Coach Dennis Allen walked away from Monday’s practice much more pleased than he was at this point a week ago.
Allen bemoaned the lack of crispness last week and said he expected his players to bounce back the rest of the week and moving forward.
“The guys responded well,” Allen said. “The last two days of practice (last week) were a lot better, and that’s what you look for. They’re not going to have their A game out there every day out there. The key to me is, how do they respond when they get challenged? They did a nice job responding. They responded well today.”
Allen gets his players on the field Tuesday and Wednesday and then not again until the mandatory three-day mini camp next week.
He admitted that there’s still plenty of work to be done and that too many makeable plays aren’t being made. No big deal, though, that’s why teams practice in May and June.
“This part of what OTAs is for is to be able to go through these things, be able to see it live, and then we get a chance to go back into the meetings and make whatever corrections that we need to make,” Allen said. “You saw what practice looked like. We had some opportunities to make some big plays. Those are the plays that we got to make sure that we make come Sunday.”
— Tony Bergstrom was back working at left guard with the first-team offense Monday, just as he was the first week of OTAs.
Last week, Lucas Nix replaced Bergstrom. Allen has said that he intends to mix and match along the offensive line into training camp before he settles upon his starting five.
Bergstrom looks fine at left guard, though we won’t be able to tell for sure until there’s contact in practice and the exhibition games.
— Allen sounded more pleased by the play of his quarterbacks today than what we witnessed on the field today.
Too often, presumptive starter Matt Flynn misfired on passes that he shouldn’t have much difficulty putting on the mark. He also had a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Flynn didn’t have any of his passes intercepted, but he missed high on a few passes, threw one way too low and had a few others miss wide of the mark.
Rookie Tyler Wilson didn’t have one of his better practices, either, though he didn’t do anything that made you cringe.
As for Pryor, he didn’t get as many reps. For the most part, he made respectable throws, save one that sailed over Conner Vernon’s head and into no man’s land.
Flynn doesn’t seem too concerned.
“We’re doing some good things out there,” Flynn said. “We’re getting more comfortable with each other and comfortable with being out on the field and playing. So I think as an offense we’re making a lot of strides. We still have a lot of things to clean up and that’s just going to come with time and repetitions. But so far I feel good about where we’re at and where we’re going.”
— Wide receivers Jacoby Ford (hamstring), Josh Cribbs (knee) and Isaiah Williams (undisclosed), tight end Nick Kasa (hamstring), fullback Jon Hoese (calf), defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi (ankle), cornerbacks D.J. Hayden (abdomen) and Coye Francies (ill) and linebacker Miles Burris (knee) did not practice today.
Cornerback Tracy Porter returned to practice after missing some time last week with a sore calf. Beyond that, everybody else was healthy enough to practice.
— For some reason, some people got the impression that Taiwan Jones practiced some at running back last week. To be certain, Jones is not working out at his old position. He’s working strictly as a cornerback as he attempts to make the conversion in his third season.
— Allen said Hayden is on track to rejoin his teammates at practice at the start of training camp. Hayden underwent surgery late last month to remove some scar tissue in his abdominal region.
“Everything went fine,” Allen said. “Everything was kind of as we had hoped and anticipated. Hey, listen, it’s a little bit of uncharted waters, but we still feel comfortable that he’ll be back and ready to go in camp. We still have seven weeks before we start training camp. It’s 51 days from now until we start training camp. We feel confident he’ll be back and be ready to go.”
Hayden was on the practice field today, sporting his No. 25, but he just watched from the sideline. The Raiders selected him with the 12th pick of the 2013 NFL draft.
— Pat Sims and Vance Walker appear to be the replacements for jettisoned defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly.
Allen said Sims and Walker were targeted by the Raiders, in large part, because of their penchant for holding up well against the run, long a problem area for the Raiders.
“When you really look at it, that’s probably what they’re best suited to do right now,” Allen said. “They play the run square, they come off and attack blocks like they’re supposed to. They’ve been gap-sound and fundamental in that regard.”
Sims did a nice job of pushing the pocket today and getting a hand up at the proper time whenever the quarterback attempted a pass.
— Marquette King opened eyes at training camp last year with his ability to punt the ball a long way, oftentimes in excess of 70 yards.
Problem is, King displayed a maddening penchant for following up a few impressive punts with a clunker or two. Naturally, teams are keen on punters that display more consistency.
“That’s the big thing with Marquette, and that’s what we’re going to be evaluating as we go through this process all the way through the preseason games,” Allen said. “It’s consistency. It’s not really unlike any other position, but the guys that can be the most consistent in the NFL, those end up being the best players. That’s one of the things that he’s got to continue to work on. He’s improved that. He’s not where he needs to be yet, but he has improved in that area.”
King is battling for the right to succeed long-time Raiders punter Shane Lechler, who bolted for the Houston Texans via free agency after 13 years with the Raiders. Veteran Chris Kluwe is King’s competition right now.
At one point today, King launched a 70+-yard punt, then followed that with a rather short punt that appeared to be mishit. Just another example of how it was so easy to take for granted Lechler all these years and how consistency is easy to say but hard to achieve.
— King isn’t the only young player with some work to do before he can feel secure about a spot on the Raiders 53-man roster or meaningful playing time.
Allen said third-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor is making progress, “but he’s not there yet.”
“There’s been no lack of effort on his part,” Allen said. “Still, when you look at it, the quarterback position, he’s still young in the position and there’s still a lot of improvement he needs to make. He’s got a great athletic skillset, but still some of the finer point about playing quarterback are still what he needs to continue to get better at.”
— It’s not hard to find ringing indictments of former Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain. On Monday, Allen doled out another one without even mentioning McClain.
It came when Allen was asked about the leadership provided by Nick Roach, one of Oakland’s free-agent signings, who is tasked with replacing McClain in the middle of Oakland’s defense.
“Nick’s highly intelligent and he’s athletic,” Allen said. “He’s done a nice job of kind of being the quarterback of our defense. He’s kind of taken on that role and really has a passion about leading that team. With his athleticism, he’s not maybe your proto-typical Mike linebacker. He’s got some things that he can do from a coverage standpoint that lends some flexibility to us.”
In other words, Roach is most things McClain wasn’t during his three failed seasons with the Raiders. Few questioned McClain’s intelligence and athleticism. It’s his work ethic, lack of leadership and lackluster play that many called into question.
The Raiders released McClain earlier this offseason. He later caught on with the Baltimore Ravens, only to retire a short time later so that he can get his life in order.
— The departure of Brandon Myers to the New York Giants in free agency left a huge void for the Raiders to fill at tight end.
Myers led the Raiders in receptions last season, and he played almost every down, while youngsters David Ausberry and Richard Gordon bided their time on the sideline.
Ausberry and Gordon are back for another crack at earning more playing time. The Raiders drafted Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera as a means of creating more competition.
So, where do things stand right now?
“It’s pretty wide open,” Allen said. “All those guys are doing a nice job. Obviously, it’s hurt not having Kasa out there because he’s a guy we really anticipated being able to step-in and potentially fill a role for us. So, hopefully, we’ll get him out there soon. The big thing, again, with those guys, just like it is with everyone else, it’s going to be the consistency issue because they are relatively young at the position.”