The Oakland Raiders continued their preparations for this Sunday's 2015 regular season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals with a Thursday practice at their Alameda, Calif., facility. Over the past few days the practices have taken on a much different look at field compared to mini-camps, Organized Team Activities (OTAs), and training camp.
According to both the offensive and defensive coordinators, it's all about the ramp up, all about accelerating to regular season game speed and the run up to the season opener.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, whose offense could potentially run at numerous tempos, said that it's about being ready to go at "tourney time."
"Everyone is ramping up and kind of peaking for tourney time. There are a number of different speeds I think in the National Football League. You have your preseason speed, regular season speed, playoff speed and then Super Bowl speed," Coach Musgrave said. "Our rookies will be exposed to a new element of physicality and quickness and reaction time when we get to Sunday versus Cincinnati. We're all just ramping up and trying to peak at tourney time."
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., echoed his colleague and said that these regular season practices are all about the run up to this Sunday.
"It's just a matter of the mindset. I think anytime you get closer to game time, high performance, you can feel a little difference from the players and the coaches. But for us being a new group, a new system, new coaches, it's a matter of just growing. You can tell that we've gotten closer," Coach Norton. "The team has gotten better. Everybody understands exactly what everybody needs. We've gone from the point where we are new to now we understand. Now we're really starting to really fire on all pistons and guys are really moving around pretty fast. A lot faster than it was before."
Photos of Thursday's practice at the Raiders Performance Center.
Starting right tackle Austin Howard said that the emphasis changed when the 53-man roster was selected and announced.
"It's always been about business since day one, if that was OTAs, training camp, whatever. We have a mission this year and that's to win games, win the division and make the playoffs, that's goal number one. It's always been serious, it's always been business oriented," Howard said. "The major difference is the fact we have 53 guys, this is our team, it's about taking ownership and responsibility for what this team does."
He also added that game-planning for the Bengals has taken the practices to a different level.
"Right now is when you get down to business, game-planning, you focus on certain players you're going against, Howard said "You get prepared and the coaches are doing a great of job of getting us prepared."
Same as yesterday – Defensive end Benson Mayowa did not participate (knee); tight end Clive Walford (knee), defensive end Justin Tuck (calf) and wide receiver Andre Holmes (hand) were full participants.
Quick Hits from the Practice Field
It was Turnover Thursday and the emphasis was just that for the defense – forcing turnovers. The defensive coaches encouraged the players to strip the ball with power during the drills, focusing on making as much contact with the ball as possible when chasing QBs.
The defensive line tip drill was fun to watch as one lineman would rush forward, bat a ball in the air as the next player in line was made to wait until the tap to be able to move simulating the reaction time needed in a live game situation.
The quarterbacks practiced throwing balls up to wide receivers in the end zone today. Andre Holmes and Brice Butler made a few spectacular leaping grabs, and as always, Amari Cooper looked silky smooth. https://vine.co/v/etL0KemMdue
Song of the Day
Rae Sremmurd's debut single, 2014's No Flex Zone, which was played during the stretching period, is today's Song of the Day. The song is from the duo's debut album SremmLife. Actor/comedian Mike Epps appears in the video. I must admit, I never heard of this act before today and I quite enjoyed the song.