Olson says Raiders intend to roll with ‘hot hand’


Darren McFadden made it through practice Tuesday without aggravating his hamstring injury. That makes two straight days without any setbacks. If he holds up in a light practice Wednesday, he’s likely going to play against the Dallas Cowboys.
How much McFadden plays, that’s anyone’s guess right now. One thing is for certain, the Raiders are not about to turn their back on Rashad Jennings after how well he performed the past four games.
“If Darren’s fully healthy, both of them will play and both of them will get their opportunities,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “But you can’t deny the fact that Rashad Jennings over the last month of the season has led the entire NFL in yards from scrimmage. So, he’s earned the right and deserves the right to continue to get his carries, continue to get his touches, and we’ll still do that.”
Jennings rushed for 413 yards the past four games. He also caught 15 passes for 140 yards during that stretch. McFadden missed all but a few plays in those four games. Now he’s ready to work his way back into the mix.
Only this time, the lead job isn’t McFadden’s by default as it has been for most of his six-year career whenever he returned from an injury.
Jennings is leading the league in yards after contact and his 5.1 yards per carry is way higher than McFadden’s 3.6. It’s obvious that Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Olson love Jennings’ toughness, decisiveness and willingness to do whatever it takes to help the Raiders succeed.
Olson said that he’ll figure out a way to get McFadden involved in the game plan against the Cowboys. But, make no mistake, the Raiders are sticking with what Olson calls “the hot hand” in Jennings as their primary back until further notice, if not the rest of the season.
“We’re obviously excited about Darren being back and we’re really excited about what Rashad Jennings has done here over the last month,” Olson said. “It will be nice to have a little bit of a two-headed horse back there with those guys running the football.”

— Rookie offensive tackle Menelik Watson also did not practice today, as it turned out. Allen said Watson has an illness, so the Raiders sent him home so that he could get some rest.

— The Raiders piped in noise during the latter part of practice today as a means of simulating what it’s going to be like Thursday. The Cowboys play in one of the largest, noisiest stadiums in the league.

— The Raiders are 0-7 against NFC teams during coach Dennis Allen’s two-year tenure. This is their final shot this season at beating an NFC team.
The Raiders lost to the Falcons, Saints, Buccaneers and Panthers in their four games against NFC teams last season. This season, the Raiders lost to the Giants, Redskins and Eagles from the NFC East.

— One of the perks of being the so-called America’s Team is that the Cowboys play one of their eight home games each season on Thanksgiving.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett downplayed the advantage it gives his team. However, consider that the Raiders will be on a plane and headed for Dallas at about the time they hit the practice field for the first time during a normal week.
“It’s obviously tough,” Allen said, “because normally you don’t even hit the practice field until Wednesday, that’s your first day of practice, and even on Wednesday guys are still trying to get back, so it’s tough, but that’s what the rules of the game are and we’ve got to get ready to go.”

— Allen confirmed that tight end Mychal Rivera cleared all the league-mandates tests for players that suffer a concussion. Cornerback Mike Jenkins isn’t quite there, but he is close.
“There’s one more little step where they’ve got to visit with him, but he should be cleared for the game,” Allen said of Jenkins.
Jenkins didn’t do much of note at practice during the media access window today. He was limited, according to the Raiders official injury report.
If there’s any way Jenkins can play, you can bet that he’s going to be on the field Thursday against the team that selected him in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft and employed him the past five seasons.
Garrett had nothing but nice things to say about Jenkins, even though the Cowboys phased out Jenkins last season after they drafted Morris Claiborne in the first round.
“We like Mike Jenkins a lot,” Garrett said. “He did a lot of really good things for us as a starter for a number of years here at the outside cornerback position and did a really good job the past couple years just playing through some different injuries he had.
“He showed his toughness and what kind of guy he is and we’ve certainly seen him on tape this year, playing for the Raiders and he’s continuing to play well.”

— Allen wasn’t about to get into specifics about what Jared Veldheer’s return to the Raiders does for the rest of his offensive line.
On the surface, it appears as if Khalif Barnes is going to move from left tackle and bump Lucas Nix to the bench once Veldheer steps in at left tackle.
Barnes has played left tackle during Veldheer’s absence the first 11 games. Now it appears as if Veldheer is going to make his 2013 debut Thursday.
“I really don’t want to get into specifics of what we’re going to do game plan-wise,” Allen said, “but I expect Jared to play some at left tackle, that’s for sure.”
Plenty of players stepped forward to speak about what it means to have Veldheer back on the field.
“It will be huge,” center Stefen Wisniewski said. “He’s one of our best linemen last year and having a guy like that back just raises the overall quality of the group.”
Jennings said he and others are amped about the prospect of having their offensive line at full strength for the first time this season.
“Oh, man, it’s huge,” Jennings said. “When you get your guys back at all positions, it helps the depth, it helps the morale and it helps mesh the offense line. It’s really going to help. When we get our unit back, everybody’s happy.”


