Raiders key matchup No. 3: Allen vs. Fox


Raiders key matchup No. 3: Allen vs. Fox

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Broncos matchups to watch Sunday, 1:05 p.m. (CBS) at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Raiders HC Dennis Allen vs. Broncos HC John Fox
Tale of the tape
Allen: Rookie season as NFL head coach, coaching in NFL since 2002, Texas A&M
Fox: Second season in Denver, 11th season overall as NFL head coach, coaching in NFL since 1989, San Diego StateAllen has gone to great lengths this week to diffuse the storyline of his "homecoming" game in the Mile High City. And that's commendable.Still, the Raiders rookie head coach was Fox's defensive coordinator last year and a lot will be made of Allen matching wits with his former mentor.And that's unavoidable. Especially since both are defensive-minded coaches."Its a big game, but we cant get into individualism," Allen insisted. "This is a team game. We've got a challenge to face the Denver Broncos, and were going to come up with a good plan, our players will execute, and were going to go try to win a game."Still, there will at least be a twinge of nostalgia for Allen, the youngest head coach in the NFL who turned 40 on Saturday, when he steps on the field where he helped win a division title, right?"Sure, it will be a different feel," he admitted. "It will be a different feel. But thats another one of those distractions that you cant let take over. Its not about me, its not about Dennis Allen vs. the Denver Broncos. Its about the Oakland Raiders vs. the Denver Broncos. Were going to need a lot more than just me out there to go win a game. So our focus is going to be on our team trying to exploit whatever weaknesses Denver has and eliminate the times that theyre able to exploit whatever vulnerabilities we have."Fox, 57, said it would be "a lot of fun" to match wits with his former charge and had more than an inkling Allen would be a head coach one day.You could tell early on, just in the interview process, that first of all, hes very smart," Fox said. "Second of all, the way he carries himself. Hes a guy with what I call the 'It' factor. So it did not surprise me that people looking for coaches in the league were interested in talking with him. Obviously he and Reggie (McKenzie) hit it off. So it doesnt surprise me at all."I think the world of him and his family. But like all NFL contests, it's very competitive."The lovefest is a two-way street, so to speak, and Allen admired the way in which Fox handled the Tim Tebow situation last year and did not allow it to derail the Broncos from not only from an AFC West championship, but a playoff game victory."He's not afraid to make the tough decisions," Allen said. "He believes in a lot of the same things that I believe in. He's always had a tough, smart, disciplined football team, and I believe in those same things. And he's not afraid to make tough decisions, and as you continue to go on being a head coach you learn that you've got to make a lot of tough decisions in this job."So yeah, Allen sought Fox's counsel when the Raiders job opened up. Fox was the Raiders defensive coordinator in 1994 and 1995. "Absolutely, I talked to him about a lot of different things," Allen said. "And at the end of the day he said, 'Go there and you'll do a great job, and you're ready for the job.'"And I've talked to him since then, and he doesn't give me all he secrets, but yeah, he's helped me out a lot."How much, exactly, might be determined Sunday.

LB Smith praises Raiders' turnover ratio, but wants much more

LB Smith praises Raiders' turnover ratio, but wants much more

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders defense gave up 344 yards Sunday while beating the Jacksonville Jaguars.

That sum’s a season low, still way too many for Malcolm Smith. The Raiders weakside linebacker has higher standards, even after one of two solid defensive efforts in seven games.

“That’s still a lot of yards,” Smith said. “We’re not where we want to be.”

Just because Sunday was better doesn’t mean it’s good enough. The Raiders defense ranks last in yards allowed and 22nd in scoring defense at 25.6 points per game.

There’s a main reason why the Raiders aren’t dead last in both categories. Takeaways.

The Raiders have plundered the opposition this season 13 times in seven games. Special teams got one Sunday on a muffed punt, but the defense has been incredibly active stealing possession.

Reggie Nelson has a nose for the ball, with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Sean Smith and David Amerson have two picks each and Bruce Irvin leads the league with four forced fumbles.

Turnovers make all those yards allowed easy to stomach, and has kept the Raiders in several close games. The force big mistakes and don’t make many, proven with a plus-eight turnover ratio ranked No. 3 overall.

“It’s given us a chance to win some games, where you could just look at other statistics and say we wouldn’t have a chance.” Smith said. “That’s what the game is about, and us finding ways to compete. Hopefully we stay after it that way.”

The Raiders have stayed after it in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just 50 percent of opponent trips inside their 20-yard line.

While big plays have brought wins and positivity to the defense, the season’s first half has been difficult for Raiders expecting more.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Smith said. “You come into the year with all these aspirations and things you want to do. When it doesn’t go your way you have to stay after it, keep putting the work in and know it’s not going to be wasted. Hopefully we’re making strides and those improvements will show on Sundays.”

The Raiders believe the defense is close to being good, and has done a solid job masking issues with takeaways and timely production.

“Our team has done a great job of competing to win games,” Smith said. “If we keep doing that, everything will be fine.”

Del Rio pleased with Raiders' mature attitude towards 5-2 start

Del Rio pleased with Raiders' mature attitude towards 5-2 start

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders were certainly happy they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars into submission. They jumped out to a strong halftime lead, played smart complimentary football and, at 33-16, ended up with a large margin of victory.

All, however, was not right with the world.

Derek Carr lamented settling for too many field goals. Latavius Murray wanted more efficiency from his runs. Defensive players saw progress in several deficient areas, still seeking greater cohesion and consistency.

[BAIR: Top 5 takeaways from Raiders' 33-16 win over Jaguars]

Sunday’s big victory over lowly Jacksonville was not a sign they've arrived. It was proof these Raiders remain a work in progress.

Records normally suffer with much to correct. These Raiders are 5-2, and feel better football’s ahead.

“That’s what is great about this team is that we haven’t played our best yet,” Murray said. “That’s a good feeling moving forward, knowing there are things you can get better at and you’re still 5-2.”

Winning while fixing things; that’s a coach’s dream. It’s also easier when players know it, that egos don’t expand and confidence doesn’t become arrogance.

“I like that part. I like the fact that we recognize it,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I’m certainly going to point it out. There are things that we have to do better. I think it’s healthy.

“You should enjoy the wins. You should feel good about the success. Take pride in it. We worked hard for it, but to have a healthy respect for what’s coming and the need to play better and the need to continue to grow as a football team as we go throughout the year. That’s a mature way to look at it, and I’m very pleased about that with a younger team.”

The Raiders are a confident bunch and have survived several games on guts, guile and turnovers -- a recipe for success with inconsistent production.

The Raiders defense believes it made strides in the Jaguars win, though there’s significant work remaining to be a decent defense. With the offense rolling, that’s all the Raiders need to be a top team. Defenders aren’t striving for decent. They want more, and believe that realizing potential could put them in position for a playoff push.

“This team has so much talent, with good coaches and good players,” cornerback David Amerson said. “The sky’s the limit. Once we all start clicking, we can go out there and beat teams 30-0. Once we get to that point, that’s when we can look towards the playoffs and things like that. We have just as much talent as any team in the league.”