Head Coach Jack Del Rio described the NFL season like climbing a mountain.
It can't be conquered in one day, one practice, or even one week, but the hope that is each day, practice, and game is just a little better than the one previous.
Training camp is the perfect place to cultivate that improvement, and for Assistant Head Coach – Defense John Pagano, one area that he wants to see improvement is the communication by the defense.
Pagano was hired in January, and in his new role he's been working primarily with the secondary, helping assist in shoring up the communication on the defensive side of the football. Now with one preseason game in the books, and another on the horizon Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams, Pagano has had a chance to see the defense in action in a game setting; his assessment so far? It's a work in progress.
"You're going to have ups and downs with it, those sorts of things, but other than that, it's always a work in progress," said of the team's communication. "It's never going to be perfect, but it's one those things we have to keep improving. Have we seen progress? Yes. I wasn't here last year, so all I can go off of is what I hear, but how we're improving each day, that's the most important thing."
Headed into 2017, Del Rio stressed the importance of limiting "explosive" plays, and while communication isn't the be all end all in limiting that number, having all 11 guys keenly aware of what their respective responsibilities are is a good place to start.
Pagano believes that one of the things that's key to that cohesion and trust is having all the players – and coaches – talking the same language, or as he calls it "Raider Talk."
"Don't go out of the realm and start talking some other language that nobody quite understands what you're saying," Pagano explained. "I think that's the most important thing, that we're saying exactly the same things, and it starts – like I said in the spring – it starts with us as coaches, that we're all the saying the same things so when it happens, the guys can react and play fast."
And while that communication certainly starts in the classroom, it permeates everything that Pagano and Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., want to see from the unit.
"How does a player communicate to a coach on the sideline about what happened, and them being specific about how we talk about routes, how we call certain things," Pagano said. "It's not just getting the call, and getting lined up, it's a multiple of things that you have to be able to do, and they're growing every day with it."
The Silver and Black will play their next preseason game Saturday night at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and in that clash with the Rams, Pagano is looking to see one thing; improvement.
"Can our communication be better? Yes," he said. "It has to still improve, and we're working on those things every day, and as long as we get all 11 out there on the same page, that's the most important thing."
-Before anyone asks; no, rookie cornerback Gareon Conley didn't practice Thursday. He was once again on the sideline, watching practice as a spectator.
-We know that Jamize Olawale is not your typical fullback. Since joining the Raiders he's shown time and time again that he can make plays when given the opportunity, and that's precisely what he did today. Olawale not only beat a cornerback to the edge, much to the delight of his offensive teammates, but later in the day he also hauled in a gorgeous sideline pass from Derek Carr. Make no mistake about it, Olawale is a playmaker, and I'm excited to see how Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing utilizes him in 2017.
-Punter Marquette King is always working on his game, and not just the kicking aspect of it. During Wednesday's practice, No. 7 spent some time catching tennis balls shot out of a machine, working on his hand-eye coordination.
-Cornerback TJ Carrie has enjoyed a strong Training Camp 2017, and he nearly came down with another interception during Wednesday's session, getting oh so close to securing an errant tipped pass during a seven-on-seven session.
-Cornerback Breon Borders made life difficult for kicker Sebastian Janikowski today, sticking up a mitt, and getting a hand on the veteran kicker's field goal attempt.
-The play of the day belonged to linebacker Nicholas Morrow who made an athletic dive for a tipped pass that he secured for an impressive interception during one of the final periods of the afternoon.
Song Of The Day:
Broccoli – D.R.A.M. Feat. Lil Yachty
Catchy; I like this song.
"He's been a great story for us. He's a tough kid. He's a determined kid. He's been cut before and he's determined not to be released again. Right now he's our No. 3 center and we'll move him over to guard next week and let him play a little left guard and create some versatility for him and give him an opportunity to make our football team."
-Offensive Line Coach Mike Tice discussing the play of offensive lineman Ian Silberman.
Tweet Of The Day: