oakland.

Q: What would you say is a strength of your defense right now?

Coach Tarver: “I think when our players work together, and you saw some of that against Green Bay as in the middle of the first quarter. When we work together, we communicate and we know where each other are, we can do some good things, three-and-outs, different things that the players – and D.A. [Head Coach Dennis Allen] has told everybody this week, that’s what we can be. They know they can be good and they also know that game was good practice, because it showed us, ‘Hey look, here’s when we’re good, when we’re playing together. Here’s when we’re not.’ They know they can be good when they do that right, so that’s what we’ve been focusing on this week.”

Q: With DJ Hayden going on PUP and Chimdi Chekwa being uncertain for Week 1, it’s obviously a less than ideal situation for your No. 3 cornerback spot. Is that a concern for you?

Coach Tarver: “I think we’ve had good competition at the corner position through camp and through the preseason. There’ve been some players that step up like TJ Carrie and Neiko [Thorpe], and that battle will still be going on this week, two days from now. I’m excited to see these guys play, because they both did some good things last week and they’ve both done good things throughout camp. What’s happening is some other players are getting the chance to prove they deserve to be on this roster. Like I said, I’m excited to watch our corners play this week.”

Q: With practice time being so valuable, and D.A. saying that Thorpe picked up right where he left off before he got hurt, how is he able to do that?

Coach Tarver: “I’m impressed with his mental focus. He does one play at a time. Some of the things that you guys have heard from me over the past few years up here, this young man, he’s focused. He wants it. I’m impressed with his mental focus, with how he can go one play at a time and whatever happens, good or bad, go to the next play. He’s made a choice. He wants to be a part of this and that’s great. That’s what we want to be around, so I hope he keeps doing that, keeps progressing, because that mindset is – that’s what you’re look for.”

Q: Do you have any idea of how beneficial it was for Thorpe to play a year in the Canadian Football League?

Coach Tarver: “Well, the only way to get better at playing football is playing football and he’s gotten better and better since he’s even had a change of position and he’s moved around. But impressive that he locks in. He says, ‘OK, I’m going to do what the coach says.’ And that’s what he does. And he competes his butt off. He competes his butt off every day in practice and so far in the games. So when you do that, you’ve got a chance and he just keeps getting better. So yeah, a year can help you. I was an offensive assistant with the 49ers when Jeff Garcia was there and that’s where he just played and played and played. Then he got in that system over there at the 49ers and he did great, took all or most of the teams he was with to the playoffs. I was fortunate enough to be a young coach and watch that. So football experience and when a young man makes the choice in his head and doesn’t look back, that’s exciting and that’s what Neiko’s doing right now.”

Q: How hard has this been on you with the cornerbacks, because ever since you got here, that position has always been in flux and you’ve had guys hurt every single year?

Coach Tarver: “Yeah, we’ve had a lot of positions rolling around, but if you look at the process since we’ve been here, there’s been a lot of moving parts. But here’s what I’ll tell you, kind of like I said last week: We’re concerned with 2014. We’re pretty excited about who we have in here. We have a good mix of veterans and, like we talked about with Neiko, some hungry young players that want to do it right. ‘Chim’ [Chimdi Chekwa] was doing well and he’ll be back doing well. So we have a good mix of young and old and we have a good mix that asks questions. So in this season, I like where this room is and I want to see them continue to push each other and compete.”

Q: When you look at young DBs, they can tend to get down after a big play is made against them, but TJ Carrie seems to be ahead of the curve mentally with forgetting it and moving on to the next play. Have you seen that with him?

Coach Tarver: “Yes, TJ’s been exactly how you phrased it. He’s been able to go to the next play and that is tough. That’s the hardest thing. When you’re a defensive back in this league, number one, now of course you know there’s going to be a yellow flag anytime you touch anybody; number two, the eyes are always on you regardless of whose fault it really was. The camera picks you because you’re the closest to the ball and sometimes for young men, that’s hard. You know what, the mentally tough ones come right back. TJ’s bounced right back. Neiko’s bounced right back. Our young DBs have bounced right back and that’s the sign of ones that, number one, you want to play with as a coach and number two, you want them on your team.”

Q: You’ll be going against some read-options and running quarterbacks this week as you will some in the regular season. How much will that help?

Coach Tarver: “Yeah, this is a good practice. Whether it’s good, bad, indifferent, this is good practice because we’ll get to see the calls and how they work and we’ll learn from them. And then we can work on both the calls and obviously, how it all fits on the read scheme. So it’ll be good practice two nights from now.”

Q: Kaluka Maiava was out most of last year and he’s back. What has he brought to the mix this year and what are your thoughts on him from camp and this preseason?

Coach Tarver: “He’s been working. I thought his game at home against Detroit was a pretty good game. He was running. He was hitting. He had two big hits. He was all over the place. Last week, pretty good when he was in there. A couple little things that we corrected on third downs, but what he is, is he’s tough, he’s willing, he loves contact, he diagnoses inside runs pretty well. And what he’s working on right now is his plays in space, his coverage aspects both in zone and man, and he’s improving in those areas. So that’s where he is. And what he means to us, he’s a solid box linebacker that can be in our rotation.”

Q: Nick Roach played every defensive snap last year, but with him out, is this a good time to try and figure out if Kaluka can back him if necessary?

Coach Tarver: “Yeah, there’s going to be an opportunity for our linebackers this week. Like you said, this is an opportunity to see who’s going to play in those positions. Kaluka will be in of the guys in the mix this week. They’ve got a lot of snaps, both defensively and special teams, coming up in two days. I hope the linebackers are getting ready.”

Q: So Maiava’s going to be your primary Mike linebacker backup?

Coach Tarver: “Well, Miles [Burris] has worked some at the position, Kaluka’s worked some at the position and then we have some other young players working at the position, because we wanted to roll people through camp. But Kaluka’s been there for the past few weeks, since coming back off the injury. So Kaluka, Miles Burris, those guys, they’re all in the mix. For the Mike and the Will positions, they need to know both positions and you need to be that position flexible, because you don’t know what’s going to happen through a 16-plus-game season.”

Q: Will Stacy McGee still be playing with that club on his hand for the foreseeable future?

Coach Tarver: “You know what, I’m not sure. Dennis could probably tell you more than I can on exactly the process, of whether it’s a club or just a cast, or he’s got some movement in his fingers or not. He’s been battling. I’ve been impressed. Stacy fights. Stacy fought for us last year. He’s a fighter. And it’s hard to play D-line with one hand now. It’s hard to play because you’re just hanging on. But he does a good job of sticking the club up and trying to knock passes down. He made a couple of throws go away with his hand up last week. So I don’t know the process, but I am impressed that the kid’s battling. As soon as he can get it off and have use of his hand, the better he’ll be.”