Raiders defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan took center stage Tuesday, speaking for the first time since he was hired to replace John Marshall and bring back “an attitude” to the Raiders defense.
Bresnahan refused to tip his hand on the changes in store for a Raiders defense that ranked high in yards allowed passing, yet finished last in touchdown passes allowed last season, and contained divisional opponents against the run but struggled against non-divisional opponents.
He did issue one promise:
“You’ll see,” Bresnahan said, when asked if we can expect to see a heavy dose of man-to-man coverage once again. “You’ll be excited when you see. You’ll be excited.”
The first look at Bresnahan’s defense comes Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals at the Coliseum in the teams’ exhibition opener.
It won’t be until after that game that Bresnahan passes judgmen about any of his players on a defense that returns 10 of 11 starters — cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is the only one not back.
“I don’t want to be evasive,” Bresnahan said, “but having not seen a preseason game yet, against somebody different, I really don’t want to say anything yet. I want to sit back and see how we react to something different before I make any evaluations on who stands out.”
The Raiders defenses under Bresnahan from 2000-03 experienced some success against the run, including a third-ranked unit in their Super Bowl season (2002).
That’s the kind of success Bresnahan envisions this Raiders team having this season, he said.
“It starts with an attitude,” Bresnahan said. “It starts right at the beginning of the year. Most teams have goals or objectives. We do it a little bit differently here, but along the line, within those series of objectives and goals, stopping the run is very high. Again, it’s an attitude that we build from the beginning. I’m excited to see us defend the run.”
Middle linebacker Rolando McClain is one of the primary players Bresnahan is counting upon to hold the other players accountable to a higher level of play.
“I’ve told Rolando, he’s going to say what I think,” Bresnahan said. “That’s how close we’re going to be. And Greg Biekert will be involved with that, as well. We’ve got a series of leaders that we’ve picked out on defense and that’s within our group, our unit. We keep that within our unit. They’re the ones that are taking this defense where it needs to go. It’s not just put on one man’s shoulders. Rolando is our Mike, he’s our signal caller, but we got a series of veterans in there that we’re putting the whole responsibility of getting however many guys we have on the final roster following in and pulling that rope in the right direction.”
*Rookie tight end David Ausberry did the unthinkable in practice Tuesday by outshining rookie wide receiver Denarius Moore.
Ausberry got behind two defenders on a seam route early in practice, threw up his right hand on a high pass and made a one-handed catch before rambling into the end zone.
He topped himself with a nice leaping catch of a well-thrown pass from Trent Edwards, with safety Stevie Brown defenseless as Ausberry landed inbounds for a touchdown.
*That isn’t to say that Moore took the day off. Quite the contrary.
Once again, Moore piled on another impressive practice as he continues his quest to go from fifth-round draft pick to instant impact player.
Moore worked free from press coverage by rookie cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke on one play before hauling in a pass for a first down. He added an over-the-shoulder catch of a pass from Jason Campbell for a touchdown against cornerback Sterling Moore.
Those two plays overshadowed a drop by Moore on a quick out, with Moore as the hot read against the blitz.
*Receiver Damola Adeniji had the most productive day of all receivers. He caught four passes, including two in heavy traffic over the middle and one that hit off a teammate’s hands and went off the hands of cornerback Chris Johnson.
*Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey made it through a second straight practice without any apparent lingering effects from the undisclosed injury that limited his participation the first nine practices.
He’s going to need to make the most of this training camp because, as Jackson said, “It’s time” for Heyward-Bey to produce at a higher level than he did in either of his first two NFL seasons.
“I have coached the position to know that position very well,” Jackson said. “When a guy’s drafted in the first round, we all want to see instant numbers right away and sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes that takes time. And I take responsibility in some games where he didn’t (get many catches). Sometimes, you have to do things to get guys the ball.”
Heyward-Bey will get his opportunities this season, Jackson said. Now it’s time for him to do more than run decoy routes, block downfield and catch an occasional pass.
“I saw last year as a huge improvement with him,” Jackson said, “and he’s hit the ground running right now and doing a great job. But again, it’s about performance in the game. And that’s what I talk to him about more so than anything. He now needs to go make those plays in the game. And will he make some SportsCenter plays this year? There’s no question in my mind he will. It’s time.”
*It’s evident that the Raiders are in game mode. On Tuesday, they worked extensively on things such as the no-huddle offense, picking up double-teams, etc.
On Thursday, the Raiders will conduct a mock game so that they can iron out some details and make sure that they are prepared for the Cardinals later that night.
*Bresnahan revealed that the Raiders signed former linebacker Ricky Hunley as an assistant to linebackers coach Greg Biekert. The Raiders never announced Hunley’s hiring, and Hunley isn’t listed on the coaches page on Raiders website
*Rookie center Stefen Wisniewski spent considerable time after practice working on the quarterback-center exchange with backup quarterback Kyle Boller.
It remains unclear whether Wisniewski or Samson Satele will start at center against the Cardinals. Wisniewski played center and guard Tuesday, and he likely will do the same against the Cardinals.
“I’m happy to help out wherever the team might need me, whether guard, or center, wherever,” Wisniewski said. “They told us the same thing. Whoever the best five are, we’ll move them around and make it work.”
Playing right guard comes naturally to Wisniewski. Moving to the left side presents a bit of a challenge, he said.
“It’s a little tricky because I was a right guard,” Wisniewski said. “At left guard, everything is a little different. But center, I’ve been working all offseason at center, so I feel pretty good there.”
*Jackson has not determined how long his starters are going to play against the Cardinals. He said it’s safe to assume that the 15 players who missed practice Tuesday won’t play against Arizona. Receiver/punt returner Nick Miller was a new addition to the ever-burgeoning list.
*The Raiders schedule is littered with opponents who play the 3-4 alignment as their base scheme. The Cardinals favor that alignment, as well. Seeing that alignment should help the Raiders prepare for what lies ahead in the regular season.
*The Raiders rosterf features many of the same players who were onthe 53-man roster last season, when they went 8-8. The way they play this season won’t bear much of a resemblance, though, Jackson said.
*Running back Michael Bush looked even better Tuesday than he did Monday, when he exploded on the scene in his first full practice.
“He looks awesome to me because he’s in shape,” Jackson said. “Not that he wasn’t a year ago, he just looks lean to me, he looks quicker, he looks faster, and he still has that explosion. He’s still come down hill on you and put that right elbow on you. So I’m excited to watch him play because he is one of the better players on our team and when he’s carried the ball for us he’s done some marvelous things.”
Bush said it doesn’t take much to motivate him.
“You just got to want to do good,” Bush said. “You just don;t want to come out here and have you guys kill me in the media, so you’ve got to stay in shape and also let your team know that you’ve been working, even though you’ve been sitting out. When it’s time to come and play, we all got to have one common goal, and that’s to win games or get to the championship or the playoffs. So, you’ve got to let them know your ready, too.”