Raiders

Derek Carr comfortable operating Jon Gruden's scheme: 'I expect us to be excellent' vs. Rams

Derek Carr comfortable operating Jon Gruden's scheme: 'I expect us to be excellent' vs. Rams

ALAMEDA – Jon Gruden has been teaching his system to players since April. The Raiders head coach changed his terminology to streamline things a bit but the scheme remains complex, with variables aplenty to take into account.

Gruden keeps adding and installing plays at a time when refinement is typical, to set up the game plan for Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.

“I think we’re very prepared,” receiver Amari Cooper said. “Usually around this time, you have the whole offense in and you are repeating things in meetings. We’re still adding stuff and we’re staying on high alert and memorizing all these plays.”

Several players said this week they were confident with their ability to understand Gruden’s scheme. That’s most important for the quarterback.

Derek Carr feels locked in. Carr and Gruden are kindred spirits when it comes to work ethic, and both guys dork out over scheme and game planning.

Carr has responded so well to three different schemes and four offensive coordinators in five years. This go-round is different. Gruden is notoriously demanding of quarterbacks, and Carr regularly passes his pop quizzes and practice tests.

Now there are real stakes, with a result on the line against the Rams. Carr is ready for it.

“From the beginning I thought, ‘When we go out there, I want it to look like Coach Gruden and I have been together for 10 years.’ That was my goal,” Carr said. “Hopefully, obviously, there’s going to be bumps because we’re new at this, but hopefully not too many because I do feel 1,000 percent ready to play a game.

“The way that the coaches teach. The way they install. The way we walk through. The way we practice. You can ask any of our players, if they don’t feel ready to play since April, the guys that have been here, then there’s something to worry about. The way we do things, guys should be ready to play.”

The Raiders must be ready to execute at a high level against an explosive Rams offense featuring Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks.

“The year before last, they put up the least amount of points. Last year, they put up the most. It has been a huge shift for them,” Cooper said. “You never know how a game will go. It might be a shootout. We might have to score on every possession. You never know.”

The Raiders believe they’ll hit the ground running offensively. They have solid skill players and a quarterback to make every throw. There is concern at offensive tackle but, if those guys hold up, the Raiders could come out swinging on offense.

“I expect us to be excellent,” Carr said. “I expect them to know what to do. I expect us to do it. Thankfully we have a really talented group and team of not only players but coaches as well. It’s going to be good.”

Patience a virtue for Daniel Carlson, Raiders stabilizing kicker spot

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Patience a virtue for Daniel Carlson, Raiders stabilizing kicker spot

The Minnesota Vikings took the first kicker in last year’s NFL draft, but that didn’t stop them from cutting Daniel Carlson at the first sign of trouble. The Auburn alum was off the roster following a rough go against Green Bay, suddenly on the street despite great power, accuracy and pedigree.

That transaction raised Rich Bisaccia’s eyebrow. The Raiders special teams coach considered a top talent, someone who could solve his in-season kicker issues with Giorgio Tavecchio cut in camp and Eddy Piñeiro and Mike Nugent on injured reserve. Bisaccia had an in with Carlson after helping recruit him to Auburn. That, the Raiders thought, would separate them from competition when bringing him in for a workout.

Carlson still said no.

This wasn’t about the Raiders. He declined offers from everybody, as a matter of fact, choosing to work out kinks away from massive crowds and quick-to-judge head coaches with nothing invested in him.

“My agent and I obviously talked about it a good bit,” Carlson said. “We just felt like at that time I could take a break, work on some things that I wanted to work on. Once you get into the season, you’re just getting ready for Sunday. You’re getting ready for Sunday, so it was nice to be able to step back, be able to work on a couple little things and then be able to… I knew an opportunity would come. Obviously, I didn’t know where from, but I just wanted to make sure when that came I was ready and would be ready for the rest of the season.”

He made some tweaks and was eventually able to double back to the Raiders when he was ready. Patience proved a virtue for player and team.

Carlson was awesome after joining the Raiders, with a franchise-record 94.1-percent conversion rate. He hit 16 of 17 field goals in silver and black, including a game-winner as time expired on one of their four wins.

Carlson wants to match that effort in 2019 and for years to come as the Raiders kicker. He won’t compete for a gig this season, but is still pushing for improvement and consistency through near-constant self-evaluation even now, when sailing on the calm.

“I think he’s working on getting a master’s in himself,” Bisaccia said. “I think he knows faster than anybody else what’s good about what he does and when it’s not the hit that he’s expecting to make. I think he can self-correct quickly and just our professional opinions we thought he was really a good player coming out. He was certainly a draft-able kicker and then when he became available we couldn’t get him for the first workout, he wanted to go work on a few things on his own and when he was ready for a workout we got him in. He did a tremendous job and now he’s ours.”

Carlson doesn’t subscribe to the ain’t-broke-down-fix-it model. He wants to build on last season’s success over simply replicating it. That more than anything else, remains his drive heading toward the 2019 season.

“I wouldn’t say you ever maintain,” Carlson said. “I think you’re always getting worse or better. I think yes, I learned some things that worked last year and I want to keep those things going. But at the same time, I always want to improve. I’ve been working really hard this offseason. Obviously I took a little break after the season ended and kind of got back to it. I want to continue to build off of what I had last year and the things that were going well. Still continuing to improve every day. I think for the most part I’ve been able to do that.”

Carlson’s able to get nit-picky these days, even looking at attempts that earned three points. He grades each one, and despite the pass-fail nature of his profession, he doesn’t view it as a zero-sum game. He also understands every kick won’t be perfect, but needs even the subpar efforts to fly straight and true.

Carlson is always working on an ironclad mental approach and consistent form that can be more challenging for someone standing 6-foot-5.

“Being taller you have to be very, very exact,” Carlson said. “Continuing to be able to do that nine out of 10 times, but now hopefully I’m going to be able to do it 99 out of 100 times. Just trying to get better each and every day.”

Watch Antonio Brown mic'd up at Raiders mandatory minicamp practice

Watch Antonio Brown mic'd up at Raiders mandatory minicamp practice

"Let's put a show on today."

Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown was chatting with quarterback Derek Carr during a recent mandatory minicamp and we were able to hear it all during an installment of "Mic'd Up."

The two went out on to the practice field and it was apparent Brown hasn't slowed down since being acquired by the Silver and Black.

He makes it look effortless as he grabs everything within reach all while receiving compliments from his quarterback.

As the team stood around on the sidelines, coach Jon Gruden added to the nice words saying AB was "killing it." And Brown responded in the most Brown-like way by saying he's going to kill it every day for Gruden.

[RELATED: AB sets a new standard during Raiders offseason]

AB has been truly dominating in his role being called the hardest worker Gruden has ever seen. The receiver came into his new digs fully prepared, and is not afraid to shy away on giving the team feedback while receiving advice from others as well.

This season will be an interesting one.