By Steve Corkran
Thursday, September 8th, 2011 at 10:38 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Thursday brought about a more forthcoming coach Hue Jackson, even if he stopped shy of answering all the questions that remain on people’s minds four days before the regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos.
We did manage to coax out of Jackson that wide receiver Derek Hagan isn’t the No. 7 receiver on the team and that he was omitted from the team’s depth chart by accident.
He also admitted that the Raiders worked out linebacker Tully Banta-Cain today. No contract offer was made.
Finally, Jackson said he has heard all the rumblings coming out of Denver from players who are talking about exacting revenge for last year’s double butt-whipping by the Raiders.
More on that one later.
Jackson refused to say who his starting wide receivers are going to be, whether Nick Miller is going to return punts or anything else along those lines.
“No, I’m not going to do that,” Jackson said. “I don’t have to do that yet.”
*Not sure what Jackson is referring to, but he is under the impression that the Broncos are popping off about how badly they got beat by the Raiders twice last season and are out for revenge.
From what I’ve read, there hasn’t been anything out of line, just players saying they have watched the tape and know that they have their hands full Monday night.
Yet, Jackson is taking it in a differen light.
“Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of things they’ve said,” Jackson said. “Tell them to keep talking. It’s cool. They’ve said a lot of stuff. It’s all good. Those two wins don’t make much difference. Somebody’s saying a lot of things over there about a couple of things. I won’t get into it right now.”
Again, I have pored over just about everything coming out of Denver and can’t find anything inflammatory. More than likely, it’s just a coach finding ways to motivate his players before a big game.
“I’m worried about my football team getting ready and being ready to play on Monday night,” Jackson said. “I’m not going to get into last year. Last year is last year. I do keep my ears open, my ear to the ground, I hear all the things that are being said. One thing I do know about the Raiders, we will show up. I promise you that.”
As far as we know, the Broncos will be there, too, and no one will be thinkin about what happened last year. Just another example of the exhibition season being way too long.
*With starting wide receiver Kevin Boss still unable to return from the knee injury he suffered against the 49ers on Aug. 20, it’s looking more and more like Brandon Myers will start against the Broncos.
Safe to say, Jackson feels much better about that prospect than he might have one month ago.
“He’s really come on,” Jackson said of Myers. “Started off, like a lot of our players did, all of a sudden, here we go training camp. He started off a little slow but he’s really coming on like gangbusters lately. He’s playing really good for us right now.”
Myers said he just needed some time to get back into the swing of things. And, now, everything is second nature.
“Yeah. It’s just getting comfortable with everything,” Myers said. “We were out of football for a while. As much as you want to do on your own, it still kind of takes time to get back in the swing of things. I just feel like my play has been consistent. That’s one of the main things I try to be is consistent. That’s what every football player tries to do. So, I just go out there every day and try to do that.”
*One of the more intriguing matchups in Monday’s game will be Raiders left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer against Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil.
Veldheer stands 6-feet-8 and goes 315 pounds. Dumervil is one of the shorter ends in the league at 5-11 and 260.
What’s more, Dumervil missed last season, so he and Veldheer are facing each other for the first time.
“Any matchup presents someone has a strength here, someone has a strength there,” Veldheer said. “I have to work on, obviously, playing lower than 6-foot-8 this week. It’s just one of the things you need to work on in the week of practice and preparation.”
The key, according to Jackson, is for Veldheer to get down on Dumervil’s level and not play so erect.
“Gotta play low,” Jackson said. “You got to take your 6-8 and make yourself 6-foot. Our guy has length and girth and, obviously, this guy is not as tall but a very, very good accomplished football player. He understands how to play, whether they’re tall, little, whatever. Dumervill’s good at what he does. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Veldheer felt as if he got pushed around a tad too much last season. As a result, he worked harder than ever during the offseason and tacked on 20 pounds of muscle.
Also, Veldheer always seems to be the last player on the field after practice and the last one out of the weight room. On Wednesday night, he arrived in the locker room drenched in sweat after a strenuous post-practice workout. Many players already had dressed and headed out by that time.
It’s all part of a work ethic Veldheer developed in high school, when he typically got overlooked as a big-time prospect.
“Coming from a small school, I’ve always felt like I needed to work hard to achieve what I wanted to,” Veldheer said. “When I got into college, I was real undersized, which was one of the reasons I ended up at a Division II school (Hillsdale College). I bought into the program and worked as hard as I could, and tremendous success followed. Just stick with that. I feel like the harder I work, it will put me in the best position possible in terms of success.”
*Some might think that rookies such as Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore have no idea what they’re about to face when they play on the road, before a national TV audience, in their first NFL regular-season game.
