Raiders' Jackson sees things to "build on" in tape


Raiders' Jackson sees things to "build on" in tape

Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comHue Jackson was far from his usual jovial, optimistic self Sunday night. And for good reason. The Raiders had just been throttled by New Orleans, 40-20, in their third exhibition game, which traditionally serves as a dress rehearsal for the regular season.But late Monday afternoon, after a day of studying the tape, Jackson was back to his happy-go-lucky ways, at least, on the telephone."I feel better this morning," the rookie head coach said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "Obviously, when you watch the tape, it;'s never as bad or never as good. But there was some things that we can build on."REWIND: Saints double up Raiders at the 40-20
What Jackson liked, and what definitely deserved praise, was the play of the offense, which scored on four of its first six possessions. The highlight was quarterback Jason Campbell answering the Saints' opening 80-yard scoring drive with a 91-yard, 11-play series that ended with Derek Hagan's 35-yard catch-and-run touchdown.What he should not have taken a shine to, and deserved some derision, was rookie cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke getting burned for 73 yards on four Drew Brees passes in that opening New Orleans drive. Put it this way, Van Dyke was directly responsible for all but seven of the Saints' yards in that series.So, after a rough opener against Arizona All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald and then this latest episode, how is the third-round draft pick's confidence?"I don't think his confidence is shaken," Jackson said. "He's a very resilient young man. He knows and understands that people want to keep throwing the ball on him. He needs to get better, we need to get better and we'll do so."All of which brings up the natural follow-up question -- will Chris Johnson, who has been out two weeks with an undisclosed injury, be back this week?"No, not this week," Jackson said. "But sooner, rather than later."One of the most intriguing training camp battles is still up in the air, though Jackson said he has "a pretty good idea" about who his back-up quarterback is going to be."But," Jackson added, "I'm not ready to share that yet."If exhibition game reps are an indicator, Kyle Boller seems to have taken the lead on Trent Edwards.Boller completed five of seven passes for 69 yards for a passer rating of 102.7; Edwards was six of 10 for 60 yards but was sacked three times and his rating was 77.1. Granted, Edwards was basically playing with a third-string offensive line trying to protect him.Gutierrez: Five thoughts from Raiders' loss to Saints
Jackson also said he has not finalized his offensive line yet, though against the Saints it started out like this -- LT Jared Veldheer, LG Stefen Wisniewski, C Samson Satele, RG Cooper Carlisle, RT Khalif Barnes.Safety Mike Mitchell, who has been out since early in camp and was seen last week in Napa on crutches and with his left leg heavily wrapped, is not really in danger of being cut, despite his inactivity and Jerome Boyd making a run at making the team."Jerome is doing a great job and that's a credit to him," Jackson said. "But as far as Mike's concerned, until we're ready to put him back out there (no) decision about where he is on our football team needs to be made."The only injury updates Jackson offered were on backup cornerback Jeremy Ware, who suffered a sprained ankle, and receiver Louis Murphy, who Jackson re-confirmed would not be ready for the season opener in Denver on Sept. 12. Murphy has been hobbled after undergoing a procedure to correct symptoms that sound like a sports hernia. The Raiders have not said what is ailing Murphy.The defense, which has given up 402 and 514 total yards the past two exhibitions, was described as a "work in progress" by Jackson."I like our personnel," Jackson added. "Our personnel just needs to go to work and keep working at the things that we need to improve on."Teams have to get their rosters down to a maximum of 80 players by 1 p.m. PT Tuesday and the Raiders currently have 88 on their active roster, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who will not count against the final tally when his suspension begins.
The Raiders practice Tuesday at 11:15 a.m. at their Alameda facility. The rest of this week's schedule -- practice Wednesday at 11:15 a.m. in Alameda, travel to Seattle on Thursday, play the Seahawks in exhibition finale Friday with kickoff at 7 :30p.m. and off Saturday, when rosters must be cut down to 53 players by 1 p.m. PT.

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


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


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.”