Head Coach Jack Del Rio was back on the practice field with his team today as the Raiders began Week 2 of Organized Team Activities (OTAs). The coaching staff has a lot to cram into the four weeks of Phase 3 of the offseason program, but Head Coach Del Rio has been impressed with the response of his players. The leader of the Silver and Black spoke with the media following practice about his thoughts on the team's progress.
ADDED DEPTH IS SPARKING COMPETITION
"We feel like we have a more competitive roster going into camp. It's still very early. I think there are some definite battles that will take place throughout spring and into the summer camp before we get into September. That's a good thing. It's a good thing to have a little bit of depth, a good thing to have competition. We certainly want to create as much competition as possible and we feel like we've done a pretty solid job with that."
GOOD WORK SO FAR THIS OFFSEASON
The coaches and players only have so much time together, but they are making the most of it. Head Coach Del Rio has watched his team buy into the changing culture and mentality.
"The guys – we're working hard, we're working smart. We're developing a mentality here, creating the culture, and the guys have done a really good job of understanding how to work together. I think that's really important for us."
SOLID GROUP OF QUARTERBACKS
While starting QB Derek Carr is a limited participant in practice, QBs Christian Ponder and Matt McGloin are receiving extra reps. Head Coach Del Rio is confident that the two backup quarterbacks are capable of stepping in and providing the necessary leadership.
"[Ponder's] a guy that was quarterback of a team that won 10 games. That's not easy to do in this league. He's got some experience. He's been big moments before. He's quarterbacked his team to a winning record. That experience is beneficial, beneficial for him. If anything were to happen, having he and Matt [McGloin] both as guys that have taken snaps in the games, it's a good thing for us."
"I think [McGloin's] done a good job. He's a fiery competitor. He's done, I think, a good job of attacking the offseason and preparing for what we do. He's taken some good quality reps. I feel like both he and Christian are doing a nice job right now taking advantage of the added reps that both of them are getting. That's good work."
ALL PLAYERS REQUIRE HARD COACHING
Head Coach Del Rio was asked if rookie WR Amari Cooper needed to be mentored or pushed by older players or whether he was advanced enough that that wasn't necessary. Head Coach Del Rio was firm in his stance that every player, rookie or veteran, Hall of Famer or not, requires a push and a hard dose of coaching.
"I think we all need to be pushed, you know? We all need to be coached, coached hard, demanded from, so he is no different in that regard. So even some of the guys that you mentioned, they need to be pushed and coached hard. We're going to get after our guys and coach them hard and demand."
There are many rules a team must follow during the OTAs – including minimal contact. The Raiders have gotten creative (using flags) in order to improve as a team, while staying within the rules.
"We're just trying to be creative and work within the rules and teach leverage in tackling without actually doing that, without being physical. I think it's a pretty smart way of going about it that Coach Seely brought in – put flags on them and teach the leverage and the tackling that we're looking for, closing down the running lanes and to get the returners to use some of their skill, develop some of their skill running the ball full speed without there being any collisions."
TIGHT ENDS BRING THE RIGHT SKILLS
The Raiders added a few tight ends - one during free agency (Lee Smith), one in the draft (Clive Walford), and one as an undrafted free agency (Gabe Holmes). All three are big, seem to be able to catch, and have the necessary blocking skills. Head Coach Del Rio likes what he sees.
"We added a couple good players to it. That will certainly be one of the more competitive groups that we have. There is some size there. I think if you want to run the ball, you better have a tight end or two that can block. We feel like we have several that can, but we feel like they can do more than that. I'm excited about that position and how it was changed."