Q&A with Raiders CB coach Rod Woodson

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Q&A with Raiders CB coach Rod Woodson

Aug. 8, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVE
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Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comNAPA -- More than a few eyebrows were raised when it was announced on Valentine's Day that Rod Woodson was joining new Raiders coach Hue Jackson's staff.Woodson was a Hall of Famer. He already had a cushy gig as an analyst for the NFL Network. Would he be ready for the endless days of frustration trying to get guys with less than his Canton-enshrined ability to measure up?Surely there was a typo, no? Um, no.Woodson, who played in the NFL from 1987 through 2003, the last two seasons with the Raiders, has tackled the challenge head on, saying on reporting day that coaching teenage girls the past few years readied him for the task at hand. He was joking. Kinda.His signature moment as a Raiders defensive back was his 98-yard interception return for a touchdown of Brian Griese in Denver in Oakland's 2002 Super Bowl season. As a coach, he hopes to create similar moments for his new charges.RELATED: Camp report (88): Raiders' DHB back in action
Monday, Woodson spoke with reporters in his most comprehensive interview since he was hired. Following is Woodson's Q&A:Question: What has coaching been like so far?Answer: So far, so good. One-a-days is not tough on the coaches. It's not really, really tough on the players yet. So far, so good. I can't complain about it.Q: Has anything surprised you yet?A: Nope. No. Seven years removed, I've prepared myself for the worst. It hasn't gotten to that point yet, but I'm ready for the long days when the season starts.Q: Are you a guy who isn't very vocal when coaching?A: Well, I don't think I need to scream and holler. Every coach has his own style. At the end of the day, the train is leaving. It's going to leave with the guys or without the guys. My style is, if you want to get a paycheck, be on the train. I don't need to tell you that. At the end of the day, if you're not doing your job, you're going to get cut. That's the bottom line. That's the reality of it. Throughout my career, my coaches never really yelled at me too much. I was a player that didn't really respond to yelling. There's some guys you need to push. There's ways you find to push certain players. Other guys, you just tell them what to do, and they'll do it. You have to find your way.Q: Which coaches influenced you?A: Gosh, all of them. Chuck Noll, Rod Rust, Tony Dungy, Dick Labeau, Dom Capers, Bill Cowher, Steve Mariucci, Johnnie Fox -- he was a rookie coach when he was in Pittsburgh. All those guys who I coached under, I learned a little bit of something from them all.Q: What was it like watching the Hall of Fame speeches?A: Oh, yeah. They're getting longer. (Laughs) It feels like they're getting longer. But anytime you can go back and see the great classes that come back. I think there was like 80-something guys that went back this year. It's always good to go back and see those guys and see the guys that are getting enshrined that year. Q: What do you think of DeMarcus Van Dyke?A: Well, DVD is his nickname. He's going to be good. It's the little things that he has to work on. He has to learn how to finish. He's still learning the little things about playing corner in this league -- playing the different coverages, when to do certain things, when not to do certain things. But if he keeps progressing in the positive manner like he has in the first week or so, he'll be a decent player. Q: Does Van Dyke have good hips?A: He has great hips. He reminds me of a player that I played with in Baltimore, Duane Starks. When he got drafted coming out of The U (Miami), and we were in Baltimore, he had great hips, great feet. DVD reminds me of him. He's a little bit taller. His range, I don't think too many receivers are outrunning him. So, he has to learn to break down, move his body weight and transition when he's playing in space. If he does that, he can be a pretty good player.Q: Your thoughts on Michael Huff?A: Mike's a player. He's a playmaker. He has a natural instinct, a natural gift. I'm also coaching the nickels. I coach more with the other guys than I do with him. When you don't have to coach as much with a certain guy, it makes your job a little easier. That's when you know he has that natural gift. You don't have to tell him to do the little things. It just comes naturally to him.Q: Does your Hall of Fame status help you coach so many young players?A: It's a start. But if I tell them to go the wrong way, it's not going to last too long. I'm just trying to point them in the right direction. Each