Raiders Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., made his podium debut when he spoke with the media after the team's first practice of Mandatory Mini-Camp. The fiery, energetic coach had a lot of great things to say about the progress of his defense. Here are the highlights:
Defensive is Buying In
The defensive players have been adjusting to an entirely new coaching staff, new vision and new teammates, but Coach Norton knows his defensive players are embracing the changes and are beginning to thrive.
"What do I think about the defense? Really excited. Guys are playing really hard. Guys are showing up every day. They have really bought into the style and the philosophy that I'm bringing to them. I really feel like they are giving themselves a chance to be really good."
Coaching Up the Young Corners
In previous years, the Raiders have signed pairs of veteran cornerbacks, but this season, player personnel and the coaching staff are showing confidence in the young group of cornerbacks on the roster. With Coach Norton's experience with young players in Seattle, he understands what it takes for those players to be successful.
"You just have to coach them up. Whether they're young or old, you just have to coach them up. You have to believe in your philosophy, believe in your technique and believe that you are a really good teacher. I believe that we have really good teachers here to coach the guys up and put them in positions to win."
There's Nothing Quiet about Coach Norton's Coaching Style
Loud, fiery, energetic. Coach Norton knows he's not quiet, but it's who he is and what he does.
"I am who I am. I've coached and played the same way. Early on in my coaching career, I learned that I need to approach games, approach practice, approach meetings just the way I played the game – just hard and give it everything you have. I think the players appreciate that. Over my time as a coach and player, players appreciate the honesty. You give them everything you have, and a lot of times the players, they have a tendency to become like their coach. I wouldn't mind guys having a lot of energy, feisty, smart, enthusiastic, really care about what they're doing, giving everything they have."
Exactly Who He Thought They Were
Coach Norton has been impressed with the defensive players from the Raiders 2015 Draft Class, but he's not surprised because what they are is exactly who he thought they were.
"I think anytime you evaluate them over a long period of time, you go out and you interview them, you talk to all the people around them, you watch all the film and you think you're getting something and then they actually come here and they're exactly what you thought. You like that. When guys are fast, guys are instinctive, guys care about ball, they are enthusiastic and they have a good nose to get around the football and they like making plays, you thought that about them before they got here, and they came here and that's exactly who they are."
Photos from the Raiders Mandatory Mini-Camp Day 1 - June 9, 2015.
Charles Woodson is Everything You Want in a Player**
"That kid – and I call him a kid, but he's a grown man but to me he's still a kid – the wealth of knowledge, the fact that he's played so long and he still has so much juice, so much energy, so much football to share. Our team is so young, when a guy like that has so much experience and knowledge and you see him out there, working with the guys, coaching them up, still making plays, still diving around, catching the ball, it's just amazing. The NFL average is three years and he's on 18, that's extraordinary. Having him on the team is just a blessing. He's awesome. If we had a team full of Charles Woodsons, we'd be pretty good."
Building Confidence in Practice
"I think practice builds confidence. I think confident football players make good defenses. I think that you really need confidence. If guys are talking, if guys are communicating, in my experience, the more confident players are talking about ball. The more confident players are making plays. The more confident players are enthusiastic."
Khalil Mack's Work Ethic is Ridiculous
The national media has been talking about Khalil Mack and rightfully so.
"To get here and work with him, to talk to him, to see him show up every day, to see him have a growth mindset, to have a thought process that he's going to improve, he shows up every single play…. If they're thinking he's this good and he's done so little, imagine when actually does what he's supposed to do. He has the work ethic. He has a ridiculous, ridiculous work ethic. In my experience again, that turns into really good football players."