Raiders

Palmer speaks out after first start

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Palmer speaks out after first start

ALAMEDA -- Carson Palmer's in-season training camp continues. As such, so too grows his understanding of his new surroundings, particularly the toys at the new Raiders quarterback's disposal.In anticipation of Thursday's primetime game at San Diego, Palmer spoke to reporters following Tuesday's practice and spoke of their attributesOn the passing game picking up 332 yards in his first career start with Oakland, the 38-24 loss to Denver on Sunday: "Very excited. Obviously the goal is to win, and that was extremely disappointing, but I really think the sky is the limit for this passing game. Having Michael Bush, and when we get Darren (McFadden) back, we'll be great, but we have some young talented receivers that are hungry and want to be good. We got a taste of what we can do, and we need to keep expanding on it, keep getting better at it."MIDSEASON REPORTS: Offense Defense Special teams
On if he's ever had a fullback with the skill set of Marcel Reece: "Not a fullback that can run like him. He is one of a kind. There's not another fullback in the league like him. He can block, he can pass-protect, he can run-protect, he can run iso's and go downhill on linebackers. He is a mismatch for safeties, and he might be a mismatch for some corners because he is so much bigger."On if former Bengals teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh might see more targets against the Chargers: "I think he has a good chance to play more than he did last week. I think he got his feet wet, getting his pads on and knocked around a little bit. The more he studies and the more he is around this offense, the more he will tell the coaches to put more on him, to give him more responsibilities and opportunities."On Jacoby Ford, and his acrobatic 18-yard touchdown reception vs. the Broncos: "That was a play -- we run that play quite a bit -- and I hadn't thrown it to him necessarily, I've thrown it to other spots on the field. It was just kind of a weakness of the defense in that instance. But I have a ton of confidence in him. I don't have a lot of playing experience with him but I've seen about every play he's made in a Raider uniform. I remember him in college, I know what he's capable of. He may be short but he plays a lot bigger than he is."On if he has to create a calm atmosphere in the locker room with so many young players on offense: "I haven't noticed that yet. I know it is a young team but everybody is pretty even-keeled. Denarius Moore doesn't say a word and he's one of the better players on this teamJacoby Ford is the same on Sunday as he is Tuesday morning waking up, probably. It's not a group that is overly confident or overly expressive. They're just kind of like, let's go to work, let's grind, and let's have fun on Sunday, but let's just be ourselves. Guys don't act too out of character on Sunday."On how welcomed he has felt: "Just being a group, there's some times you've got to motivate young guys and stay on young guys. But it couldn't have been an easier locker room to walk in and be a part of the team."

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.”