Raiders

McKenzie: This is my show now so it's going to be fun.

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McKenzie: This is my show now so it's going to be fun.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie engaged in a 16-minute conference call Monday afternoon with Bay Area reporters to talk about Oakland receiving three compensatory picks -- a third, a fourth, and a fifth-rounder -- to go with the fifth and sixth-rounders the team already held. But the conversation also broached several other topics.

RELATED: Raiders receive 3 compensatory picks
From managing the Raiders' salary cap to draft needs to, ahem, welcoming Peyton Manning to the division.Following then, a sampling of the call...On not knowing the formula for comp picks but his thoughts on it after the Raiders were given three: "Let me tell you something -- whatever the formula is, I love this formula. I love it. I thought I would possibly get a three, a high one, for Nnamdi (Asomugha). Now the others, obviously, this was better than what I expected. I'm extremely excited about the compensatory picks that the league has afforded the Raiders. Hopefully we can make due and have some good picks from this."On if he considers a third-round pick a starter: "Yes. No. 3 pick, No. 4 pick. Honestly, guys, when you set the board, you're trying to set it to where you have some possible starters through the fifth round. And then you get lucky with a college free agent, seventh-round, I've been fortunate to have some good fortune with later picks in my 18-year career. I'm not going to just limit it just to the third roundOK, you have a third so you only have one opportunity to get a starter. I don't want to go into this draft like that. I want to get some good players that we can get as many possible starters as possibledon't tie me down just to the third round."On if knowing he'd receive some comp picks change his approach to the offseason: "No, it really didn't. It really did not. I'm trying to build a team so the more the merrier. If I see a possible free agent that we feel like, Man, we can do this, and this feels pretty good, I'm going to do it, in free agency. Regardless of what we have in the draft. But that's not going to minimize what I do in the draft. Even if I sign an unrestricted free agent offensive lineman. That's not going to say, I'm not going to draft one. I don't look at it like that. I'm still looking for great backups who can become starters at every position. So I need a lot more picks than what I have now and some more free agent moves. The only thing I wish I had more of was NFL money and NFL cap. That's what I wish I had more of."On what he can do to address that to add pieces to his puzzle: "Not a whole lot this year. And I think the bulk of it has been done. Now you just try to wait it out and see who's the best fit for these 53 guys in the long run to make this team and then try to figure (it) out. At this point, it's going to be production and talent. It's not about money, money, money, as far as the comings and goings of players. With the goings, mainly."On if he might still trade a player for picks: "That could be possible. You know, I don't close the door on trades. I really don't. That door is always open."On his career leading to this moment: "It's been a process now. I've done this for quite some time but this is my show now so it's going to be, it's going to be fun."On if it's been frustrating dealing with the Raiders' salary cap issues to start his GM career: "It's not frustrating, it really isn't. But you'd always like to have a comfort level. And to me, having cap, having cash, it gives you a comfort so it's teaching me how to manage moneythis is good. This is good for me, learning on the fly how to deal with certain adverse situations. Initially, we are able to handle it so far. What I don't want to do is allow this to get us in the end. But I always want to be in position to, if we need to add a quality playerI want to make a move. That's my whole outlook. When we had to make certain cuts, we do it with a future plan. So far, it's working accordingly."On his priorities in the draft now that he knows how many picks he has at his disposal: "Regardless, I'm going to use the draft to make sure we draft the best available player. And if it's at a position where we're strong at, so be it. If we feel like this is the best guy, it's a difference between adding solid starters and difference makers."On if the players cut thus far were about performance or finances: "A little bit of both. When you talk about production versus a salarylet's face it, guys, contacts and production, all of that goes hand in hand. If something's not matching, or it's kind of out of whack, you don't have to be forced to make the decisionit was not all eitherorIt wasn't, Well, he cost us too much money, he's got to go. No. If the guy was highly productive and we could make it work, we'd try to make it work financially. But if not, we're going to have to make certain decision. Tough decisions. Which we did."On if he envisions the Raiders being stronger this year, or if there is a rebuilding plan in place: "Honestly, I envision it being stronger."On if he's comfortable with the three tight ends already on the roster, of if he wants to add another: "I'm comfortable with it, butI would like to add another guy there to compete, yes."On the linebackers in the draft: "You know, there's some good linebackers. Is it deep? I wouldn't say that. But there are some good linebackers in this draft."On Peyton Manning joining Denver and the AFC West: "I have a great admiration for Peyton. Do we have to put in a different gameplan defending Peyton than (Tim) Tebow? Absolutely. If he's healthy and hitting on all cylinders physically, he's going to be a good football player in our division. We're going to have to find ways to slow him downare we going to be scared of him? Absolutely not."

How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

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How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.

“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.

That’s why Norton had to go.

Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.

“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”

That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.

To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.

“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”

The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.

A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.

Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.

“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”

Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.

Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.

“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

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Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were out at Raiders practice Wednesday for the stretching period. Both edge rushers left one-at-a-time during the individual period, which was open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.

There was no perceived reaction, certainly no surprise, from the coaching staff or players on the field. Irvin and new defensive coordinator John Pagano were seen joking around on the field before practice began in earnest. 

Both Irvin and Mack were given a practice off. A Raiders official called it a day off/rest-type day that was not injury related. The Silver and Black typically practice in pads or shells on Wednesday, but were in jerseys and sweats in the interest of recovery.

This day off's timing did raise an eyebrow.

Wednesday marked the first practice Irvin has missed since training camp. Mack hasn’t missed one in months.

Mack and Irvin’s downtime also came a day after beloved defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s firing.

Several defensive players were upset about Norton's firing, but Mack and Irvin especially were among those loyal to Norton. Mack and Norton developed a bond after the coach was named defensive coordinator in 2015. Norton and Irvin go way back to their days together in Seattle. Irvin credits Norton for helping him get on the right path and stay there.

Neither player was happy Norton got the axe. Irvin made his displeasure clear, tweeting “BULLS***” shortly after news of Norton’s demise broke. Mack told ESPN “I like to keep my thoughts private.” Defensive stars declined comment Wednesday or didn't appear in the locker room when the media was present. 

It isn’t immediately clear if the non-injury related day off was related to Norton’s dismissal. Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t speak to the media again until Friday. New defensive coordinator John Pagano is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.

Del Rio addressed the media before Wednesday’s practice, and was asked how he’ll handle players unhappy with the in-season shake-up.

“I don’t try and 'handle' them,” Del Rio said. “I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give him a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work. But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”