A transcription of Raiders’ coach Tom Cable at his press briefing Tuesday:
Cable: We moved practice tomorrow to 9:30 am just because there’s too much time in the morning. We’ve got a meeting we want to hold to.
Q: Get accomplished what you wanted to?
Cable: Yep. We put some new things in on both sides of the ball and addressed some things in the kicking game and did about 40 reps of team. That’s about what we wanted to do each day and we’ll kind of continue with that same thing tomorrow and introduce a little bit of Pittsburgh to them and we’ll be done.
Q: Any chance of getting the injured players back this week?
Cable: Probably next week. We talked about that a little bit this morning and we’ll get a little better feel for it come Monday. The plan is that we should get a number of those guys that have been out a while back to work. The effect that has on the game, we won’t know for few days after that but we’ll get them back to work.
Q: McClain and Branch practiced today so they’re OK?
Q: How much do you put into Steelers game last night as opposed to their next game?
Cable: You want to know who they are and where you’re headed with your plan and then you’ll adjust it as we get into our gameweek with them. But right now the most important thing is to study them, know who they are and what are they presenting to us in terms of their scheme. Personnel will be more of an issue come Monday or Tuesday is regards to Pittsburgh. Right now, just identifying what they are scheme-wise.
Q: How much different are they from last year’s team?
Cable: They’re not, other than the fact that we didn’t play against Polamalu. That’s the biggest difference. He really is the straw that stirs them up. He’s everywhere pressure-wise and all the things, and they’re very similar, they come from everywhere. They certainly have a different mentality when he’s in the game.
Q: How good are Seymour and Kelly playing?
Cable: I think they’re playing at a very high level. I think collectively as a defense we’re improving but there are some reasons for that. I like our play on the line of scrimmage. It’s not just those two guys. Houston, Scott and Shaughnessy have added to it as well and Desmond Bryant. That group of six guys has elevated their game a tremendous amount. Tommy and Richard, there’s times when they’re unblockable. They’re really playing at a high level.
Q: Is bye coming at a bad time because of lost momentum?
Cable: I’m not so sure about that. We haven’t had a break at all. We went right from camp into Tennessee preparation, and most teams will take a day or two at that point and kind of recharge as you get ready for the season. We didn’t do that so this is a good time irregardless.
Q: The defense had a meeting a few weeks back that sounded along the lines of the `cut it loose’ meeting on offense and has played very well in recent weeks. What has been the difference?
Cable: I think it’s more everybody being able to be on the same page. When they talk about something or make a call or signal something to each other, we’ve got 11 guys knowing exactly what it means rather than a front guy knowing this and a DB knowing that and a linebacker knowing this. It’s more of a jelling effect, if you will. The biggest thing to me is we’re not doing a lot, we’re really not. We’re lining up and we’re playing and we’re saying, ‘Here we are, let’s fight.’ That has probably paid off more for us than anything else.
Q: So it’s keep it simple and let them play?
Cable: Let ‘em rip it.
Q: So much has been made of Raiders and minimal blitzing other than end of Chargers game . . .
Cable: If you look at us, and we’re doing self-scout this week, we’ve been very good and very efficient with our blitz game. We’re probably blitzing three times as much as we did last year. Are we going to be a blitz team all the time, someone like the Jets or Pittsburgh? No, we’re not. We’ve taken it to a whole new level and it’s been very very productive for us.
Q: You’re blitzing more and getting there more?
Cable: Yep. If you call a blitz and it ain’t getting there, what’s the sense in calling it? You could have done that playing Cover 3. But we’ve got people coming free, whether it’s been a safety or a ‘backer. The four down have gotten there on their own quite a bit. I think it’s added to that, it’s helped it.
Q: Pleased with success against the run overall, not just fact you are reducing the really long, long runs?