Moore dismisses such talk, saying the exposure he received from playing in the high-profile SEC at Tennessee prepared him for high-profile games in rowdy venues.
“I don’t think it should be any worse because, either way, when I’m at away games or home games, I pretty much don’t pay attention to the crowd,” Moore said. “I just stay focused on the football game.”
Just the same, Moore said, there will be a certain amount of nerves that he and the seven other rookies have to overcome Monday night.
“The butterflies will always be there, but it’s something I can’t let get to me,” Moore said. “I just got to stay focused on football.”
*Denver’s other defensive end, rookie Von Miller, presents quite a matchup difficulty, as well, according to Jackson and several Raiders.
Raiders right offensive tackle Khalif Barnes draws the assignment of blocking Miller in Miller’s first NFL regular-season game.
“Yeah, I watched a tape on him,” Barnes said. “They don’t have a whole lot (of tape) -– the preseason, and this is their first game. But I got a chance to check the defense out for a minute. (Miller and Dumervil) look like they have juice coming off the edge. Me and Jared are going to have to be on our game that night. Away, crowd noise, all that good stuff. So we have to take our proper footwork, proper sets. We have to get those guys covered up.”
Jackson already holds Miller in high regard, just from what he has seen of Miller in Denver’s exhibition games.
“He can run,” Jackson said. “He’s really good at rushing the passer. Great lean and dip, he will put pressure on people. He knows how to do it. That’s exciting, I’m sure, for their football team, and something we have to combat. But, again, he’s like most of the great pass rushers in this league. He knows how to get to the quarterback.”
Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said the key to beating the Raiders is getting the Raiders in obvious passing situations so that Dumervil and Miller can turn it loose.
“When you have two guys coming off opposite edges, it’s hard for the offense to stop both of them,” Allen said. “They have to keep a tight end in or chip on the other, but when you’ve got rushers on both sides, it makes it harder on the offense and limits some of the things they’re able to do. We’re excited about that but, again, we’re not going to get a chance to rush the passer if we don’t stop the run, so that’s the first thing we have to get done.”
*Jackson was half the decision-making process when it came to benching quarterback Jason Campbell at halftime of Oakland’s second game last season.
Fast forward to today, when Jackson said he has total confidence in Campbell entering the season-opener. For example, Campbell has the latitude to audible at any time he sees fit.
“Oh, yeah,” Jackson said. “We’re about staying in positive plays and getting out of negative plays. He understands what I expect and what we’re trying to accomplish. He’s doing a good job of that.
It’s to the point, where he and Campbell are in synch with what the Raiders are trying to get done offensively.
“We’re totally (in synch),” Jackson said. “We’re aligned at the hip. We all are on offense. We have to be. It stems from me, down to our coaches, down to our players. I feel very comfortable about where we are.”
*The Raiders have seven wide receivers on their roster. For whatever reason, Hagan is the only one not listed.
Naturally, that comes across as curious, given Hagan was Oakland’s most-productive receiver in the exhibition season.
Jackson has an explanation.
“I probably didn’t get around to it,” Jackson said. “I probably was tired. I was up late last night and just forgot to write his name in. There’s no doubt. Derek Hagan is a good player and a contributing player on this football team.”
*The players voted on the captains for this year’s team. They are: running back Darren McFadden, quarterback Jason Campbell, running back Rock Cartwright, punter Shane Lechler and defensive tackle Richard Seymour.
“I’m excited about the men that they picked,” Jackson said. “They are guys who exemplify exactly what a Raider is and what a Raider should be. Like I told them, I kind of pass the baton to them. This is their football team. I just get to be the conductor. They got to go lead this team to where we want to take this football team and this organization.”
*Here’s what Seymour has to say about Banta-Cain, one of Seymour’s teammates with the New England Patriots.
“I remember he was extremely fast off the edge,” Seymour said. “He’s a pass-rushing guy. He doesn’t want to be in coverage. I know he was a good rusher and I hadn’t seen him in awhile. But that was three years ago. So, who knows?”
*Add Darrius Heyward-Bey to the list of players who lays claim to being the fastest Raider.
He follows running back Taiwan Jones and Jacoby Ford in proclaiming themselves the fastest. As Heyward-Bey said, though, we’ll likely never know because it’s too risky for the sizable group of players vying for the unofficial title to conduct a race.
Heyward-Bey said he and the other fast guys on the team always talk about how things might shake down if they were to assemble a 4 x 100 team.
“They all say they want me to” run the anchor leg, Heyward-Bey said. “I’m more comfortable running the second leg. That’s the fastest guy, runs the second leg. I’m a track guy, I know.”
*Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl