New veterans give life, lessons to Raiders defensive line

New veterans give life, lessons to Raiders defensive line
August 5, 2014, 9:30 am
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We know when to focus in, but we want to create an environment where it’s fun to come to work.
Raiders D-line coach Terrell Williams

NAPA -- Raiders defensive line coach Terrell Williams has a huge film collection. He creates compilations of his favorite pass rushers to show to his players as example of what to do right.

Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith were regular features, and that was well before Williams got to work with them.

“From a technique standpoint, Justin Tuck is one of the best I’ve ever seen,” Williams said. “I‘ve studied him quite a bit and would show our guys cutups of him in past seasons. I’ve done the same with LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith. I have a big file of pass rushers to study, and I’ve been showing film of those guys long before they got here.”

[RELATED: Woodley a better fit for Raider scheme]

Now he has living, breathing examples to work with. Luckily for Williams and the Raiders, the trio has been gracious with their time. As an example, Smith worked with rookies Justin Ellis and Denico Autry for 25 minutes after a practice last week. He refined their technique and provided tips to accelerate their progress.

That doesn’t happen everywhere. It isn’t the only example of veterans going out of their way.

“It’s something I’ve always done,” Smith said. “Teaching young guys what I’ve learned can do nothing but help the team. I’ve always been an open book. Whatever you need from me, I’m ready to give it to you. When I first got started in the league, it wasn’t always like that. The veterans in the league didn’t want you taking their job. I was able to come along with a couple good veterans who taught me everything they knew. I’m forever grateful for that. I’m not keeping secrets. I’m not holding anything back. If a teammate needs something, all they have to do is ask.”

The defensive line features several new faces, including three dominant veterans brought with a combined 159 sacks, but their bond is already strong. It’s not a serious bunch, but they know when to focus and how to practice like professionals.

They understand it’s a job, but that it doesn’t have to feel like work. That’s done by design. Defensive line coach Trent Williams allows great freedom in his meeting room, which he believes brings out the best in his charges.

“We have a lot of fun,” Williams said. “You laugh and you joke around. You could walk by the meeting room and think you’re at a comedy show. We know when to focus in, but we want to create an environment where it’s fun to come to work.”

While Williams runs the show, roles aren’t regulated to teacher and student. Players and coach exchange ideas in search of the best way to create havoc up front.

Woodley, Tuck and Smith are armed with ideas that have worked in the past. Williams is willing to listen.

[RELATED: Tuck: Raiders must 'exorcise some demons']

“I’ve always created an environment in the positional meeting room that is open to ideas,” Williams said. “We’re all free to talk about football. As a coach, you teach players and you learn from players.”

The players learn from each other. The young players are soaking up knowledge wherever possible, but the veterans are working together in the interest of creating a cohesive pass rusher.

“We’ve been doing that all camp,” Smith said. “We’ve been watching each other rush the passer and taking ideas from one another. That’s important because you have to learn how to rush off of each other. If you have two conflicting styles, you’re always going to run into each other. You have to tweak what you do some to fit in with the guys around you. In turn, you end up making each other better.”

That’s the ultimate goal, especially after the Raiders' four-man rush struggled to create pressure last season. They were forced to blitz far too often, which left the defense exposed in the back.

Williams believes this group could be truly special. He has diverse talents with a track record of success, with young players who are learning from some of the best.

“They’re all getting better for being around each other,” Williams said. “I’m really excited about the potential of this group. It’s all smiles these days.”