McGloin speaks about Cowboys, playing on big stage, earning another start


Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin spoke with the media Monday night, one day after he and the Raiders came up just short in a last-second loss to the Tennessee Titans. Here’s what McGloin had to say in a question-and-answer session in the locker room:

Q: You are going to have to match pace with Dallas offense . . .excIted about the opportunity?
McGloin: It’s definitely an exciting week. Unfortunately it’s a short week for us, but today was a good day. A lot of guys were in here, working on their bodies. We had a pretty good walkthrough out there today so it was a pretty good start to the week.

Q: What goes into being sharp with this little rest?
McGloin: A lot of mental preparation. Obviously, they’re going to take it easy on us physically this week and we’ll what happens. It’s tough any time you play a tough, hard game Sunday, then you have to turn around and play Thursday, there are only a few days in there, but like I said, we’ll take care of our bodies and the main thing is to get ready mentally.

Q: Dallas has given up a lot of points, lot of yards, both passing rush but have DeMarcus Ware and some good players . . . what do you see?
McGloin: They’re a good defense. A lot of good players on that defense. We’re definitely aware of all those guys. Like I said we have our own problems that we have to correct and we’re doing that each and every day, but I thought we started off today pretty good with the walkthrough, we got a good jump on them.

Q: TD play, you’re going to get hit, throw back foot, get the touchdown, you probably didn’t even see it?
McGloin: I saw the celebration. That’s a play we’ve been running for a long time there and Marcel is a guy you can trust is going to be there and you know he’s going to run a good route and sometimes you have to give them an opportunity and go up and make a play. He made a great play. Sometimes you’ve got to stand there and take that hit. I’ll take that hit every time for a touchdown.

Q: Rivera said he’s been cleared 100 percent, ready to go, passed all tests . . . how good to have them back. He said you two have a rapport, he was out there during your tryout.
McGloin: I’ve enjoyed to throwing to Mike for awhile now. He’s a good talent and another guy that goes about his business each and every day, works hard, pays attention, listens, does everything he has to, does the right things, runs great routes for us. He’s abig part of our offense he’s improving each and every week so it’s a big plus for us that he’s going to be playing this week.

Q: Dennis came out Sunday night, said Matt’s our starter, one less thing to get out of your brain?
McGloin: Yeah, it feels good, you don’t have to wonder or deal with it this week. It gives you some relaxing, in terms of mental preparation, kind of just focus on Dallas now and not have to worry about who’s starting.

Q: Given how many points Dallas scores, puts premium on TDs and not field goals . ..
McGloin: Regardless of who you’re playing the objective is to score points when you get in the red zone and we didn’t do too good of a job on that Sunday so that’s something we have to work on the next few days, especially against Dallas, that offense has been doing some good things this year so it’s crucial when we get in the red zone we have to score touchdowns.

Q: No stranger to big stage, exciting national TV on Thanksgiving . .
McGloin: It’s a great opportunity for us. I’m sure everybody has grown up watching that game with their families and to be a part of it is something special. We’re all looking forward to it. We’re excited about it. It’s going to be a tough atmosphere for football, but we’ll handle it, we’ll work on it the next couple of days and we’ll be prepared.

Q: How do you guys fare better on third downs?
McGloin: Just keep at it, keep improving, watch more film if we have to. Continue to work the routes, the reads, communicate with guys. Just more of the things we’re already doing. Just continuing to preach it and work on it. Obviously it’s not a lot of things that are difficult there, but like I said, we’re right there, we just have to work out the kinks.

Q: Two conversions first drive, one the rest of the day, what do you see form the cut-up . . . that was right there, could have had it?
McGloin: We’re that close. As frustrating as it is it’s good to see how close we are. We’re communicating with one another. That’s never been an issue. Just continue to practice that’s all we can do. But we’re right there, it’s only a matter of time before we break out and have a big game.

Q: Haven’t played with Veldheer yet, but to have him back a big benefit . . .
McGloin: It’s great to see Jared back. He’s such a great part of that line and he has been since he’s been here. What’s great is we’ve had so many guys step in and do a tremendous job. Guys playing tackle, guys playing guard. I was really proud of those guys, and how they work, and how they accept any role that the coaches give them.

