- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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A huge thanks to the Oakland Raiders’ PR department for sending out a transcript of coach Dennis Allen’s media session on Tuesday morning from the owners meetings. Let’s look at some of the highlights:
On Peyton Manning joining the division: “I think obviously, Peyton is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, so he creates a big challenge for all of us. One of the things, when you look at the quarterbacks in this division, you think about Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, this is one of the better divisions in football as far as the quarterback position goes. So, I think it’s an awesome challenge for all of us in the division. I think every defensive-minded coach in this division is excited about the challenge.
My take: Allen makes a good point. This is a strong quarterback division, assuming Palmer gets comfortable in the Raiders’ system, and Matt Cassel makes strides in Kansas City with his big basket of offensive weapons.
On putting his own stamp on the program, and still respecting the past: “I think with every great program in the National Football League, I think you really have to respect the history and tradition within the organization. The Oakland Raiders. It’s one of the most storied franchises in all of sport, not just the NFL. We want to embrace those, embrace the past, and the history of the organization. But yet, we want to do it our way. Reggie and I are going to work together to do it the way we want to do it, and put the best team out on the field we can put out there. You have to embrace the tradition of the Raiders and what Mr. Davis was able to build there. But at the same time, Reggie and I have to do it our way. We’re committed to doing that. Reggie’s done an outstanding job since he’s been there, of putting his own stamp on the organization. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with the players and putting my stamp on the team.”
My take: I love the handle Allen and McKenzie have on this deal. They know the history (McKenzie is a former Raiders player), but they also know they need to be in charge of taking this team in their own direction in the post-Al Davis world. I think they are approaching it the right way.
On Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie: “What you find out about Reggie, he does let the process play out. He’s not going to be swayed in any way by public perception. He’s going to do what he thinks is right for himself, for the organization, and he’s not really going to look back.”
My take: Allen nailed it. Every time I’ve been around McKenzie (dating back 13 years ago in Green Bay), he appeared never to have a worry in the world. He is approaching this job with a calmness that only should help the Oakland organization.
On young players on the roster: “We’ve got some young players on our team that I’m excited about. I’m excited about the receiving corps. I’m excited about Tyvon Branch at the safety position. I’m excited about the opportunity to get to work with Rolando McClain as a middle linebacker. There’s a reason why he was drafted so high. I think Darren McFadden is someone I’m excited about, still a developing player. When you look at our team, we really have some young talent that has a chance to grow. How you can sustain success in this league is to develop young players. That’s critical.”
My take: Yes, the Raiders have taken some major hits in the offseason, but they also have some solid, young talent. That is their chance to be competitive.
On Oakland’s top defensive assets: “Our strongest area, I think defensively, is we’re going to be good up front. I think that’s been a key asset to the team over the last couple years. We’re big, we’re physical up front. And then I think we’ve got team speed all over the field. I think where we need to get is, we have to be able to develop some of the young players, some of the young talent. You look at DeMarcus Van Dyke, Chimdi Chekwa and some of the draft choices last year that we’ve got to develop. Rolando McClain is one of those guys we’ve got to develop. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get to work with those guys. We do have talent. We’ve got to bring them along.”
My take: There is no doubt, the Raiders’ defensive assets are on the front line. It all starts there. Oakland must have good health up front as it continues to develop in the back seven.
On free agency: “Here’s the first thing: There’s good players out there. They really form most of your team. We weren’t able to go out there and make the big splash, the big name, through free agency. We won’t be able to go out and make the big splash, the big name through the draft, because we don’t have a first- or second-round draft choice. What we’ve got to be able to do, we have to find those value picks that fit what we want to do, offensively, defensively and in the kicking game, that allow us to do that. Then, we’ve got to develop of them as coaches.”
My take: It’s the right attitude. He has no other choice.
On whether the Raiders will play a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme: “No, we haven’t decided any of that yet. We’re still going through the process of acquiring talent, looking into who we’re going to have on the team next year. Once we get through the draft, we’ll have a better feel [for] what we want to do there.”
My take: I think Allen has to be already leaning toward a particular scheme. I don’t think there are many players who will be available at No. 95 who can sway his opinion on whether to run a 4-3 or a 3-4. The existing talent is flexible enough to play both schemes, and I think we will see, as Allen has said in the past, Oakland use multiple sets.
5dEric D. Williams