Allen: 'I feel good about our leadership on the team'
Lamarr Houston had four sacks last season, pressured the quarterback multiple times Wednesday, and is a Raiders Dennis Allen expects to lead his teammates. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
ALAMEDA – The average age on the Oakland Raiders’ 90-man minicamp roster is 25.1 years of age. No wonder head coach Dennis Allen said last week he was looking for leaders.
[REWIND: Allen looking for new Raiders leaders]
Other than a select few veterans, such as Sebastian Janikowski, Charles Woodson, Andre Carter and Josh Cribbs, the Raiders are chock full of players with just a few seasons under their belt and undrafted rookies fighting for a roster spot.
After the second day of minicamp practices in Alameda, Allen said he’s comfortable with the balance of experience and youth he has to work with.
“I feel good about our leadership on the team,” Allen said. “All of us as coaches, you’d love to have a team full of established veterans that have been there, done that, won championships, done those types of things, but really when you look at it, we’ve got some veterans on this football team that can lead.”
One player Allen mentioned by name is defensive end Lamarr Houston, who applied consistent pressure on quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor throughout Wednesdsay’s practice after tallying four sacks last season.
“I think that [general manager] Reggie [McKenzie] and DA are expecting me to step up being one of the veteran D-linemen here,” said Houston, who has four years of NFL experience at the age of 25. “We have a lot of young guys now. Fortunately for me, I’ve been under the wing of Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour and they’ve helped me come a long way so far, and Andre Carter as well. They think I’m ready to fill that role and I’m just going to do the best I can in helping this team out.”
For Allen, Houston provides an example of what he looks for in all players.
“He’s coming into his own as a player and filling a leadership role for us…that’s critical,” Allen said. “You got to have the players in the locker room that buy into the system, that buy into the philosophy of what we’re trying to get accomplished, that preach the same message. When their expectation of themselves is either equal to or greater than what our expectation of them is as coaches, then that’s when you really got something.”
The Raiders' wide receiver corps is even younger than the rest of the roster, with an average age of 24.2. Allen said that while he explored bringing in more veteran receivers, he is prepared to start the season with a green group.
“I think we got some young talent here,” Allen said. “Now we need somebody to step up and really separate themselves a little bit. But I like our receivers.”
Allen said that his receivers need to work on becoming more consistent. There were high hopes for Denarius Moore after an explosive introduction to the NFL in 2011. While his 51 receptions for 741 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012 make for a very respectable second-season line, he has a long way to go to truly establish himself as a dominant No. 1 receiver.
“He’s a guy that we’re counting on being our No. 1 receiver,” Allen said of Moore. “But we need all those guys.”
Juron Criner, the Raiders’ fifth-round draft pick out of Arizona in 2012, and Rod Streater, an undrafted free agent addition in 2012, both had promising rookie campaigns and Allen expects them to develop into more dependable options.
“Juron Criner is a guy that needs to become more involved,” Allen said. “He’s a guy that we’re looking for to kind of step up and fill a role for us.”
Allen said that he has high hopes for Criner and Streater because they’re at the point in their careers where many players take their game to another level.
“That’s really where you see the most growth in players, from year one to year two,” Allen said. “They’ve had these experiences, they’ve had a chance to learn from a full season and you anticipate them growing and developing and continuing to get better.”
When asked what he looks for in a No. 1 wide receiver, Allen kept it simple.
“Catch the ball. At the end of the day, we need guys to go up and make plays for us. It’s understanding the route combinations, understanding the different techniques of running certain routes. Those are all certain things that you gain from experience. But at the end of the day, what a receiver is paid to do is go up and make plays on the ball and that’s what we’re looking for.”
New Orleans head coach Sean Payton talked briefly with Allen about doing a joint practice before the Raiders and Saints play a preseason game at the Superdome on August 16.
But Allen, who worked as Payton’s secondary coach in New Orleans, said Wednesday that a combined workout is unlikely.
“It’s something that we’ve talked about. I don’t think that’s going to end up working out, but it is something that we kicked around, really both sides.”