The Oakland Raiders travel to New Orleans to face the Saints Friday in their second preseason match-up of 2013. Both the Raiders and Saints won their first game of the preseason with the Saints beating the Chiefs 17-13 and the Raiders taking one from the Cowboys 19-17.
Head Coach Dennis Allen will return to New Orleans where he was an assistant coach for five seasons. Now, as a head coach, he will face one of his mentors, Saints Head Coach Sean Payton.
"Sean's a heck of a football coach," said Coach Allen. "I've learned a lot from him just as far as how he handles a football team, what his demeanor is and the swagger that he brings to his team. I think you'll see a different New Orleans Saints football team this year with having him back. That's where I feel like, in New Orleans, in those five years, that's where I feel like I really grew up as a football coach in the National Football League. It'll be fun to go back. It'll be fun to get a chance to see some of those guys. I'll get to talk to Sean and bounce a few ideas off of him and see what he has to say."
Coach Allen is also looking forward to the test the Saints will likely bring for his team. "Well, obviously it will be a great challenge for us," said Coach Allen. "I think getting a chance to play a team like that, the explosive offense that they are, I think it will be a great challenge for us defensively to go against them and kind of get a little bit of a benchmark of where we're at."
The Raiders are spent some time this week going over Saints film to see what they will be matching up against this Friday. "You just watch film and see what they're doing so far in preseason and going through some of the stuff they've done against us in years past and see how they're going to try to attack and just play man, play ball," said SS Tyvon Branch. "Preseason is all about playing ball and making plays."
The team focused on the Saints, as well as improving from the previous game, throughout the week. "It's always both. You always have to focus on your craft more so than anybody else's, but I've been watching film," said RB Rashad Jennings. "We're all watching film of all their fronts, all their defense, their personnel, how they're going to fit plays, one-on-one match ups and really just focusing on how we're going to attack it. We're making sure we're all on the same page."
The offense is preparing for an aggressive, physical defense coached by former Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
"[I expect] a lot of effort, a lot of intensity," said TE Jeron Mastrud, who had 1 catch for 7 yards against the Cowboys. "It's the second game so people got that first game out of the way, ready to keep developing their skills and get ready for the season."
The Raiders will have to contend with crowd noise in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. "We're going to have to be able to play with the noise, communicate good as an offense," said Jennings. "I expect to see several different looks up front with the defense. I expect us to play Raider football, be physical, be smart, be mentally tough, which Coach has been harping on us."
WR Tray Session caught 3 passes for 27 yards in the first preseason game and wants to continue his success against the Saints. "I feel like it went really well. I got open a couple times," said Session. "Had some chemistry problems with the quarterback but we're working on that. We came out here and fixed it this week and we're just going to keep continuing to work and go out there and play to our best of our abilities. I expect to see some man coverage, some physical play from the corners, see what they can do and just go out there and have a good time."
Meanwhile, the defense will see multiple offensive threats in QB Drew Brees, RBs Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles, TE Jimmy Graham and WR Marques Colston. "Multiple formations, a lot of screens," LB Omar Gaither said on what he expects to see from the Saints. "I'm not sure who will be quarterback when I'm in, but Drew Brees gets the ball out fast. They don't want him to take any hits. Darren Sproles is a real quick guy, gotta keep a lot of eyes on him."
CB Chimdi Chekwa, who is originally from New Orleans, is excited to play in his hometown, but he expects a challenge. "It's also a tough team – the New Orleans Saints – so it'll be a good test for us and a good opportunity to go on our first away game out there and a place like New Orleans where they get really rowdy," said Chekwa.
This road trip will be the first for the 2013 Raiders. It will be a good test and experience for the squad.
"I think in our progression as a team I think it's going to be good for us as far as bonding and seeing how guys react to certain situations and stuff like that," said Branch. "I think we're making progress and I think we're taking progressions in the right direction."
Playing in a hostile environment can be difficult, so a trip to New Orleans will be good practice for the Raiders. "It's always good to go get in a hostile environment early because there's a Monday night game early in the schedule with Denver," said Mastrud. "There are a lot of other tough environments you'll play in and tough situations so to put yourself in that situation early on is always a good experience."
Road trips are also important, especially in the preseason, because it's tough to practice a road atmosphere. "It's always good. You can't duplicate that in practice, and there's no tougher road game than playing in New Orleans," said Gaither. "It'll be a good test for us. It'll be a good barometer to see where we are."
"Yeah, it'll be good for the team," added Jennings. "First road-trip as this unit and it's always good to be away and all we've got is the Raiders going away. It'll be a different type of environment and it challenges us in a different kind of spirit. It's good to get that vibe this away game."
A loud crowd is an opportunity to practice specific situations. "It's going to be good to see how we work with the no-huddle and maybe the 2-minute possibly to work with our quarterbacks signals and get some chemistry down," said Session. "It's definitely going to be a hostile environment. I really want to see how I respond to it."
Heading into New Orleans, the Raiders want to win, but they also want to see improvement in all facets of the game. "It's always important to improve week to week," said Gaither. "You want to go into the season in a good stride."
The Raiders travel to New Orleans Thursday afternoon and take on the Saints Friday at 5:00 p.m. PT. Catch the game on KTVU FOX 2 and 102.1/98.5 KFOX. You can also follow along on Raiders.com, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.