Free safety Michael Huff seems to have a little extra pep in his steps these days. He’s healthy again, he’s around his teammates and he finally gets a chance to play in a defensive scheme that highlights his abilities.
Huff is of the belief that the Raiders defense was too predictable in his first six NFL seasons and that late owner Al Davis’ heavy hand on the defensive philosophy and scheme limited the players’ ability to perform at peak level.
“We’re just looking forward to playing for a defensive head coach, getting to play a real defense,” Huff said in reference to defensive-minded head coach Dennis Allen. “So, I’m definitely looking forward to that this year.”
When pressed on what he meant by “a real defense,” Huff didn’t mince his words.
“Nothing personal but, obviously, before with Al (Davis), rest in peace, he had his hands in all the defense,” Huff said. “He had all his little things he liked to do. Now with D.A. out there, we got all kinds of blitzes, we got 3-4, 4-3 fronts, just a lot of different variety and a lot of different things going on. So, I’m going to love it.”
Huff’s role in the defense figures to be wide-reaching, with more blitzing, playing more cornerback and taking on a role similar to that of Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson.
“That’s what it seems like, just a lot of variety and doing it all,” Huff said. “You never know where he’s going to line up at. He’s just out there making plays. Hopefully I’ll kind of emulate him and play like him.”
Huff said the Raiders defense was too predictable in the past. Now, opposing offenses are going to be forced to figure out what he and his teammates are doing from play to play.
Accomplishing this goal entails mixing up defensive fronts, well-disguised blitzes and a varied scheme. Allen has said in the past that he wants his defense to be “multiple.”
“Everybody knew,” Huff said. “I’m in the middle of the field, I’m in the post, we’re pretty much man-to-man on the outside, it was pretty simple. We really didn’t blitz much. We let our front four get after them. That’s how it was, so we dealt with it.”
Terrelle Pryor has spent most of the past 11 months or so learning what he can from the likes of Carson Palmer, Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller and Matt Leinart, as well as numerous Raiders coaches.
In his quest to absorb even more insight into the nuances of succeeding at quarterback in the NFL, Pryor reached out to former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon.
“We’re talking in contact with Rich Gannon and we’re going to get together with him,” Pryor said. “We’ll create something that has to do with going by Knapp (Greg, offensive coordinator) and coach Flip’s (John DeFilippo, quarterbacks coach) scheme. Obviously I’m going to take the playbook and grab a couple of receivers, maybe some younger high school guys, maybe some NFL guys and just run the script that I have and have them run the same routes and go through my reads.
“Can’t get that enough. Like I said I don’t take a lot of reps so I have to rep it by myself even if it has to be with a ghost to do my footsteps that’s what I’ll have to do. I’ll get better. I’ll be working hard.”
Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Pryor is making consistent progress in his first full offseason. Pryor arrived via the supplemental draft in late August last year and spent most of his time catching up.
“He’s made progress,” Allen said. “Still a long way away, but he’s made significant progress and the thing that I’ve liked about him has been his demeanor and the way he’s been willing to work and get better. As long as he does that, he’s got enough athletic talent that eventually he’s going to become a player.”
Defensive tackle Travis Ivey suffered a concussion while lifting weights the other day, Allen said. Ivey got hit in the head by a weight bar. Ivey’s injury isn’t serious, according to Allen.
Linebacker Aaron Curry’s knees are bothering him, Allen said, so he was held out of practice Wednesday as a “precautionary” measure.
Wide reciever Denarius Moore spent the day watching practice from the sideline, while recovering from the right hamstring injury he suffered Tuesday.
Allen said that Moore will be fine and ready to roll by the start of training camp in Napa on July 29.
Middle linebacker Rolando McClain recorded an interception of a Palmer pass late in practice. Those are the kinds of plays Allen is counting upon from McClain in his third season.
McClain declined an interview request after practice.
Allen remains convinced that running back Darren McFadden is nothing short of 100 percent and ready to pick up where he left off last season before a foot injury ended his season after only seven games.
“He looks extremely good to me,” Allen said. “He looks fast. He looks explosive. He knows what to do. He knows how to do it. And as we all know the key is, can we keep this guy healthy? And if we can, I would expect him to have a good year.”
McFadden has looked sharp at practice since he returned in early May. There aren’t any lingering signs of the foot injury that forced him to miss most of the final 10 games, and he is doing everything one would expect from an elite back.
“I feel better and better every day, it seems,” McFadden said. “A lot of my soreness is gone. I don’t really get sore after one hard practice to the next. So that’s the good thing for me; it’s a good sign that I can go out there two or three days back-to-back and keep going.”
More important, McFadden said, he won’t enter training camp with any concern about his durability or status.
“It’s great to be able to do it because, coming back from an injury like that, a lot of it probably plays on your mind,” McFadden said. “You’re wondering if you can do the things that you did at first. Just being out here and running around, I see that I can do those things full speed, so I don’t think it will be a problem for me.”
With Moore sidelined most of the past two days, rookie Rod Streater received increased playing time in practice. Call it a reward for a job well done to this point, Allen said.
“He’s earned the right to get the reps,” Allen said. “He’s done a nice job. He’s a young guy. He’s continuing to improve but he’s obviously caught our eye enough to think he’s earned the right to get a couple of first-team reps.”
When asked for a scouting report, here’s what Allen said of Streater:
“He’s caught the ball extremely well, he’s run very good routes, he knows how to get open and he has been explosive as a receiver,” Allen said. “Again, he’s still a young guy, he’s still learning, he’s still making those rookie mistakes. But from an athletic standpoint, from a skill set standpoint, he’s really impressive.”