We haven’t heard much from Dennis Allen lately. Just once since the NFL owners meetings in fact. That came shortly after selecting linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 5 overall in the NFL draft. He was undoubtedly excited about the pick.
After hearing a Wednesday interview with Sirius XM Radio, it’s clear he feels that way about the entire draft. All the Raiders offseason acquisitions, really.
He addressed the draft and the Raiders offseason on Wednesday, a few days before he meets with local press on Friday during the team’s rookie minicamp.
He believes Mack can be the defense’s “identity.” He loves second-round quarterback Derek Carr’s competitiveness and football IQ. Allen said a sixth-round pick was a small price to pay for a veteran like Matt Schaub. Justin Ellis was a steal in the fourth round.
There’s was an air of confidence about these assertions, none more steadfast in than this: the Raiders are in line to improve significantly following consecutive 4-12 seasons.
“We’re making a lot of progress,” Allen told hosts Gil Brandt and Howard Davis. “We’ve got things going in the right direction. Everything we’ve done is offseason is about getting the Raiders back to where they need to be, back to the glory days of this team. We still have that same commitment to excellence. We’re looking forward to this season and getting an opportunity to show what we can do.”
The Raiders loaded up on defense especially, revamping a pass rush with Mack and veterans Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and LaMarr Woodley. They’ve added experience to the secondary. They’ve added veteran quarterback Matt Schaub – it’s very clear he’s the unquestioned starter – and Derek Carr for the future. They’ve added experience at running back and beef up front.
It’s clear the Raiders believe that can turn a corner in 2014.
“It’s time,” Allen said. “We need to get this team back to where it needs to be. We need to be a team of relevance, not only in in the AFC West but in the NFL as a whole. I think we’ve made a lot of steps toward getting that done this year.”
Allen remains undaunted by the NFL’s toughest schedule, one loaded with difficult competition.
“Our job is to win,” Allen said. “I feel like we’re building the right type of team. We’re excited about the opportunity. We’re going to play wherever they tell us to. We’re going to line up and give it everything we’ve got, and I feel like we have a good chance to win.”
Here’s a full transcript of the Dennis Allen interview on Sirius XM radio, which touched on a number of topics:
Q: On the draft…
A: We’re very proud and very excited about the draft we were able to have. I thought Reggie and his staff did an excellent job of setting up the draft board and, really, when you get down to it, we felt like we were able to get a lot of players at a good value for where we were able to get guys. We feel fortunate that certain guys were able to fall to us. We feel like we acquired some guys who are going to help our team win.
Q: On No. 5 overall pick, OLB Khalil Mack…
A: There are a lot of guys from small schools with the gold Hall of Fame jacket. Just because you come from a small school doesn’t mean you can’t be a great player. This guy came from a small school, but he dominated that level of competition. When he had an opportunity to play up, he was able to dominate at that level of competition too. It’s not about where you start, it’s about where you end up.
We feel great about the pick. We feel like he’s going to be an identity-type of player for the Oakland Raiders.
Q: What do you think you can get out of Matt Schaub? Will the change of scenery help?
A: Here’s the way I look at it. I’ve followed Matt Schaub’s career since I was with the Atlanta Falcons when we drafted him. This guy is an outstanding quarterback. You can do whatever you want to with the statistics. You can look at it however you want, but, at the end of the day, he’s a top 10 quarterback in the NFL. He’s been that way over the last five years. We’re excited that he’s our quarterback. We’re excited that he’s here. He’ll be a great addition to our football team and help us get to where we want to get to.
Q: On Matt Schaub’s value…
A: I don’t think there was anybody we were going to draft in the sixth round who was going to have as much of an influence on our football team as Matt Schaub. We feel great about being able to get him. We feel great about getting him as our quarterback. I know he’s going to do an outstanding job this year. He’s already done that during the offseason program.
Q: On Derek Carr’s college production…
A: It wasn’t just last year. He’s had a productive career throughout his four years at Fresno State. I think he has most of the passing records there. When we had an opportunity to go through the quarterback circuit, and we interviewed all these quarterbacks and went to all these pro days, I think you came out with from meeting Derek is that he’s a great competitor. He’s very fiery on the tape, though his personality may not be that way off the field. And he’s incredibly intelligent. One of the smartest quarterbacks I’ve had an opportunity to interview. There’s another guy that we felt fortunate to have fall to us in the second round. You can never have enough great quarterbacks. That’s the most crucial position on the football team. We feel great about where we’re at there. We have veteran leadership, we have young guys we have a lot of great potential who can grow into the quarterback of the future at some point.
Q: On Carr’s willingness to gamble…
A: You need some of that to be a great quarterback. They have confidence and the ability to put the ball through tight windows. They come out successful the majority of the time. You see that with Derek. He’s very confident in his ability to put the ball in the right spot.
Q: On third-round OG Gabe Jackson...
A: I think there are a lot of similarities. I know we liked that he was a big, powerful man who fit the scheme of what we want to be able to do. We want to be able to knock people around and we feel he’s able to do that. The fact that he played in 52 straight games shows he’s durable. It’s hard to find guys who play in the SEC who have played that type of streak. It’s a testament to the way that he’s built. He’s built to last.
Q: From rounds 3-7, who do you think could really stand out?
A: I’m proud of all the draft picks. I think they all have an opportunity to come in and help us win immediately. One of the guys I’m interested is Justin Ellis from Louisiana Tech. You always go through the draft process and rate guys by round, and, as you get into the later rounds, you’re identifying guys who have traits and qualities you can envision fitting into your scheme. Justin was a player who really, at a certain point, we felt like we could get great value. He’s a big space eater inside, but he’s a heck of an athlete with great feet and great first-step explosion. He’ll be a guy I think can come in and be in the rotation and have an immediate impact.
Q: Are you concerned about his endurance?
A: That’s always a concern when you take a big man like that. I feel confident in our staff and what we’ll be able to do to keep him on the right path. That’s part of our job, to educate him on how to be a pro and take care of himself.
Q: (Brandt) Coach, I think you’ve had a great draft.
A: We’re making a lot of progress. We’ve got things going in the right direction. Everything we’ve done is offseason is about getting the Raiders back to where they need to be, back to the glory days of this team. We still have that same commitment to excellence. We’re looking forward to this season and getting an opportunity to show what we can do.
Q: On running back situation…
A: We’ve got great depth at the running back position. We have Darren McFadden and his explosiveness. We all know what he can do when he stays healthy. We have Maurice Jones-Drew, an All-Pro player, and a guy like Marcel Reece, a fullback who can play tailback in a pinch. We have other young players and we’re looking forward to watching them grow. I feel great about that spot. We have depth and versatility there.
Q: There’s a lot of depth in the AFC West, but the NFL’s better when the Raiders are better.
A: It’s time. We need to get this team back to where it needs to be. We need to be a team of relevance, not only in in the AFC West but in the NFL as a whole. I think we’ve made a lot of steps toward getting that done this year.
Q: Has (defensive coordinator) Jason Tarver come off the cloud after this draft?
A: He never comes off the cloud.(Laughter) He’s excited. We all are. We need to improve this defense, and we were able to get some guys who can help us defensively. We also feel like we got some guys who can help us improve from a special teams standpoint.
Q: On a difficult schedule…
A: There’s nothing you can do about the schedule. Our job is to go out and play whenever, wherever they tell us to go play. Our job is to win. I feel like we’re building the right type of team. We’re excited about the opportunity. We’re going to play wherever they tell us to. We’re going to line up and give it everything we’ve got, and I feel like we have a good chance to win.