Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders concluded their final week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) Thursday afternoon. The Silver and Black will hold Mandatory Mini-Camp June 17-19 to wrap up the offseason program. The players and coaches will then reconvene at the end of July for Training Camp 2014.
Head Coach Dennis Allen and his staff used OTAs as an opportunity to begin to define the identity of the 2014 Raiders. Some of that development was noticed on the offensive line. “Any time you have as much turnover as we’ve had, I think the exciting part is trying to figure out exactly what that identity is going to be,” said Coach Allen. “I think we have a core set of values of what we want to be able to do and how we want to be able to attack people offensively. Now it’s about breaking it down to the minute details and really being precise in what we’re doing, not only offensively, but defensively and in the kicking game as well.”
Over three weeks of OTAs – nine practice sessions – Coach Allen has seen the offensive line progress. “I like where we’re at. I like the versatility; I like the depth,” he said. “It’s all about using this time in OTAs, mini-camp coming up next week and then when we get into training camp, meshing together as a unit. The one thing that we didn’t have an opportunity to do a lot of last year was get the same five guys working together and I think that’s important, especially at that position because all five guys at that position, the offensive line, really have to work as one. I’ve been pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish offensive line wise and I like where we’re at.”
The defense has also been working on their cohesion, which ultimately comes down to communication. “I think when you play this game long enough, you start to realize that the communication is a very important part of it,” said S Tyvon Branch. “When you have guys that have had a lot of success in this league, they know what it takes to win and communication is a big part of it.”
Branch has seen improvements on the defense with the addition of proven winners. “Talent wise, there’s a lot of winners on our defense; a lot of guys that have had a lot of success,” said Branch. “Guys like [Justin] Tuck and [LaMarr] Woodley. There’s a lot of great defensive players out there, so one of the most talented defenses [I’ve been on], I can definitely say that.”
The Raiders 2014 draft picks have been developing throughout OTAs as well, particularly the top three selections. Veteran T Donald Penn has been watching 1st round pick LB Khalil Mack and is very impressed with the young linebacker. “I see is in between all the drills, I see him picking at Tuck’s ear all the time, getting advice. Khalil is a special athlete,” said Penn. “I can tell by watching some of his movements, and the way that he can put his foots in the ground and change direction, for him to be doing that as a defensive end, he looks like he’s a defensive back. For a guy that size to be doing that, I think he’s going to get a lot of sacks late in the down because he has a motor on him that’s relentless. As a tackle that’s tough. You have to stay on him. You have to stay on him until you hear the whistle blow or until you hear the crowd cheering and he’s going to be relentless.”
Second round pick QB Derek Carr has made strides throughout the three weeks. “Well, I think he’s had significant improvement,” said Coach Allen on QB Derek Carr. “From a reps standpoint, he probably hasn’t got as many reps as the other guys, but again, like I said before, he’s very smart. He’s a highly intelligent guy. He comes out here and he works every day and that’s to be expected. That’s one of the reasons why we took the player, because we liked the player, we like his skill set and we like his mindset.”
And G Gabe Jackson, selected in the 3rd round, has made an impression on the head coach as well. “I’ve liked what I’ve seen on the practice field,” said Coach Allen. “The things I like about Gabe, I think he’s a good athlete for a player of his size and I think he’s got very good power, and he’s a lot better pass protector than people might think. I’ve been impressed with him. I’m pleased with his progress and he’s got to continue to work.”
The Raiders got better during OTAs, but they still have a lot of work to do. They will have one more opportunity to work together as a full squad before substantial time off before training camp.
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