Quick Hits: Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., Talks Rookies, Raiders Linebackers

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Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.

The Oakland Raiders are approaching the final stages of the Offseason Workout Program, with Mandatory Minicamp now less than a week away.

However, before that is upon us, the Silver and Black still have a few Organized Team Activities left on the schedule, and following Tuesday’s session defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., headed to the podium to discuss the progress of the team’s defense.

Here are the highlights from his press conference.

Norton shared his initial assessment of cornerback Gareon Conley and safety Obi Melifonwu.

“Those guys are good. Really good football players. Glad they’re on our team. Long, fast, they love ball. They love practicing. They chase well. They’re always trying to improve and they’ve done a great job of understanding our system, understanding what we’re trying to teach them. They’re very good learners.”

He also spoke about the continued performance of veteran safety Reggie Nelson.

“Nelson is a ball hawk. He’s always around the ball. He’s a veteran. He knows how to play this game, he’s been playing for a long time. Our team is so young, it’s important for a guy like that to continue to set an example for a lot of the younger players. He has a lot of respect in the room, a lot of respect on the field and he’s been playing for a long time for a reason. He’s a guy whose experience is very important to us.”

Although the Raiders linebackers are young, Norton is confident in the group going forward.

“These guys are playing hard. We’re coaching them up. They understand the scheme. Cory [James] and Tyrell [Adams] are playing really hard. Bruce [Irvin] is outstanding. I think that so far, so good. They’re playing hard. We’re very impressed with what we see so far. It’s still early in the process. It’s a big process that is involved here and we have to continue to fall in love with the process. There’s a lot of practice out there, a lot of learning still.”

The Raiders defensive coordinator also spoke about the addition of John Pagano to the Raiders coaching staff.

“Obviously [Assistant Head Coach – Defense] [John] Pagano is a guy that has a lot of experience. We all have a lot of experience. Certainly you have to use the people around you and it’s important that we all fall into and understand what he’s been able to accomplish. Obviously right now his role is to help us on the back end with our communication and sure up what’s going on to make sure we stay on top, and that we’re all talking about the same things every week, about them throwing the ball deep on us.”

Norton also hopes to see big things from linebacker Shilique Calhoun in his second season in Silver and Black.

“He’ll improve in all areas. He’ll be playing behind Khalil, playing behind Bruce, getting a lot of plays in special teams. There are so many ways that he can impact this team. Again with the pass rush, again with stopping the run, playing in the pass defense, covering kicks, covering punts. So many ways to impact this team in a positive way.”

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