By Steve Corkran
Monday, September 26th, 2011 at 3:38 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Raiders coach Hue Jackson is big on catchphrases, slogans and brash talk. He also spreads his message through signs posted around the facility, including in the locker room.
Yet, he realizes that none of it resonates with the players unless they see their hard word and dedication manifest itself in victories on the field.
To that end, Sunday’s convincing 34-24 victory over the New York Jets counts as more than one tick in the win column. It’s one of those victories that transcends the standings.
“That’s what validates it all,” Jackson said. “That’s where your credibility comes from, when the things you talk about and the things that you stress start to show up in games and start to show up on video. Once upon a time, I am sure players liked to do it their way, what they thought was the best way.
“And now we’re doing it the way that coach Jackson sees it, and it’s getting to be fun. Because I truly believe it gives them a chance to have success. And they have to see that. They have to see the realism in that, and they are.”
The Raiders beat a team that played in the AFC Championship Game each of the past two seasons. Now it’s on to a Patriots team that went 14-2 last season and is in the midst of a sustained run of excellence over the past decade or so.
Some teams might complain about playing the Jets and Patriots in back-to-back games. Not Jackson. He embraces the challenge and is eager to see how his players respond.
“This team has the best quarterback in football, they have the best coach, they’ve been the Super Bowl champion,” Jackson said of the Patriots. “It’s going to be tremendous challenge for this football team. But that’s what this is all about, every week to go out and compete against the best. This is the best of the best week in and week out. There are no easy opportunities in this deal. And, again, if we’re going to become the team that we can become, these are the challenges you want.”
MCFADDEN GETS HIGH PRAISE
Blocking for running back Darren McFadden is something that rookie left guard Stefen Wisniewski finds much to his liking.
“Yeah, it’s fun,” Wisniewski said. “Shoot, you block a guy for 2 seconds and you look, and he’s 50 yards downfield. It makes our job easy. Sometimes we make him look good, we open a big hole, and other times we miss a couple of people but he makes us look good anyway. So it works out well for everybody.”
The wide receivers play a huge part in McFadden’s success, too. Against the Jets, receivers Derek Hagan and Chaz Schilens delivered key blocks downfield on McFadden’s 70-yard touchdown run.
Blocking is something that is emphasized among Raiders receivers, Hagan said, and it’s something that the receivers take pride in doing.
“Darren’s a dynamic playmaker and, whenever the ball is in his hand, our job is pretty much just to block for him,” Hagan said. “If the receivers are out there blocking and the O-line is out there blocking, it’s just going to spring longer runs for us. That’s what happened yesterday.”
Hagan said he and his receiver mates are conscious of making sure that McFadden is free to do his thing once he reaches the secondary.
“We figure that our man, a (defensive back) should not be tackling a running back,” Hagan said. “A running back should not have to worry about the DBs tackling them because, most of the time, when a safety or a corner wants to tackle a running back, they’re trying to hit him below his kneecaps. That’s something we definitely don’t want to happen. So, we just try and stay on our man and make sure Darren doesn’t have to worry about that.”
Tight end Kevin Boss sealed off the Jets defender on the left edge on the 70-yard run. That enabled McFadden to turn the corner and find daylight.
Boss said he gets more satisfaction out of blocking than he does receiving, especially since he wasn’t regarded as a good blocker coming out of college.
“He’s one of the best backs that I’ve seen play,” Boss said. “He’s fast, he runs hard, he runs extremely hard. He punishes the tacklers. They’re coming in and they’re going to get punished just the way he runs. He’s exciting. He’s fun to block for. You know he’s going to hit the hole and he’s going to be out the other side before you know it.”
MCFADDEN INJURY UPDATE
Speaking of McFadden, Jackson said he isn’t concerned about the tight groin that bothered McFadden late in the game and prevented him from finishing.
McFadden wasn’t available in the locker room Monday. He dismissed the injury after the game, though, and said he’ll be fine.
Jackson seemed to be of the same belief.
“You had to mention that name,” Jackson said, knowing it was coming at some point. “No, I think he’ll be fine. I really do. It tightened up on him moreso than anything. I’m going to be very cautious with him to make sure he’s OK, but he’ll be fine.”
BROWN HAS INSIDE SCOOP ON PATRIOTS
Raiders backup linebacker Ricky Brown spent a few weeks with the Patriots during training camp before he was released.
He came away from the brief experience quite impressed by what he saw from coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and the rest of the well-run operation.
“They’re an extremely hard-working team,” Brown said. “I’ve seen them practice. They’re out there conditioning. They’re out there practicing at a high tempo. And that’s all stuff, that’s a recipe for success in the NFL and, obviously, they’ve had success in the past.
“Tom Brady is a phenomenal player. He’s one of those special guys in the league and, for as hard as he plays on Sunday, he also plays that hard throughout the week.”
FORD READY FOR TEST DRIVE
Wide receiver Jacoby Ford has not played since he injured his hamstring against the Denver Broncos in the regular-season opener.
If all goes according to plan, he will be back on the field against the Patriots.
“Right now, it’s day to day,” Ford said. “This week definitely is day to day. I ran today, and that was the best I’ve felt. So far, it’s looking good for playing this week.”
