Verdict in on Raiders' Allen


Verdict in on Raiders' Allen

ALAMEDA -- All eyes were on the Raiders' rookie head coach as the team embarked upon its offseason training programs, perhaps none more focused on Dennis Allen than those peepers belonging to the players themselves.So after a voluntary veterans minicamp, a draft, a rookie minicamp, three weeks of OTA and a mandatory minicamp, how did the 39-year-old Allen come off to the more grizzled of the group?"Theres not a lot of bullcrap that comes out of his mouth, which is important," first-year Raiders defensive end Dave Tollefson said upon the conclusion of last week's minicamp. "Theres enough guys on this team and in the NFL, in general, that can smell crap, if a guy is just saying stuff to fill time. He doesnt to that. As a young guy, coming in and being as sharp as he is, knowing what to do as a head coach is pretty impressive."RELATED: Raiders GM McKenzie says you can't build Rome overnight
Perhaps most impressive is that Tollefson has played the past five years for the New York Giants' no-nonsense taskmaster in Tom Coughlin and has a pair of Super Bowl rings to show for Coughlin's tight-fisted ways in Gotham."Listen, this is why we do this," Allen said. "The most important time and the most fun time is the time that we spend with the players, so yeah, but we've got some veteran players and I think they understand what's at stake and so I think they'll come back ready to roll come training camp."And Allen has let anyone within earshot know that his mantra is a more disciplined manner of football. Not exactly an easy task considering the Raiders set NFL records for penalties (163) and penalty yardage (1,358) last season."Coach Allen has done this, too, with penalties and turnovers these last couple days (of minicamp), is showing us slides with it," Tollefson said. "Thats something that Coughlin was huge on, showing us what hes talking about. If you turn the ball over and you get penalties, you will lose games and wont make it to the playoffs. Hes done a good job of that. To give it lip service, that really doesnt do it justice. Showing people the results of hanging on to the ball, getting the ball on defense and not shooting yourselves in the foot.RELATED: Raiders notes -- Offseason programs wrapped, team eyes Napa
"The number of penalties that this team had last year was unreal. And then to go 8-8 on top of that, thats kind of impressive. You get to see it for what it is. Theres no gimmes in this league. To keep setting yourself backward, its going to make it even tougher."The minicamp had 100 percent attendance of the 89 players on the Raiders roster and Allen was impressed with the turnout. The players, in turn, left impressed with Allen."Dennis has done a really good job of having a good mixture of both (fun and seriousness)," Tollefson said. "You've got to have accountability, but it is still a game. Hes done a great job with situations in practice. This is a situational sport at its heart, so you got to be ready for any situation. The accountability is there, which I want and which is important. You cant have guys doing whatever they want. Then again, you have to remember it for what it is; we do get paid to play a stupid game."

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.”