When Raiders coach Dennis Allen takes the field Sunday, he will square off against the man who hired him as a defensive coordinator in 2011. Denver Broncos coach John Fox also played a key role in Allen agreeing to an overture from the Raiders to supplant Hue Jackson as their head coach.
“I talked to him about a lot of different things,” Allen said. “And at the end of the day, he said, ‘Go there, and you’ll do a great job, and you’re ready for the job.’ And I’ve talked to him since then, and he doesn’t give me all the secrets but, yeah, he’s helped me out a lot.”
Allen learned much of what he knows while working under Sean Payton for five seasons with the New Orleans Saints.
Yet, he also learned valuable lessons from Fox, even though they were together only one season.
“He’s not afraid to make the tough decisions,” Allen said of Fox. “He believes in a lot of the same things that I believe in. He’s always had a tough, smart, disciplined football team, and I believe in those same things. And he’s not afraid to make tough decisions, and as you continue to go on being a head coach, you learn that you’ve got to make a lot of tough decisions in this job. ”
Already Allen has made numerous difficult decisions, along with general manager Reggie McKenzie.
They opted to part ways with starting cornerback Stanford Routt and starting outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley. They didn’t make a play for running back Michael Bush in free agency. And they released or traded six players drafted by late managing general partner Al Davis during the offseason.
— Running back Darren McFadden was limited in practice today, as he was the day before, with a shoulder injury.
Not to worry, Allen said, it’s only a bruise.
“That really hasn’t been a factor,” Allen said.
— Defensive end Andre Carter practiced as a member of the Raiders today for the first time. Allen said it’s conceivable that Carter can play Sunday against the Broncos.
“There’s a whole lot that goes into physically and understanding how to play the game from a physical standpoint,” Allen said, “but he’s a veteran player, so he understands how to play the game. So, the learning curve for him is not quite as steep as it would be for some others.”
Allen said it’s much easier for a defensive end to get up to speed than it is for players at some other positions. Given Carter is an 11-year veteran, that makes it all the easier for him to make the quick adjustment to a new scheme.
— Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said Michael Huff is making progress in his conversion from free safety to cornerback.
Some of the signs were evident last Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, even though Huff struggled at times on how far to play off the reciever.
“He got more comfortable as the game went on,” Tarver said. “There are some things with body positioning as a corner where you want to end up when the play starts, and things like that, and he got more and more comfortable as it went on. And that was good. And he grew in confidence as the game went on, which is a big key.”
Getting involved in the game early figures to help Huff’s confidence, Tarver said, especially if Huff has success early against Manning.
“For any player, you want to make a play early anytime you’re in the game,” Tarver said. “That’s your ultimate. But when you don’t, you have to focus and do your job every play. A corner’s world is isolated a lot. You’re isolated. Sometimes you don’t get any action for 10 or 12 plays. So, when you’re out there, you’ve got to just keep — the best one, just keep focusing, focusing, focusing and when I get my shot, I’m going to make a play.”
— The St. Louis Rams claimed off waivers former Raiders offensive tackle Joseph Barksdale on Thursday, one day after Barksdale was released by the Raiders.
The Rams were awarded Barksdale over the New York Giants based on a worse record from 2011.
Allen said general manager Reggie McKenzie is going to remain vigilant about upgrading the roster, even if that means parting ways with a third-round draft pick so soon.
“As long as Reggie and I are here, we’re going to continue trying to build the best roster we can build and we’ll look at any moves we have to make to do that,” Allen said.
Allen said he isn’t worried about the risk of players without job security playing scared or looking over their shoulders every day.
“I wouldn’t say that’s a huge concern,” Allen said. “Obviously these players know … We understand the business and we understand the stresses that they’re under. But it’s a production business, and we all understand that. We’re going to make whatever moves we have to make to try to put the best team on the field we can.”
— The Raiders waived defensive back Akwasi Owusu-Ansah from their practice squad today. Linebacker Carl Ihenacho was signed to the practice squad at the same time, two days after being removed from the 53-man roster.
— Allen said he was aware of the fact the Raiders committed 15 penalties for 131 yards against the Broncos in the regular-season opener last season, when Allen was the Broncos defensive coordinator.
However, he didn’t recall that the Raiders also committed 15 penalties in the Broncos game at the Oakland Coliseum.
— Second-year cornerback Chimdi Chekwa is putting in his time on the practice squad, working toward a return to the 53-man roster.
Allen said he is taking notice of Chekwa and has high hopes for him down the road.
“Just keep working and continue to improve,” Allen said. “I like the fact that we have him here. He’s still a young player, he’s still got a lot of growth in him. And we haven’t made any final decisions on Chimdi. We’re letting him continue to grow as a player.”
Chekwa was active for four games last season, including one as a starter. Hamstring and shoulder injuries sidelined him for the rest of the season.
The Raiders cut him at the end of training camp, but he was signed to the practice squad one day later.
— Second-year running back Taiwan Jones’ playing time on offense has more to do with the ribs injury he suffered in the regular-season opener than the fact he bobbled a kick-off and a reverse in that game, Allen said.
“He has kind of had some sore ribs since then,” Allen said. “So, just his ability to get back from the injury – once we get him at full speed, we’ll see where we go with him.”
Allen said Jones’ ball-security issue is “fine.” That makes sense, given Jones recovered the kick and the botched reverse, which fullback Marcel Reece had a huge hand in creating with a high pitch to Jones.
— Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was at the facility today for the second straight day, Allen said.
Allen added that Heyward-Bey is going to be “fine.” The next step in Heyward-Bey’s recovery from the concussion and neck strain he suffered against the Steelers is passing the concussion-related tests mandated by the league.
Heyward-Bey has yet to pass those tests, Allen said, and there isn’t a timetable for his return to practice or games.
Heyward-Bey has not been made available for interviews since his injury.