Ford said he has not been cleared by trainers to turn it loose yet. The goal is to build up throughout the week and be ready to cut loose Sunday.
He added that it has been difficult watching from the sidelines the past two games. Just the same, he is finding ways to stay involved.
“Oh, yeah, most definitely, but I’m becoming the biggest fan on the sideline,” Ford said. “I always want them to do well.”
CHEKWA READY FOR STARRING ROLE
Rookie cornerback Chimdi Chekwa held up well against the Jets when called upon in a pinch. For that, he credits the talented receivers the Raiders have on their roster.
“I don’t think it helped me answer anything,” Chekwa said of his breakout game. “I do think it helped me gain some experience and feel comfortable out on the field. Practice is tough here. Going against DHB, Denarius (Moore) and Chaz (Schilens), all of them. That makes the game a little bit easier.”
Chekwa said he gained more confidence by holding up well against Jets receiver Plaxico Burress. Now, he’s ready to build upon the solid performance.
“The biggest adjustment is just getting comfortable,” Chekwa said. “In college, you’re better than a lot of the players. Now in the NFL, everybody is good. So, you have to compete on every snap. That’s the biggest adjustment. That’s what I am getting used to.”
JONES MAKES LOFTY PROMISE
Rookie running back Taiwan Jones returned three kicks for 52 yards against the Jets. Twice, the Jets prevented Jones from reaching his own 20-yard line.
That won’t happen again, Jones said. Ever.
Jones said he promised his teammates that he will reach at least the 20-yard line on every return from here on out.
“Yeah, because after some of the returns, I saw how it’s difficult on our offense to start with such bad field position,” Jones said. “So, that’s just a commitment I’m making to the team to put them in better field position.”
Jones still found other ways to contribute. His biggest contribution came when he recovered a fumbled kick return by Antonio Cromartie just after the Raiders took a 24-17 lead. The Raiders scored a touchdown two plays later for an insurmountable lead.
“You definitely never know and you just always got to be ready for anything,” Jones said. “I wasn’t expecting to be on kickoff. It was my first time on it. The coaches put me in the right spot. It was just my job to make a play on the ball.”
And, just what was Jones thinking when he saw the ball come loose?
“I was thinking ‘that’s mine. This is my time to contribute to the team,’ ” Jones said. “I was just excited to get the opportunity.”
AVOID THE RED DOT AT ALL COSTS
Wisniewski said it’s not difficult for he and his teammates to find motivation in wanting to finish plays. No one wants to be hit with the dreaded red dot.
The man wielding the red dot belongs to coach Jackson in team meetings.
“We watch the film every day together and anytime there’s somebody not finishing, he’s putting the red dot up there on you, and he’s calling you out on it. Guys aren’t wanting to take a play off. They’re not wanting to take one off because they know their teammates will see it, and it’s part of being accountable to each other.”
Jackson said he has noticed a reduction in the amount of plays that failed to meet his requirements.
“Yes, it is,” Jackson said. “It has to. Again, if we’re going to get to where we want to go, that’s one of the main goals. And I laugh at that because I’m probably the one’s that screaming all the time. I believe in that.
“I just think, we didn’t have an offseason like you would have had. So, the process is speeded up. Everything is speeded up. Players are probably hearing my voice a little bit more than they like to hear, but that’s OK. The result is what we’re after. The result is winning and losing.”
DROPPING THE U-WORD ON DENARIUS
Jackson was rather measured in his praise of rookie receiver Denarius Moore last week, saying he wasn’t surprised and that Moore simply is doing what good football players do.
Well, after another eye-opening performance from Moore on Sunday, even Jackson is finding it difficult to avoid throwing around adjectives.
“Unbelievable,” Jackson said. “He’s a guy that has grown on me like you haven’t seen. A year ago, with Jacoby, I kind of probably slowed Jacoby down a little bit a year ago by not putting him in there because I wasn’t very familiar with everyone here, and he was a rookie.
“(Moore) is a rookie and from day one through yesterday, the guy just continues to make plays. The first catch that he had on the screen and there he goes. He’s a game-changing football player who likes to play. When you have guys like that you just let them play and watch them play and watch them grow and that’s what he’s doing right before all of our eyes. I’m not going to stop him, that’s for sure. I’m just going to keep letting him do what he does.”
OTHER INJURY UPDATES
Jackson didn’t have much in terms of updates for the injuries suffered by Johnson (hamstring), free safety Michael Huff (concussion) and fullback Marcel Reece (ankle).
He said it will take a couple of days to see how the players respond to treatment. In other words, don’t count on much word from Jackson before Friday, at the earliest.
MOORE NOT SO STERLING
The Raiders released rookie cornerback Sterling Moore from their practice squad and signed defensive back Ron Parker to their practice squad.
The move comes as a bit of surprise, given how well Moore played in training camp and Oakland’s four exhibition games. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Moore signed back at some point if he isn’t signed by another team first.
Parker spent time with the Seattle Seahawks earlier this season. He played safety at Newberry College and was clocked as fast as 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash in a pre-draft workout.
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