player is different. Every player learns differently. Some guys are audio learners, some guys are visual, some guys need to do the reps. The things that I did in my career, I can't ask the same guy to do the same thing. It really depends upon their abilities. Each player plays within that ability. If they can do that and I can help them cultivate their tool belt, so to speak, in their craft, then I'm doing my job as a coach.Q: What kind of coverage does newold defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan prefer?A: Multiple. The great defenses that I played with, and I know Chuck has been around, have done a multiple of things. I don't think you can do one thing and be good at it. What has to happen in this league is, you have to make the quarterback think after he touches the football. What Chuck is trying to cultivate with his defense is, to give multiple looks, make sure we have our disguises in the secondary and linebackers and from that we move to what we're going to play in. If we can do that, then we're headed in the right direction. Chuck, what he wants to do is, give multiple looks, multiple defenses and make the quarterback guess. Q: Is Stanford Routt an elite cornerback?A: He can be. Stanford, he's a work in progress. He has natural gifts. Every player that gets drafted in the NFL has those gifts. He has to cultivate those gifts. He's had Willie (Brown) here for so long, he has learned under Nnamdi (Asomugha). It's his turn to learn how to play the game and learn to trust himself. The elite players learn to trust themselves on the field. Once he does that and he pulls the trigger when he has opportunities to pull the trigger, his game is going to elevate, his interceptions (are) going to go up and that's when you're going to start hearing his name more so than you have in the past.Q: Does pulling that trigger and making that big play start that process?A: Everything's a process. Step by step. What Stanford has done so far in this new system is, he's learning the system, he's learning how to trust himself, he's learning how to work his eyes, his balance with his feet, all the things that you need to do as a defensive back, as a defensive player, as an NFL player, to trust what you have learned in the meeting room, on the field and apply back to the practice field and game day. Those are the elite players. He's in the process of doing so.Q: Do the Raiders really play man-to-man defense 90 percent of the time?A: I know when I was here, we played multiple coverages. We played four, we played man, we played some zones. That's what we're going to do again. I don't know what they did in the seven or eight years that I was gone, but that doesn't matter. What matters is, this year, 2011 Raiders, that the guys buy in to what Hue (Jackson) is selling. All the guys are doing that. We're learning that there's a standard that we're asking of our players when they step on the practice field. There's a practice for when we step (on the field) on game day. And it doesn't matter if it's the first-team guy, second-team guy, the third-team guy, the standard is set. You have to live up to the standard or you won't be a Raider. Q: Thoughts on Chris Johnson?A: Chris can play. I like Chris. He's an old wily vet. He's kind of the same way as Stanford a little bit. He has to start trusting himself and start pulling that trigger. All the film study, everything we're giving him as coaches, everything he's learned throughout his career and from other players, once he can apply that back to the field and not hesitate, those are the guys that you really look forward to see play. C.J. is in that process. He believes that he can do certain things and as he progresses this year, he's going to have a good year. Q: Do those guys have to play better to make up for the loss of Nnamdi?A: Even with Nnamdi, if Nnamdi was here, I would tell Nnamdi the same thing. He didn't have a lot of picks. He was a shut-down corner but pulling the trigger gives you the opportunity to make picks. They have to start pulling that trigger. There's certain things throughout the practice, there's certain plays, you only get two or three plays as a defensive back to make plays. Once they start learning how to pull that trigger, and I'm talking about the safeties, the DBs, the linebackers, the defensive linemen, everybody, we'll be an explosive defense. Q: Have you always wanted to coach?A: I thought about it for years but after playing for 17 years I was offered my first few years when I first retired, but I needed to get away. So, being away for seven years, I thought this was the best time to give it a shot, see if I like it, see if I donu2019t mess the guys up too much. If I can do that, then I'll try to make a career of it.