Cable: We’re finding the consistency, there’s no question. What’s helping us is, our tackle-for-loss numbers are up. We’re able to put people in second-and long, third-and-long, simply by making plays in the backfield. It bodes well toward eliminating the long run, obviously, because you’re tackling them on their side. But the fact that we stop the big play and we’re getting better at that is huge. But, when you really look at it, we’re getting more done on first and second down.
Q: Is Pittsburgh the most physical team you will have played so far this year?
Cable: I would think maybe but, at the same time, there’s been some real physical games. That one Sunday was a very physical game. We made the Seattle game a physical game. We made the Denver game a physical game. Ultimately, the reason we beat San Diego was making that a physical game. That’s who we’re becoming. Our opponents, I would say they’re going to be in the top group, certainly.
Q: The thinking is Kelly and Seymour help keep people off McClain, but does it work in reverse as well, does having McClain open things up for Kelly and Seymour?
Cable: Absolutely. One thing I would say to you, and the question was raised about Tommy and Richard’s play, we lose Rolando after the 20th play in the game. So, Ricky goes in there and plays 42 plays, whatever it was, and it doesn’t hurt us. So, that shows you they’re playing well. The flip side of that, when Rolando’s in there, you have to get out of combinations quicker, being a line coach. You can’t let 55 just run free in there. He’ll kill you. So, you’ve got to, instead of getting double longer at center, you got to get off that and get on 55. So, we’re creating, he’s creating, more singles for those two tackles inside. So, it’s worked both ways.
Q: How are you going to decide who the quarterback is? Hue involved? Al Davis involved?
Cable: No, I’ll do it. I’ll do it. I’ll sit down with those guys, One thing about it, I’m always in communication with them, so they know how I’m feeling, what’s going on. There’s no need for that other stuff.
Q: What’s your philosophy about a player returning from injury? Get his job back?
Cable: A lot of this is premature because he has not done enough or shown enough. I keep using this statement, can he do everything that we need him to do? So, in all fairness to him, I want to get him healthy before he really becomes a part of this conversation. At the same time, he’s getting closer. That brings up, what’s going to happen. Right now, my feeling is, we’ve won four of the last five games with the same guy. When you’re winning, you’re winning. You don’t mess with that.
Q: Were you aware of McFadden being so physical? New to his arsenal?
Cable: No, this was something that was in him. Regardless of that, that’s all on Kelly. Kelly Skipper was a fine running back himself. What he’s done is taking Darren back to what he’s best at, running behind his pads. If you notice the first couple years in the league, he kind of got that deal about him where everybody said he runs high, he’s going to take a lot of hits, a little bit like Justin Fargas used to do. As a coach, you look at that and you hear those kind of things and you start studying it, and it’s true. He doesn’t break as many tackles when he’s running high, doesn’t bring the force to break those tackles when he’s running high and his hips aren’t low enough to the ground to make people miss. People would say, well, Darren McFadden gets knocked down easy. It’s an arm tackle, you can get him on the ground. This year, it’s different. That’s just Kelly and his ability to get him to understand, hips lower, your shoulder pads down, you can do all those things you used to do. And he’s kind of gotten back to who he should be.
Q: Do you chart how often he is making yards after contact?
Cable: We do look at that, yards after contact. And that’s a big deal for anyone who touches the ball. And certainly backs are going to have more yards after contact than anyone else on the team. But there’s some great examples just from Sunday, where he hit the safety a couple of times, whether it was catching the ball and running with it or running after a hand-off, where he’s knocking a guy back 2 or 3 yards. It’s been that way pretty much all year.
Q: How do you account for so much success on third-down plays defensively past three games?
Cable: There’s a direct correlation to that and how well we’re playing on first and second down. It’s tough in this league. We always say ‘staying on schedule.’ If you can get the game to third-and-medium, you have a pretty fair chance to have a lot of extended drives. When we look at those breakdowns, we’re getting people into third-and-7s plus. It’s just a direct reflection on what’s going on in first and second down and then, obviously, we can cover well and rush the passer. Those two things are coming through for us on third down. OK? Thank you.