Raiders.com Senior Editor Jerry Knaak chats with USA Today NFL writer Tom Pelissero. Photo by Tony Gonzales/Raiders.com.
Over the weekend, USA Today NFL writer Tom Pelissero visited Oakland Raiders Training Camp 2015 in Napa, Calif., as part of his newspaper's annual NFL training camp coverage. Raiders.com Senior Editor Jerry Knaak spoke with Pelissero at length about his take on the Silver and Black.
Jerry Knaak**: What's the buzz about the Raiders? Before you got here, what were some of the things you were thinking about, some of the storyline you wanted to pursue?
Tom Pelissero: You're trying to push the right buttons and steer the thing in the right direction. In talking to scouts around the league, the buzz on the rookie class from last year has been very positive. [General Manager] Reggie McKenzie had some things fall into his lap. As I understand [linebacker] Khalil Mack was the number one player on their board regardless, he sits there, they take him at five. You bring in [quarterback] Derek Carr who I think showed a lot of positive signs and certainly was ahead of where I thought he would be coming from that quick-strike borderline gimmicky Fresno State offense. You have positive signs on him. You've got some coaches I know here now on the offensive side of the ball. [Offensive Coordinator] Bill Musgrave, who I covered up in Minnesota, is a really smart guy; he's definitely an intellectual. You look back at that 2012 Vikings team, Adrian Peterson runs for 2,000 yards and wins the MVP, he had the most phenomenal season I have ever seen, but on a weekly basis you knew defenses would be gearing up to stop him. Bill Musgrave, along with the offensive line coach, would constantly come up with plans to be able to put them in position to succeed. Musgrave was a quarterback by trade, Todd Downing another former Vikings assistant who is the quarterbacks coach, you have Mike Tice here who is the offensive line coach who used to be up in Minnesota. Those guys all bring different personalities to the table but also a wealth of experience and I am interested to see how Derek is able to come along under Bill Musgrave.
"Derek Carr...I think showed a lot of positive signs and certainly was ahead of where I thought he would be coming from that quick-strike borderline gimmicky Fresno State offense." - Tom Pelissero, USA Today
JK: Derek Carr says they're going to do everything, they can do anything, they can do any formation, any personnel grouping, they can go up-tempo or they can go I-formation and run it down your throat…
TP: Derek coming out of an offense where he was heavily in the shotgun in college, you would certainly think he is equipped to run that sort of thing, we'll see what kind of quarterback he can become. I think there has been an emphasis on guys who can extend plays with their feet, they're athletic, they're not strict pocket passers. Certainly Derek's athletic skill set can potentially translate well. And Musgrave, if you look at the history of how he's called the games, he's certainly adapted to the sort of personnel that he has. He likes his bootlegs, he likes to play the pass game off the run game. You look at the weapons that Derek Carr has around him, [wide receiver] Amari Cooper being a big part of them, I would always say when you've got a guy who can play in the slot like Cooper can, that can be more quarterback-friendly than the guy who is going to do all his damage on the perimeter because there are more ways to get him the football. You do need to have an effective running game. The investment they have made in the offensive line in trying to get that right. Rodney Hudson…there is certainly a lot of expectations that are put on to him to not only solidify the interior of that line, but the center is a hugely important guy for the overall function of the offense, the communication with the quarterback, the line calls, a lot of that comes from that position.
"I would always say when you've got a guy who can play in the slot like Cooper can, that can be more quarterback-friendly than the guy who is going to do all his damage on the perimeter." - Tom Pelissero, USA Today
JK: What are your initial training camp thoughts?
TP: I do remember this, last year with Dennis Allen, I remember being at a practice up here and it was not particularly crisp. I want to see a team that can get in and out of the huddle and I want to see a practice that looks like it's functional because guys have been able to absorb what they need to do. Last year I remember there were some lulls that I found peculiar and four weeks into the season when they were 0-4, I thought back to that. Now you look at this team, clearly there is a lot of energy here, you got the music playing, you've got the fans out, the Raiders have fantastic fans, you hope the vibe is going to be there. It's a learning process. It's very difficult to come out and just win in your first season because guys are still thinking about everything offensively and defensively. You hope that you have the sorts of communicators in Bill Musgrave and [Defensive Coordinator] Ken Norton [Jr.,] who is coming over here and running a proven scheme. You've just got to be able to hope that you're able to figure out now where those parts have to be and the players are able to get up to speed quickly enough that they can practice at a fast pace and not constantly having to be slowing it down and figure out what they're supposed to be doing out there.