Head Coach Hue Jackson. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
Coach Jackson: Well it was a good hot one, the boys made it through and they're excited because we are getting closer to a game day and I think any time you can see an opponent at the end of the tunnel, you get excited. So there is a lot of energy with our team right now and our coaches, but as I said yesterday, I think they are tired of going against each other. Another spirited practice, very good practice, very businesslike practice and we are going to go back and watch the tape tonight, make some corrections and get back out here tomorrow and get back out here again. On Thursday we will have a little bit of a mock game, a little dress rehearsal before we get ready to play a real game that Thursday night. So we are headed in the right direction. I am very glad about where we are. Getting some players back slowly but surely; it is good to see some players on the side getting better and it is really good to see this team work like they are working. I keep saying that I can't be more proud of a team that is working as hard as this team has worked whether it be whatever I ask them to do they have exceeded it. If we keep doing that and we keep chasing for perfection then great things are going to happen.
Q: That mock game you will do that here?
Coach Jackson: Absolutely.
Q: Will you have headphones and stuff for that?
Coach Jackson: No, no we will not do that until the game. We have some pro guys here. I think we can talk to each other. We should know how to do that, but we will make sure that we cross all the T's and dot all the I's here before we head down there and go protect our stadium.
Q: All the guys that are hurt that missed a couple of days are more or less not going to play this week?
Coach Jackson: That is a pretty good assumption. Again I am going to be very cautious with this team. This is our first preseason game. This is our first dress rehearsal preparing for the season. We have a long way to go before we get ready to play the real game. Don't get me wrong this is a real game to me to and our football team, but Denver is the opening of the season and that is when we truly have to be ready. But I think we are ready to play this game, but just the monotony of training camp and being on the schedule with the same routine. No team to play except for each other. Now all of a sudden that is going to change a little bit; we get an opponent. It is a real opponent and they are going to come in here to evaluate their players and get there players to play and we are trying to do the same thing.
Q: As you evaluate your players, what do you vision for how many reps they will be in there? When are you going to be watching?
Coach Jackson: I haven't slept on that one yet, but you know it is going to come to me as I think through it and talk to our staff. There are some guys that we do need to see that need to have opportunities just like you said these young guys who want to have an opportunity to show what they got. We have to make sure that we give them the best opportunity to do that, but I also have to make sure that we get our team ready to play. So it is a happy medium there and I will figure that out as we go. So like I said, guys are going to play; how much they play I haven't decided that. Once I feel about where we are with that then that is what we will do.
Q: It is a little different Hue because you guys didn't have all the off season, traditionally starters play a series or two, but having lost all that time do you have to play your starters a little bit longer?
Coach Jackson: Maybe. I know everybody thinks that. I still think there is a format because I still think it goes in with correlation on how you practice. You know like I said I was the offensive coordinator here a year ago. I know what we are doing on offense. I know what we are doing on defense and Chuck (Bresnahan) does too. Our special teams coordinator didn't change, so I think we were able to hit the ground running that way. There is a lot of carry over there for our players. So there is a lot of comfort there. They know there are some familiar things that are happening. There are some things that are challenging, but there is also a lot of familiarity with the staff. You know with the leaders and obviously Chuck is new and I am not. John Fassel is not and Al (Saunders) is Al. Al is awesome. So I think it is great and I think our players know our schemes and what we are trying to accomplish. It is just a matter of finding the right pieces to fit where you want them to fit. It could be different this year and I know everybody says that, but right now I don't feel that. You know I don't feel that because of our team and the way that we work out here every day.
Q: You are bringing back 10 of 11 defensive starters, and the Cardinals are coming with a new quarterback; defenses are usually supposed to be ahead of the offense, how important do you think it is to go out, even if it is just for a few series to go out and really show that they can be dominant?
Coach Jackson: That is what we do. It is not so much that, that is my expectation. That is what are defense's expectation is. I am challenging the group every day to be great, because there are a lot of good football players over there. Collectively as a group I expect them to be one of the best, but that is no different than what I feel about offense. You know we are returning some players on offense and I expect us to step it over there too and in our special teams game. I expect our team to go play the way I envision us playing and that is fast and physical and that we get after you. I don't care what the situation is. As I keep telling you guys, I don't care where we play; our team is going to be prepared. That is my job; it is get them to the game and get them ready to play whether it is preseason or regular season. It doen't matter. I mean we are going to line up and play Raiders football. We are going to play like a Raider.
Q: How many jobs are wide open? Up to 22 starters, how many are locked in?
Coach Jackson: Oh gosh I know one. I know our quarterback is. I know a couple of defensive tackles are and the middle linebacker. I mean we can go through person by person but I think you guys have a pretty good feel for our team and where we are. Obviously we are going to continue to evaluate players and put them in different spots and see where they fit, but there are some guys probably set in some spots and there are guys fighting for spots and there are guys fighting for roster spots. We will continue to evaluate that as we go this week.
