Raiders Report: Allen pleased with effort, Pryor progressing
Terrelle Pryor is one of many Raiders excited about what Greg Olson is bringing to the offense. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
ALAMEDA -- The Raiders brought in a couple of big-bodied defensive lineman in Vance Walker and Pat Sims to plug up the middle of their 4-3 base defense. But the 615-pound pair of tackles can do more than stuff the run, and the team is counting on it.
"We need to bat some balls down," head coach Dennis Allen said after the Raiders opened minicamp.
Walker did just that on Tuesday, getting off the ground to swat a number of attempts from Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor.
But he'll have to show he can wag his "Dikembe" finger at quarterbacks with pads and full contact, as Pryor acknowledged the defense's advantage in minicamp.
"A lot of tipped balls from the defense because there’s no pads," Pryor said. "It’s very nerve-racking and you get tired of that. But you can’t really get the pads down on the linemen because we don’t have pads on."
The Raiders allowed an average of 118.6 rushing yards (18th in the NFL) and 236 passing yards (20th) per game last season, and they're hoping Walker and Sims can replace Desmond Bryant and Tommy Kelly with aplomb.
Greg Olson is entering his first season as offensive coordinator for the Raiders -- the team's third in as many years -- and the early reports from his players are all positive.
"Oli has this aura about him, you can feel the creativity. He's always thinking about football, he's always thinking about matchups. I feel great about that, I love that, and he knows that I love that. So we have fun talking football. It's a great feeling around the building right now.
"He's like a mad scientist. I don't think I've even seen half of what he has in store for this team. So we're all looking forward to unleashing this playbook and to see what he has in store."
"The communication at the line is a lot faster. We’re getting a lot more adjustments done in that regard. Just timing with the receivers. We’re starting to form that bond, we’re starting to form that chemistry. We still have a little ways to go but it’s starting to come and it’s starting to get there. Everyone is just feeling more comfortable in the locker room, speaking with each other, going over Xs and Os and out on field."
"We have a great guy calling plays, a great coach, to me, calling plays. It gives Darren McFadden a chance to get downhill. We got a great guy calling our offense. He gives us a chance. He just wants guys to make plays. He’s just honest. Sometimes, the play isn’t going to come out as it’s drawn up on that clipboard before we come out and practice, in the playbook. He just wants guys to make plays. That’s wonderful just to hear that. That’s what we’re here to do. It’s not going to be the same route that it is in the book. That’s definitely what I like about this new situation.”
[RELATED: Pryor: 'I took a step forward today']
"I like it. I think change is always good. You have to make that transition. There are lot of things that are quarterback friendly. There's a lot that goes on at the line of scrimmage -- the quarterback getting us in the right run play, the right protection, the right pass call."
Tony Bergstrom took the majority of the first-team reps Tuesday. He appears to have a bead on the starting left guard position, which would leave Lucas Nix with a backup role. Still, he's far from calling the job his.
"I wouldn’t go that far," Bergstrom said. "That spot’s really open for the taking. Nix is a good player and I have all the respect in the world for him. It’s just he and I battling it out every day and we’ll see what happens come camp.”
Bergstrom, who has been roommates with Nix since last season, is much more comfortable in his second year with the team.
"It's a big motivating factor, coming in knowing there’s a spot that’s open and being competed for," Bergstrom said. "That’s kind of the nice thing about this year; I have a goal in mind."
The Raiders third-round (and first) draft pick last year says he is learning the most from the seven-year veteran at right guard -- Mike Brisiel.
Lamarr Houston could be one of only two returning starters for coordinator Jason Tarver and the Raiders defense, along with strong safety Tyvon Branch. Head coach Dennis Allen has high expectations for the fourth-year pass rusher who collected four sacks last season.
"I’m extremely pleased with where Lamarr Houston is," Allen said. "I’m pleased with him as a football player. I’m pleased with him as a leader on this football team in trying to bring other guys along with him. So I’ve got no qualms with where Lamarr Houston is. He’ll be effective rushing the quarterback this year.
"Lamarr’s probably not the guy who’s going to be the flashy guy off the edge, but he understands how to rush, he’s got power when he rushes, and he’s got a little bit of slipperyness to him to beat blocks and get to the quarterback. He had some hits on quarterbacks last year and had some pressure, didn’t result in a lot of high sack numbers, but if he continues to work and continues to get to the quarterback those sacks will come."
Houston has 10 career sacks, and will likely line up opposite right defensive end Jason Hunter, a six-year NFL veteran with 11 sacks to his name. The Raiders, who recorded a second-to-league-worst 25 total sacks last season, are looking for career years from each.
Marcel Reece got the better of Tyvon Branch on a wobbling deep ball from Matt Flynn. Branch appeared to get lost on the play, leaving Reece with an open sideline and the ball. Bragging rights?
"No, not at all," Reece said. "That's a Top 3 safety in the league right there in Tyvon, so there's no bragging rights. It's a long season and there's a lot of practices for us to go at each other. We'll trade off a few times, I'm sure. We've traded off a lot the last six years. I'm just hoping I get him more than he gets me."
Veteran Charles Woodson, wearing No. 2, lined up alongside Branch as the first-team free safety and is the presumptive starter. Usama Young replaced Woodson with the second team.
The tight end position is wide open, with Richard Gordon, David Ausberry and rookie Mychal Rivera vying for playing time. Gordon saw the lion's share of the first-team reps on Tuesday, and he showed why with a number of impressive catches in tights spaces over the middle.
Twice he had to adjust his body in order to make a catch, and was able to continue each play smoothly.
Jeron Mastrud is another name to keep in mind. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end spent his first three NFL seasons with Miami, but he was very involved Tuesday and his play on special teams could make him worthy of a roster spot.
Stacy McGee wasn't seen during the first day of Raiders minicamp Tuesday, and the sixth-round draft pick has been out since OTAs with a foot injury. But he made an appearance afterward.
Matt Flynn's meeting with the media was interrupted repeatedly by violent hits against a blocking sled from across the practice field.
It was the 6-foot-3, 308-pound defensive lineman out of Oklahoma getting one-on-one instruction.
The punting unit had the most trouble Tuesday. New special teams coordinator Bobby April spent a number of minutes getting the squads organized, and neither Chris Kluwe nor Marquette King were particularly consistent.
Kluwe shanked his first two punts, eliciting a "C'mon Chris!" call from Dennis Allen on the sidelines, and King dropped his first attempt. Still, each got off a number of impressive punts.
As you might expect, Kluwe's ball has a bit more of the prototypical spiral, while King's carries a similar distance on sheer power.