Raiders OTA observations: Conley, rookies must earn their stripes

Raiders OTA observations: Conley, rookies must earn their stripes

ALAMEDA – Rookies have been immersed in the Raiders system most of this month, but still have a lot to learn before training camp begins this summer.

There’s significant work ahead this spring during OTAs and mid-June’s mandatory minicamp, and young players will do so from the second and third teams. Even the highly touted ones.

First-round draft pick Gareon Conley played slot cornerback with the second unit and outside cornerback on the third during Tuesday’s OTA open to the media. It’s a position the slick, speedy cover man will vacate posthaste, but the Raiders prefer rookies earn their stripes.

“All of our young guys are going to earn their way,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We have a good football team. We’re going to let them earn their way. We’ll let them compete. We’re early in the competition, so we’ll just go through the offseason and continue to get (Conley) involved and get him reps. These guys will ascend and take their positions as they earn it. We’re really happy with the way he’s started.”

The Raiders didn’t feature a single rookie on their first units Tuesday. Second-round safety Obi Melifonwu, fourth-round offensive tackle David Sharpe and middle linebacker Marquel Lee were featured on the second unit.

Here are some other observations from Tuesday’s OTA sessions.

-- Del Rio said Marshall Newhouse had the inside track to be the team’s starting right tackle. The versatile veteran worked there with the first team, joining a front five otherwise intact from a season ago.

-- Second-year pro Connor Cook, who switched from No. 8 to No. 18 this offseason, ran the second offensive unit. E.J. Manuel worked with the third team.

-- Inside linebacker Ben Heeney worked on a side field with a trainer during Tuesday’s practice, as he continues to rehab from surgery to repair an ankle broken early last season. Jelani Jenkins also did side work after practicing on Monday.

Cory James and Tyrell Adams worked with the first unit at inside linebacker.

-- Veteran running back Marshawn Lynch was limited to individual drills for a second straight day as the Raiders ease him back into football activity.

-- Offensive lineman Austin Howard is working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, and only practice during individual drills.

-- Cornerback Sean Smith had offseason surgery, but was a full participant in Tuesday’s session.

-- Third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes remains away from the Raiders complex due to an NFL rule preventing players from schools still in session to work with their teams. He won’t re-join the squad until training camp. Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow is in a similar spot, but will return next week.

-- Edge rusher Shilique Calhoun played last season at 250 pounds, but looks decidedly bigger now. He told the team website he’s up to 270 pounds.

 

Cooper seeks counsel from former All-Pro Lions WR, Raiders guest

Cooper seeks counsel from former All-Pro Lions WR, Raiders guest

ALAMEDA -- Todd Downing and Calvin Johnson go way back. The Raiders offensive coordinator got to know the retired Detroit receiver during four seasons coaching Lions quarterbacks, a relationship benefitted current Silver and Black receivers this week.

Johnson is in Alameda as a special guest and advisor for the first week of Raiders OTAs, offering tips and tricks learned during an excellent career.

“(Downing) thought it’d be a great idea for our wide receivers to just pick his brain and have him be around and give us a point here or there,” Del Rio said. “Talk about some of the things that he did so well in his career and how we might be able to have some of our guys learn from that. It’s great to have him out here.”

Amari Cooper gravitated towards Johnson, and has spent significant time picking his brain

“I’ve just been asking him a whole bunch of questions,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “How does he run certain routes? What was his regimen like? And how he was so productive? He’s a really cool guy. He’s been giving me some really great feedback, so he’s nice to have around.”

Johnson’s a unique talent, a difficult cover at 6-foot-5, 236 pounds. Cooper operates in a smaller frame and has different receiving strengths, but still found wisdom in working with Megatron.

“He just gave me some really good tips on like how I can run some of my routes,” Cooper said. “…he’s a different receiver than I am, obviously. But I really admire the way he high-points the ball and that’s something that I try to do as well.”

Cooper does most everything well, and has had a productive start to his NFL career. He’s just the third receiver in NFL history to exceed 70 receptions and 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons – Odell Beckham and Marques Colston are the others – and made the Pro Bowl after both campaigns.

He continues to tinker with his approach and offseason workouts, trying to finish seasons stronger and become an even more dynamic player. Cooper has no problem learning from others, especially the greats.

“I seek advice all the time,” Cooper said. “My rookie year, when I was fortunate enough to go to the Pro Bowl, I asked Adrian Peterson like when did he start working out, how did he go about his offseason. And I tried to pattern after him a little bit.”

Cooper is smarter and working better thanks to information absorbed from others, which he hopes will help him become a deadly weapon.

“I know he’s just scratching the surface of what he wants to accomplish in this league,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Very prideful. Amari has always been very serious about the game and works hard at everything, really. His conditioning level and understanding what he needs to be able to do to play at a high level. Again, talking and having a guy like Calvin here as we’re getting started in these OTAs, to be able to share some of the insight of what he experienced playing that position is very valuable for us.”