Guard/Tackle Vadal Alexander and Cornerback TJ Carrie
Following the Oakland Raiders walk through Wednesday morning, guard/tackle Vadal Alexander discussed going up against defensive end Khalil Mack, and cornerback TJ Carrie broke down the defensive improvement.
G/T Vadal Alexander
**Q: What have you seen from Connor Cook and EJ Manuel?
Alexander:"They're both doing really well. EJ's doing a great job of commanding the huddle. Connor's taken steps forward too from last year. They both feel like they're very good, very comfortable in the offense."
Q: Where do you think you've grown over the last month while working with the first-team offense more?
Alexander:"A lot. You're going against guys like Khalil [Mack] and Bruce [Irvin] every day. You have no choice but to get better. Defensive Player of the Year last year in Khalil, Bruce is one of the top defensive players in the league. So, it's like you have no choice but to get better. I get better every day going against those guys."
Q: Although the team wants Donald Penn here, how helpful has his absence been in your development?
Alexander:"Well, I'm really focusing on, in training camp and now, is just getting better technique-wise, learning the game better and it's definitely helpful going against players like Khalil and Bruce. Just having another year in this offense. I've taken it step by step."
Q: What was the biggest thing technique related that you knew you had to get better at coming into camp?
Alexander:"I think one thing I want to do is expand my knowledge of the game. Technique-wise, hand placement, footwork in pass and then run. I think those are very important. Offensive line is the kind of position where the small details matter and that's what I was really trying to improve on."
Q: How do you expand your knowledge of the game?
Alexander:"When you're looking at defenses, different coverages you might see might predict different things for the defenses to do. Stance alignment, stance – the weight of each guys' stance – learning a guy that you're going against that week and kind of studying him in a sense of what he likes to do and things like that. So, all of that goes into the game itself."
Q: What is some of the advice that you can give a guy like David Sharpe, who is playing left tackle at times, or what have you seen from him thus far?
Alexander:"David's a really good player, man. He's a smart guy. He obviously comes from a good conference, SEC. (laughter) He's used to going against really good players and he's done a really good job of developing and learning the offenses and learning the things [offensive line] coach [Mike] Tice wants us to improve on. I just gave him the advice of just taking it one day at a time and improve from yesterday and focus on one thing at practice and just keep working on your technique and your goals."
Q: Has the game slowed down for you from Year 1 to Year 2?
Alexander:"Absolutely. I think Year 1 and going into Year 2, this is Year 2 for me, I think Year 2 the kind of things that you see kind of slows down like you said. Just because, you've experienced everything one time already. So, it's even from like a Game 1 to Game 2, it's a big jump, and Year 1 to Year 2 is a big jump."
Q: What were the days in Napa like when there were only 10, 11 offensive linemen and you were working a lot more than with just the first team?
Alexander:"You call those the dog days of camp, man. But I think it got me better. Really training myself to do a lot of reps and be pushing, fighting though guys like Khalil Mack and having more reps than most guys would. I think my conditioning has really improved and I think the game is going to be slower for me. I'm going to be very well conditioned for the game and because I push myself hard in practice."
Q: Do you tell yourself preseason games are like real games to get you in the right mindset?
Alexander:"Absolutely. I take the preseason like a regular game. So, I do all the same things I would do for a regular game, so it's really like four trial runs to get ready for Week 1 and go into the regular season. So, absolutely."
Q: What are your impressions of James Cowser after going against him in practice many times?
Alexander:"Oh, he's a very good player. He's a guy that's going to give you all the effort that you can possibly imagine. You're going to block him from snap to whistle and that's not an understatement. He's a very hard-working defensive player, very good technique, he's a lot stronger than he looks. He's not the biggest guy, but he's a lot stronger than he looks and he's a smart player, so he knows who he's going against."
Q: When Khalil Mack is going 100 percent, is he able to be blocked?
Alexander:"Very hard. Very hard. In my opinion, when Mack wants to get there, it's a matter of time before he gets there." (laughter)
CB TJ Carrie
Q: Preseason gives you the opportunity to improve as an individual and a group. What have you guys seen on tape?
Carrie:"Preseason, we've made a lot of mistakes, but we've got a lot of good things going as well and that's what the preseason is for. It's kind of for you to put it out there live and get a chance to critique what you've learned through OTAs and training camp. There's a lot of things that we can still fix and a lot of things we want to get sharper so that when we go into week one we're pretty perfect on it."
Q: Are there any takeaways individually or otherwise, on that first touchdown?
