By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 at 5:22 pm in Oakland Raiders.
It shouldn’t come as a great surprise that the Raiders quarterbacks performed better today, given there wasn’t much room to go but up. Even so, the quarterbacks looked as sharp, as a group, as they have all offseason.
It didn’t begin that way, to be fair. The first several throws left a lot to be desired and most of those, even ones that found the mark, lacked zip and a tight spiral.
Before long, something clicked and Matt Flynn seemed to find a comfortable rhythm, Terrelle Pryor dropped in a beauty to Andre Holmes 50 yards downfield and Tyler Wilson threaded a pass into tight coverage well downfield.
“The execution was better today,” coach Dennis Allen said. “Our guys, the one thing about them is, every time we challenge them, they come back and respond. So I was pleased with the way they practiced today.”
Allen was talking about his players, in general, but he could have said the same thing about a quarterback corps that looked as if they were practicing for the first time when they floundered Tuesday.
– Wide receivers Josh Cribbs and Isaiah Williams, fullback Jon Hoese, running back Latavius Murray, tight end Nick Kasa, linebacker Miles Burris, defensive tackles Johnny Jones and Stacy McGee and cornerbacks Coye Francies, D.J. Hayden and Taiwan Jones missed all or part of practice for the second straight day.
Murray made an appearance on the sideline. Afterward, Allen said Murray’s foot injury isn’t something that’s going to linger into training camp.
Cornerback Phillip Adams suffered a hamstring injury midway through practice and was escorted to the locker room. Fellow cornerback Michael Jenkins hurt his knee and didn’t finish practice, either.
– New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said last week that he and Allen discussed the possibility of conducting joint practices before their exhibition game. Allen said Wednesday that it’s not apt to happen this time around.
“It’s something that we’ve talked about,” Allen said. “I don’t think that’s going to end up working out, but it is something that we kicked around, really both sides.”
Allen, of course, coached under Payton when both were with the Saints. In the past, the Raiders conducted joint practices with the Dallas Cowboys before exhibition games in Texas.
– If Allen is heaping praise upon a rookie, take note. Allen isn’t one to go overboard when talking about a young player.
On Wednesday, Allen raved about rookie linebacker Sio Moore way beyond what he typically does for a player that hasn’t established himself yet.
“I like Sio,” Allen said. “Sio’s a rookie, he makes some rookie mistakes. But he’s a big, powerful man. And he’s got a little bit of pass-rush ability to him. So, I like some of the flexibility that he gives us.”
But, wait, there’s more.
“What you look at is you look at football intelligence, and he’s got some football intelligence and some football savvy about him,” Allen said. “We got a big volume of stuff that we’re throwing at him and sometimes it can overload him. He’s a guy that continues to go out there and work every day. His work ethic and his understanding of the game of football is what’s going to allow him to be a good player for us.”
Moore is competing for a starting spot, along with Kaluka Maiava, Miles Burris and Kevin Burnett. Nick Roach is a lock as the middle linebacker.
– Safety Charles Woodson joined the Raiders late during offseason workouts. Even so, he wasted little time getting up to speed and acclimating himself to the Raiders defense.
“Wood’s been great,” Allen said. “He’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do. He’s really exactly what we felt we were going to be able to get in a player like that; a Hall of Fame-caliber player that’s made a lot of plays on the football over his career.
“We’re going to continue to ask him to do those things. As he’s gone throughout his career, he’s taken on more of a leadership role and he’s done a nice job in that regard for us.”
Woodson is expected to speak with the media Thursday. At that time, we’ll pass along Woodson’s thoughts on how things are going during his second stint with the Raiders.
Woodson is working with the Raiders first-team defense, alongside strong safety Tyvon Branch.
– Wilson fared somewhat better today, including one throw that he zipped 30 yards to a spot where Travionte Session could make a play in tight coverage.
Sure, he’s still prone to the occasional rookie mistake and consistency still is a work in progress, but Wilson carries himself in a way befitting a player with NFL experience.
“That’s one of the things about him,” Allen said. “He’s got some moxie to him. He’s got some savvyness to him. He still has a long way to go as far as learning the offense, learning the NFL game. But he’s a guy that hopefully we can develop and he can be better for us.”
– Allen admits that the Raiders checked into the possibility of signing a veteran wide receiver earlier this offseason.
Instead, they opted to see what they can get out of a corps that since has added Josh Cribbs, Brice Butler, Conner Vernon and Sam McGuffie.
“We looked to see what was available, really at all positions, but we got some young talent here,” Allen said. “Now we need somebody to step up and really separate themselves a little bit. But I like our receivers. I like the young talent that we have.”
That talent was on display today and Tuesday, with Butler, Vernon and McGuffie making impressive plays. All three have a legitimate shot to make the 53-man roster, behind locks Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford, Rod Streater and Juron Criner.
– Very quietly, the Raiders are working more and more on different looks defensively. We’re not allowed to divulge much, but suffice that you’re going to see more three-man fronts and defensive linemen dropping into coverage.
A lack of dependable cornerbacks last season made it difficult for the Raiders to be as dynamic as defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and Allen envisioned.
As a result, the Raiders signed veterans Michael Jenkins and Tracy Porter and drafted D.J. Hayden in the first round. Their ability to hold up in coverage frees up other defenders to get after the quarterback.
“It’s a critical area of our football team,” Allen said. “The way the NFL is now, everything’s centered around the quarterback offensively, it’s centered around the quarterback defensively. What can you do to affect the quarterback, and that’s rush and coverage. We’ve got to be able to have both parts working together. Our coverage aspect is going to be able to help our rush this year.”
Several times the past two days, Porter and Jenkins flashed their ability to shadow receivers and get in position to intercept a pass, break it up or at least make it more difficult for the receiver.