From the new coaching staff to the roster to the way business is conducted by the Raiders these days, it’s not difficult to notice that this is the dawn of a “new era,” as the Raiders media guide touts in block letters.
Things were run a specific way under late owner Al Davis for most of the past 50 years or so. Change abounds in Raidersland these days.
“They’re real strict on discipline now,” strong safety Tyvon Branch said, “as far as showing up to meetings. They’re even making us check in for lunches and dinners now. They’re trying to change the discipline factor.”
Let’s just assume that Branch meant showing up on time to meetings and not just showing up, period. Either way, general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen have a way that they want things done, and the players are learning that, you either climb aboard or get left at the station.
Bottom line, running back Darren McFadden and defensive tackle Richard Seymour said, it’s incumbent upon the players to take what they hear and see from their coaches and get it to translate onto the field.
“Just knowing where to be and where to be at the right time and being there on time, that’s one main thing for us,” McFadden said. “And I feel by tightening down a lot of things. that’s going to help the guys and that’s going to translate on to the playing fields.”
Seymour said there needed to be change, if for no other reason than the fact the Raiders went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for the ninth straight season.
Yet, the players shouldn’t have to be told what needs to be done. If they do need to be told, well, then, they should be able to do as told.
“We’re all grown men and we should all know how to follow the rules,” Seymour said. “I don’t think that’s a big adjustment if that’s who you are. That’s who you should be anyway.”
– Allen said he intends on using McFadden in exhibition games and not holding him out the way the San Diego Chargers used to do with lead back LaDainian Tomlinson.
That’s fine with McFadden, he said. Give him the ball and let him do what he does best.
“It’s whatever he decides to give me,” McFadden said of Allen. “If he wants me out there eight or nine plays, that’s fine. If he wants me out there 20 plays, that’s fine. It’s not a big deal to me. It’s playing football. I enjoy doing that. I love being out there doing it.”
As for McFadden’s role, he said he doesn’t mind if he is used primarily as a ballcarrier or if offensive coordinator Greg Knapp uses him as a wide receiver from time to time.
Former Raiders coach Tom Cable capitalized on McFadden’s ability to create a mismatch in the Raiders favor by lining him up out wide every now and then. That’s something that Cable’s successor, Hue Jackson, got away from.
It says here that the Raiders would be wise to go back to using McFadden as many ways as possible. Seeing him lined up against a safety or smaller cornerback oftentimes spelled doom for the opponent.
McFadden said he has heard the talk about him being injury-prone and not durable enough to hold up over the course of a 16-game season.
It’s something that he takes in stride, confident in the fact his injuries have been more of a fluke thing and not the result of his not being in shape or being able to play through pain.
“You hear that all the time, but that’s something I can’t do anything about,” McFadden said. “It’s not like I’m going out there and just falling over and getting hurt. I’m out there playing and going hard. So I can live with that if I get hurt that way.”
Through it all, McFadden doesn’t intend to change his aggressive style of play. It’s what makes him so successful, even if it also makes him more susceptible to injury.
“It’s one of those things, it happens in football,” McFadden said of injuries. “I can’t say I’m unlucky about it because I’m a very blessed person to even be playing in this league. I just go out there and take it one day at a time. I can’t control injuries. If I get hurt, I’m going to get hurt going hard because that’s something I can’t control, and I’m not going to go out there and play not to get hurt.”
– Seymour isn’t one to talk much about injuries. In fact, one time he chided me for asking a player about his injury status in the locker room.
Hence, it’s not surprising that Seymour isn’t keen about writing off his up-and-down play last season to his myriad injuries.
“Injuries are a part of the game,” Seymour said. “You never want to talk about injuries. That’s one thing you really don’t want to get into, how bad you’re hurt or whatever the case may be.
“I came out of the gate well and then a knee injury, and then I kind of slowed down from there. Toward the end of the year, I started to regain my form a little bit. I’m optimistic and feeling good right now. Feeling good and excited about the season. I’ll be ready to go.”
Seymour added that he is excited about the change in the Raiders defensive philosophy from one that relied upon man coverage, four defensive linemen rushin the passer and a dearth of blitzing.
Under first-year coordinator Jason Tarver, the Raiders intend to be what Allen calls “multiple.” That means an infusion of a 3-4 alignment, more zone coverage and frequent blitzing from all over the field.
“If you want to be one of the best, or one of the elite, in the league, you have to be able to do multiple things,” Seymour said. “Be versatile, playing this front, that front, rush the passer, stop the run, just being an every-down player. That’s how you make yourself valuable. It’s hard work but this is a big-boy league.”
Branch said he and his teammates are excited about the prospect of playing in a varied scheme, where teams aren’t as apt to know what’s coming on a given down.
“It’s a lot of new stuff we’re learning,” Branch said. “We were primarily a man-to-man team, so to get some zone stuff, some different stuff going in, there’s definitely a lot of learning going into it. But everybody is up to the challenge.”