QB Carson Palmer hands the ball off to RB Darren McFadden. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders took the field for the second day of Organized Team Activities (OTAs). These were the first set of practices to include the rookies and the veterans and gave the players an opportunity to work on plays and chemistry on the field. "I've liked our effort," said Head Coach Dennis Allen. "I think our guys are flying around, they're working hard. What we preach is to get a little better every day which is what they're doing, so I am pleased with the guys' effort."
"It's just the second OTA, but just a really good chance for us to come out and work on all of the little things we've been working on in practice and the meetings and the playbooks," said QB Carson Palmer. "Just a chance to really get on the field and run around and make some plays."
Palmer continues to be excited about working with RB Darren McFadden, who was injured during in the same game in which Palmer debuted. "He caught a screen today and did something that probably not anybody else in the league can do," said Palmer. "You can't watch him, in my position [as quarterback]. You've got to go through your possession, your footwork, your hand placements, and then do the bootlegs and not turn around to see what he does. That's the hardest thing for me right now, is you want to watch him because he's so electrifying and he can do so many different things. It's been great to work with him."
McFadden has moved past his injury and is excited to be back out with his teammates, running full speed. "I'm going out there playing like it never happened," said McFadden. "I'm not going to worry about it. My thing is just go out there and play hard. I can't control the things that happen when you get tackled; I just go out there and play hard every play."
In addition to working with McFadden and the veteran receivers, Palmer was particularly impressed with the Raiders fifth round draft pick out of Arizona, WR Juron Criner. "Made a couple great catches," said Palmer. "I think he proved that if you give him a chance, he'll go up and get it. So he's an exciting young guy. It makes other guys at the same position realize that there's going to be a lot of competition there. So the thing he has to do is continue that and carry that through the rest of these OTAs."
Criner impressed the veterans and the coaches during practice. "I think every day he gets a little bit better," said Coach Allen. "He's learning more what to do, so I was pleased with the way he practiced today. It's not a whole lot different than what we saw on him on tape in college. So that's what we expect out of him."
Criner was confident after the second day of OTAs and wants to have the same success every practice with the Silver and Black. "I feel like it was a good practice, but that sets the tone for how I need to practice the rest of the time here, years to come," said Criner.
Palmer emphasized to Criner the importance of not being content with one good practice, but using it as a standard set for every practice. "That right there sets the standards," said Criner. "You expect nothing less from yourself, and [Carson Palmer] was just telling me if you go a practice without making a play, you should be mad at yourself because you expect to do that day in and day out."
Criner is taking full advantage of his time with Palmer and listening to his advice. "He's just been bringing me along," explained Criner. "You know he's been around for awhile, he's seen plenty of young players that show up and think they arrive and then they start to fade out. He was telling me that I need to have that consistency, day in and day out."
Veteran DT Tommy Kelly sees potential in a few of the other Raiders rookies, draft picks DT Christo Bilukidi and DE Jack Crawford. "They're big and raw. They're young boys," said Kelly. "The more they play, the more they'll pick it up. I was trying to tell them today just put your hands on somebody. You're 6'5", 6'6", 320-something pounds. Might as well use it. It looks like they have the tools to play on this level."
The team was encouraged by the fact that it was a seemingly penalty-free practice. "The good thing is there wasn't a lot of false starts and silly penalties, and that's something that coach came in on the first day and really harped on," said Palmer. "We're not going to beat ourselves; we're not going to give up the yardage that we've given up in the past. It's good to see that we're changing up snap counts and doing different looks and formations. Penalty-free day and that's always good, but a lot of football to go, a lot of OTAs left and a lot of work to do."
Coach Allen has a lot he wants to accomplish during OTAs with the overall goal of getting better each day. "I'm looking for guys that know what to do, they know how to do it, how we're coaching them to do it, and they can execute it under pressure," said Coach Allen. "So our guys are doing a good job, they're working hard to try to get better. That's really, at the end of the day, that's what we're focused on.