Photos from the Raiders second practice of Mandatory Mini-Camp - June 18, 2014.
The Oakland Raiders took the field for their second practice of Mandatory Mini-Camp. On another warm, sunny day in Alameda, the team took advantage of the opportunity to get better as a collective unit.
"I thought it was another good day of work," said Head Coach Dennis Allen. "Obviously, especially at this time of year, there are always a lot of mistakes that are made, but that's what this time of year is for – to get those mistakes made, get them coached up, get them corrected, so that hopefully we won't have the same mistakes when we hit the season. I think my overall impression of what we've been able to accomplish in the offseason, I've been real pleased. I think we've gotten a lot accomplished. I think this team is beginning to come together."
The offseason acquisitions have helped put the pieces in place for an improved Raiders squad and the coaches are looking forward to the position battles. "I'm real excited. I think [General Manager] Reggie [McKenzie] has done a great job of acquiring talent and depth on this football team," said Coach Allen. "That's how you build a good football team. You have talent in the front line group of players, but you're able to develop that depth. Throughout the course of the 16-game season, you're going to need everybody, all 53 guys, including the practice squad. It's a good situation to have and I think we're going to have some good competition as we go through training camp."
Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver received an infusion of talent, including quite a few proven veterans, for his defense. "We're very excited to have the caliber of players, both veterans and rookies that we brought in, and in between that we brought into the organization," said Coach Tarver. "Now it's our job, and their job, to be committed to what we're doing and to get trained together, all of us, get trained together so that we can have quick reactions within a game and make a lot of plays. We have more players at each position that can impact the game."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson also acquired veteran free agents on his side of the ball, specifically offensive linemen. Coach Olson is pleased with the progress he's seen from his front five. "Austin Howard and Donald Penn have been two great additions for us," he said. "Gabe Jackson is coming along as a rookie; we're happy with his progress. Certainly it's a much bigger offensive line. We've got some guys in Austin and Donald that have played a lot of games in the NFL and have a pretty good feel right now for fronts and blitzes and those things that occur up front. We like the experience that they bring. We also like their size."
Those big linemen will be blocking for veteran QB Matt Schaub, who has impressed the coaching staff throughout the offseason program. "He's a guy that obviously has experience and that shows in the way that he manages a game and manages the huddle," said Coach Olson. "Obviously he's an accurate player. He's good in the pocket. He's got a good pocket presence in there. He's got good leadership skills, he's very intelligent. He's shown the accuracy right now that we're looking for."
Schaub is working on the field and in the classroom with rookie QB Derek Carr, who has also shown his capabilities over the past several weeks. "He's a guy that's got a great amount of confidence. He's an extremely intelligent player," said Coach Olson. "He's one of those guys that you don't feel the game is too big for him. There's not any anxiety or nervousness when he enters the huddle. He's a very mature player and because of that, we felt after being around him that we should accelerate that learning curve for this player. Let's give him a chance to get in there with the one and two huddle and see how he does."
The coaching staff has felt comfortable throwing a lot of information at Carr, as well as inserting the young quarterback in more situations on the practice field, because of his obvious desire to excel. "I'm not satisfied with being all right or just good," said Carr. "I want to push myself to be the best that I can at everything. I try not to ever let myself get comfortable."
Carr, like his teammates, is working to get better every practice and meeting. "As a rookie, you have to go out here and get better every day," said Carr. "I have tons of things to work on, so I'm just continuing to make sure I work on any and everything that I can get better at."
His drive to be successful is mirrored by the other players on the Raiders roster. "All I can do is go out every day and compete with everything that I have, and that's what I've been doing," said LB Miles Burris. "Everything that they ask of me, playing all three positions, I go out there and do it to the highest ability that I can, and it's been great so far."
Because the players all seem to have the same mindset, communication and chemistry – two things that are essential for on-field success - have been developing naturally during practices. "That's the biggest thing: 11 guys have got to be on the same page," explained Coach Tarver. "We're much improved in that we have more guys that have been in the program, but also the emphasis that both players and coaches are putting on that everything we're doing is about who you're talking to, what's the signal, what are you doing over here, why'd you say that, let's get that done right."
The Raiders offseason program ends tomorrow with one final mini-camp practice. "I like the football team right now," said Coach Allen. "We've got to finish it up tomorrow and then we've got to make sure we take that next month to mentally and physically prepare ourselves for training camp."