Q: Hue, do you feel a little extra excited as your first camp as the head coach; it is almost like being a rookie in some respects for you?
Coach Jackson: No it is. It is exciting all the way around, but when I tell people this story, people always laugh because I don't feel any different than I did last year. I just get to talk to you guys a little bit more. I get to run over here and wait for you guys and talk to you guys. Other than that I am not doing anything different than I would usually be doing other than I run over to the defense and see what is going on. Stick my nose in and make people mad, do all that, but other than that I am not doing anything different. I am excited about the staff because they allow me to be me and I am excited about our players because our players are buying into what we are selling. Probably the most excited I will get is when I drive into the stadium knowing that the decisions that we make as a football team out there on that day I have to be right and to me that is what it is all about. The head coach has to lead and that is what I am going to do. I am going to lead this team.
Q: Quite a few 3-4 defenses on the schedule this season; what can Arizona show you Thursday night?
Coach Jackson: They can show a lot. I mean Ray Horton comes over from the Pittsburgh Steelers where he has been with a very successful program. I am sure he wants to implement his style, his attacking style like the Steelers play on defense in Pittsburgh. I am sure he wants to bring that to Arizona. They're a 3-4 team that we played against a year ago so we are pretty familiar with who their personnel is. We are pretty familiar with their Pittsburgh style, but the bottom line is we are going to go out and play. The teams we play you will hear me say this as we go through the year, really their name is faceless objects. You know they're who they are. We have to know what their scheme is but we have to line up and play Raider football. We have to play the way we play and we don't want anyone to dictate the game to us. We want to dictate the game to them and so that is what we want to start doing.
Q: You talked about the offensive line yesterday, how it starts Thursday isn't necessarily how it is going to finish, but do you have pretty good idea, let's say the eight guys that you want to get in and get that first?
Coach Jackson: Oh yeah, I would like to play them all, but again how it is going to unfold when it is all said and done we are still weeks away from that but I would like to see all of these guys play under pressure. Playing out here is one thing, but playing when the lights are on and fans screaming with a guy on the other side getting after you is a whole different deal. And this game is about performance. You know our guys have to perform and what I will really start talking about is how you perform in games because that is truly what this is all about; how you perform on game day. Practice gives you an opportunity to get to the game to play good. You have to play good when your team needs you the most when they strap it up against the other team. You have to perform.
Q: We have to talk to you in the past last year about (Darrius) Heyward-Bey, you were very happy with his work ethic, and everything else. His downfield blocking and everything like that, but there was a couple of games late in the year where he wasn't getting any passes. Why hasn't he made the big splash numbers for a receiver that most people expect a first round pick to make?
Coach Jackson: When a guy is drafted in the first round we all want to see instant numbers right away and sometimes that doesn't happen. Sometime it takes time and I take responsibility for those games where he didn't call it. Sometimes you have to do things to get guys the ball. Sometimes whether it is a different formation, a different player, people play people differently. Those games where you think we were using him to do something else we were handing the ball to Jacoby Ford who was making a bunch of plays. He was very instrumental sometimes in some of the things that Jacoby was able to do. You know that Louis Murphy was able to do and Darren McFadden was able to do. I have seen a huge improvement with him and I think he has hit the ground running right now and doing a great job. But again, it is about performance in the game and that is what I talked to him about more so than anything. He now needs to make those plays in a game. Will he make some Sportscenter plays this year? There is no question in mind. It is time, you know, and I think he will because he has that kind of ability. Now it is time for him to go do it on a consistent basis and I think all of you will be happy with what you see him doing.
Q: How extensive were the defensive changes you wanted Chuck to make when you sat down with him. Did you totally restructure it? Was it settled and what were you looking for when you changed things up?
Coach Jackson: Well we are looking for a guy that kind of knows our system and able to adapt and do some things differently. I mean we don't want to be the same football team. If we go out and be the same football team whether it is offense, defense or special teams, how much better are we going to be? We are doing things a little bit differently; Chuck sees the game differently than some other people do. Again with my influence, being on offense and knowing how teams like to attack us and how teams like to attack certain teams defensively, we get to bounce off of each other. Chuck is a brilliant mind, you know he knows defense. He understands how to attack football teams. I am very excited about what we are going to do and what we are trying to do. We will do some things differently, but you are also going to see some of the old Raiders because that is who we are and that is who are players are and they have play those schemes better. Oh do we have to have the little tweaks here and there; yes we will.
Q: You mentioned hitting the ground running with DHB, what have you seen from Mike Bush? He has shown up a little bit later, but what have you seen in the last few days?
Coach Jackson: He looks awesome because he is in shape, not that he wasn't a year ago but he looks lean to me. He looks quicker. He looks faster. He still has that explosion. He will still come down hill on you so I am excited to watch him play. Again he is one of our better football players on our team and when he has carried the ball for us he has done some marvelous things.