Q: Offense executed second have, as young QB constantly evaluating self and how you’re doing?
McGloin: Well yeah, you’re trying to gain as much experience as you can by playing and obviously I don’t have a lot of experience playing at this level yet, but it was good to see the way we made those adjustments at halftime. We came out, we fought, we put some good drives together and we put a good drive together at the end when we needed one.


Rivera, Jenkins not ruled out for Cowboys game


Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Monday that tight end Mychal Rivera and cornerback are going through the league-mandated concussion protocol and that both players already are showing progress.
Both players suffered concussions against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. It seems a stretch for either Rivera or Jenkins to play in the Raiders next game, given it comes Thursday against the Dallas Cowboys.
Allen said he isn’t ruling out either player, though.

— Sebastian Janikowski has missed seven of 22 field-goal attempts this season. That’s as many as he missed in 2011 and 2012 combined.
Much has been made of Janikowski adjusting to a new holder, Marquette King, this season after spending his first 13 seasons working with Shane Lechler.
Allen has no interest in pointing fingers at anyone, and he downplayed the suggestion that there might be an issue between Janikowski and King.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s an issue,” Allen said. “But I would say that when we go out there to kick field goals, we got to make field goals.
“I said this (Sunday) night, that there’s 11 guys that take the field on that field-goal unit. All of them have to do their job to be able to execute and get three points on the board. We’ve obviously got to do a better job in that phase of converting on our field-goal opportunities.”
Allen said “no” when asked if he intended to bring in another kicker as a result of Janikowski’s struggles. Janikowski wasn’t available for comment Sunday.

— The plan remains for left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer to make his 2013 debut against the Cowboys, Allen said.
Veldheer has spent most of the past four months recovering from a triceps injury that required surgery. Allen said Veldheer hasn’t suffered any setbacks since he resumed practicing. Therefore, it’s time to turn the big fella loose in a game.
Just the game, Allen said, it’s likely that Veldheer will be eased into the mix and not play an entire game. That way Veldheer can work his way into game shape.
As for what happens with Khalif Barnes once Veldheer returns, Allen didn’t offer any specifics.
Don’t plan on seeing rookie offensive tackle Menelik Watson anytime soon. He was a healthy scratch against the Titans, with Matt McCants getting the nod as one of the backups for that game.
“With Menelik, we have a situation with a guy who has really played a year of junior college, a year at Florida State and then missed training camp and the majority of the season,” Allen said. “He’s behind from a fundamental standpoint.”
Watson missed most of training camp and started one game before he suffered a second injury — he arrived at camp with a calf injury. He then missed significant time before he returned during the first half of the season.
“Matt McCants is a guy who we picked up early who’s been in the system and has been getting the work in,” Allen said. “And, when he’s gone in there, he’s played well. He’s ahead of Menelik. We still feel like Menelik has a bright future for us, but he’s missed so much time.”

— Running back Darren McFadden and strong safety Tyvon Branch are working out today, Allen said.
It’s conceivable that McFadden’s hamstring will heal enough and in time for him to play against the Cowboys. Allen said Branch is “getting closer” to playing again, though it likely won’t be this week. He hurt his ankle in Oakland’s second game this season and he hasn’t practiced or played in a game for more than two months.

— Linebacker Kevin Burnett is day-to-day with a quadriceps bruise. Coach Allen said he is confident that Burnett will be able to play Thursday.
“I saw him in there this morning, and he seemed to think he was fine,” Allen said. “So hopefully that’s the case.”

— Fullback Marcel Reece executed the Wildcat formation the two times the Raiders used it Sunday. This, despite the fact quarterback Terrelle Pryor was healthy enough to play.
Allen said the plan beforehand was to use Reece in the Wildcat. There also was a package of plays in the offense for Terrelle Pryor, though none of those plays got used.
“I felt like if we could play this game and still do well offensively and didn’t have to use those packages we’d be able to give him another week to heal up a little bit,” Allen said. “That was beneficial to him. We’ll see how that goes moving forward if there’s a way we can get him into the game in some of those packages.”

— Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa received some meaningful playing time against the Titans. It’s possible that he will get even mnore against the Cowboys unless Jenkins’ bounce back is a fast one.
“Chekwa was solid,” Allen said. “Obviously, they went at him on the one third-down play for a third-down conversion. It was a catch-tackle with just enough to get the first down, but that’s the first action, really, that Chimdi’s seen this year at the corner position.
“He’s a guy that, he’s really much improved from where he was at this point a year ago and if he has to go in there and play, then we’ve got confidence that he’ll go in and play well.”