Carrie:"Eyes. Eye violations. That's very key in this game. You have to do your job. You have ten other players on the field with you that are all supposed to do a certain job. For me, I was supposed to do a job on that certain play and I feel like I let my teammates down on that particular play. It showed. So the critical mistakes like that, those are the things we have to work on and that's something that we've been hitting on this week, and throughout all corrections. Making sure our eyes are in the right place so the next time we go out there… we'll continue to get that same play and they'll continue to challenge us in that coverage."
**Q: Was it the misdirection that caught your eye?
Carrie:"A lot of the misdirection but that's what offenses do. That's what they're supposed to do, misdirection, get your eyes in the wrong place. You look up and it's a touchdown. Going into the season, those are the kinds of things we cannot have happen."
Q: Better to happen in August rather than September right?
Carrie:"Better to have it happen not at all. But now that it happened, it's something we can fix."
Q: What were some of the points of emphasis for the defense, the secondary in particular, coming into training camp this year?
Carrie:"Some of the big points were that we have a lot of new faces. The biggest point is just the cohesiveness of us playing together and all of us on the same page. When we're going out there and you switch up positions and you add a couple of new pieces and new defenses or coverages, you want to make sure that everyone is thinking the same way and that everyone is on the same page. That's what we continue to stress. We did it throughout training camp. In the midst of preseason we've had a couple of chances to do it and we've had a couple of chances to improve."
Q: The schemes in preseason are a lot different than the regular season, and it seemed like some of the slant routes were causing you guys difficulty. Is that something when you get into the regular season schemes it can be mitigated?
Carrie:"I think it was my eyes and my leverage. Every defense that we call, we have a specific leverage that us as defensive backs are supposed to play so we can take some of those things away. Your eyes are critical. Making sure my eyes are through the break, those are things receivers live on. Giving you a couple moves here and stretching your leverage inside and cutting outside, those are all fundamentals of leverage and eyes. Those are the things that our coaches continue to stress. One of the biggest things of my performance last game was poor as far as my eyes and leverage. Coaches are really stressing that, not that they should have to because it's something that we're supposed to do. That particular game and situation, I was very poor with that."
Q: How do you feel you've responded to that challenge this week?
Carrie:"Good, I've been getting some extra work with some of the receivers out here. Just going over the route concepts that I got that night. Getting the formation and feel for what I should do better. There's a lot of things I could do better. One, getting my hands on the receiver because I'm going to continue to see stacks and bunches to allow me not to have the advantage of getting my hands on receivers. We'll see other teams do the same things so they can get in the receivers' face."
Q: Do you attribute any of the struggles to the fact that you were moving inside and outside, and that you hadn't gotten consistent reps on the inside like you did last year?
Carrie:"No. I've been playing inside and outside most of the season and most of the years I've been here. At this point, going into Year 4, that's something I should have had down pat."
Q: You go against Michael Crabtree in practice. Is he getting better with age?
Carrie:"I think 'Crab' hasn't lost a step. He comes out here and puts in a lot of work. Him, 'Coop' [Amari Cooper] and the other guys put in a lot of work together. Their bond with D.C. [Derek Carr] is pretty efficient so they continue to come out here and perfect every little thing. Sometimes it's not even the biggest things, it's the smallest things that make the biggest differences with them on the field. For 'Crab,' I think he hasn't lost a step at all."
Q: Where do his hands rank in terms of receivers?
Carrie:"The guy has some great hands. To me, I think he has the best hands in the league. That's just in the stance of what we see out in practice that you guys aren't allowed to see. Even in game time, some of the grabs he does are pretty remarkable."
**Q: Are there times you have him totally blanketed and he gets it anyway?
Carrie:"All the time. That's attributed to the bond that he and D.C. have as well. He could be covered to the max and DC will slip it in there where only he might be able to get it with one hand, or he might be able to get it with just a certain type of body position. That just goes to the strength of how much the bond they've created together over the last couple of years has grown."
Q: Has John Pagano been a help to you? Does he work with guys individually?
Carrie:"All the time. He continues to stress us to come in early and stay late, just to do the little things and go over some of the schemes that offenses like to do, some of the things offensive coordinators like to do as well. That's taking it to a bigger level because as a player, you kind of go through the surface of the receiver, formation, the quarterback. Taking it to the offensive coordinators and what they like to attack and how they like to attack defenses has really been an extra point that he's given us to look at film at."
Q: What have you seen from Karl Joseph from Year 1 to Year 2?
Carrie:"Comfortable. Very comfortable in what he's doing and his ability. Once you get past the game speed and understanding the situations of football, because I think from year one you don't realize how many different situations you stress about and how many different situations you're put into in the game, so now I think year two he's really gotten a chance to adjust, adapt. Now he's out there playing fast and physical. He's a very smart kid. That's what we need on the defensive side."