QB Matt Schaub. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders took the field for their eighth practice of Training Camp 2014, presented by California National Guard. Head Coach Dennis Allen changed up the format for practice Saturday afternoon and had the squad participate in a scripted scrimmage.
The players simulated their pre-game routine and then went through various game situations – red zone, punt and kick return, field goal, and driving the full length of the field.
"It was good work today," said Head Coach Dennis Allen. "It wasn't a live scrimmage. It was a scripted scrimmage, a lot of different situations that we try to work and incorporate into the scrimmage - different down-and-distance type of things, some red zone, fringe area type of plays, really as much to get them mentally thinking about those different situations in the game."
Former NFL head coach and current NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci visited the Raiders camp yesterday and sees a Silver and Black squad determined to turn their recent fate around. "In talking to some of these guys, I feel that there's some sort of confidence because so many free agents have come in here that have either had great team successes – the Woodleys, the Tucks, the Super Bowl rings – or the Maurice Jones-Drew that's had good success in his young career, individually," said Mariucci. "A Matt Schaub who's going to be good for this organization. James Jones has had so much success over there with the Packers and he's come home too now, just like Pocket Hercules [Jones-Drew]. I see some enthusiasm, some optimism, in this camp and the guys are working hard. It looks like they're on a mission to shake it up in this AFC West."
Mariucci believes the roster has potential, it's just a matter of putting all the pieces together. "The potential is there. When you have a lot of veterans that you add, if there's any concern at all, it's they have to gel together because there's a limited time for practice," he explained. "They have to get on the same page quickly. They all come from different systems, so they have to learn this one quickly, both sides of the ball."
The NFL experience on Oakland's roster, specifically the playoff and Super Bowl experience, lends itself to a team that is willing to take on anyone on the other side of the ball. "They go from a young team to one of the veteran teams in this division," said Mariucci. "They're not intimidated by going up to Denver and playing against Peyton Manning. They've all done it before. Or to Kansas City in the loud stadium over there, or even San Diego. So I like what Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen have done here in hopes to shake it up in this division."
He has also been impressed with the Raiders rookies, particularly first-round selection LB Khalil Mack. "Khalil Mack is a quick study. He's practicing with the starters," said Mariucci. "They're asking him to play the outside linebacker spot in their base defense and they're asking him to play in different spots in their nickel package, but he's very active. He's very quick. He's a big guy that can move. Jason Tarver, the defensive coordinator, told me that he's made only four mental mistakes the whole training camp so far. He can handle where there's a lot of new stuff coming at him. He's capable of learning it quickly and I think they're expecting huge things from Khalil Mack."
Combining the young talent with the seasoned veterans seems to be an environment the Raiders can thrive in. The Oakland squad needs consistency and continuity and Mariucci believes QB Matt Schaub can give the Raiders what they need at the quarterback position. "I think Matt Schaub is going to surprise some people," said Mariucci. "I think he's going to do good things for this organization."
It is well-documented that Schaub's 2013 season was not his best, but his overall career stats put him in the top echelon of all-time quarterbacks. "He had a bad year, we know that last year, but prior to that he was pretty darn good, really good," said Mariucci. "In fact, he's still ranked 13th all-time best passer rating in the NFL. Thirteenth! And everyone goes, 'what?' Yes, and so he's done a lot of good things. He knows how to play the position."
Combine a healthy and efficient Schaub with the other free agent acquisitions and draft picks, Mariucci believes the Raiders could make things interesting.
"If [Schaub] can stay healthy and stay confident, he has a run game with Maurice Jones-Drew, and hopefully Darren McFadden can stay healthy, and so I think they've added to this roster very well and in a real good way," said Mariucci. "And then there might be a Gabe Jackson too that might enter the mix at the offensive line and we'll see where it goes. Stay tuned – this Oakland Raider team may just shake it up."
The Raiders are less than a week away from a real game situation and they can see how the veterans and rookies are coming together.
For now, the players have earned a day off and will reconvene for an afternoon practice Monday.
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