AFC West: Greg Olson

Three-time Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew is scheduled to make a free-agent visit with the Oakland Raiders on Friday, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported.

Jones-Drew
Some might see it as a curious development, in that the Raiders’ current biggest needs are on the interior of the defensive line and at cornerback.

But the bowling ball-like Jones-Drew, who grew up near Oakland and went to high school at powerhouse De La Salle, would also bring explosiveness to the running game ... so long as he stays healthy.

He missed 10 games in 2012 and one last season, after a flying tackle by the Raiders’ Charles Woodson, and is coming off a career-low 3.4 yards per carry average with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He rushed for 803 yards and five touchdowns in 2013.

Still, the Raiders do have questions at running back as they re-signed the oft-injured -- but just as tantalizing and teasing -- Darren McFadden, who has averaged 3.3 yards per carry the past two seasons. They are hoping for big things from Latavius Murray, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury after being a sixth-round draft pick. Oakland also signed Kory Sheets, the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup MVP.

Jones-Drew, 29, was a first-team All-Pro in 2011 after leading the league with 1,606 yards rushing. He played for current Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson when Olson was the Jaguars’ assistant head coach/QB coach in 2012.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The gut feeling is Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen survives Tuesday’s meeting with owner Mark Davis, a self-described patient man who, nonetheless, wants to see progress in the wake of back-to-back 4-12 seasons in which the Raiders lost eight of their last nine games both years.

Allen
As a league source told ESPN.com last week, “Dennis Allen is the coach until he’s no longer the coach. The only people firing Dennis Allen right now are the media.”

But could Allen walk out of the sit-down unemployed? Yes, especially if he essentially fires himself by falling on the sword on behalf of his staff.

Only two of Allen’s assistants from this past season -- offensive coordinator Greg Olson and linebackers coach Bob Sanders -- have contracts for 2014. Though Allen wants to re-up the assistants he wants to retain for two years, Davis is only willing to go one year, a different league source said.

Who seems most worthy of such job security and would be essential to the continuity Oakland so desperately needs?

Let’s start with defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, who has shown flashes, defensive line coach Terrell Williams, special teams coordinator Bobby April, assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tony Sparano, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and running backs coach Kelly Skipper.

If Davis is unwilling to bend, it would seemingly corner Allen. Plus, with the Raiders about to have some $60-plus million to spend in free agency, what kind of message would that send to free agents? It would be hard to tell quality players to commit to Oakland long-term if the coaching staff and its philosophy are relative short-timers.

Or, imagine courting and signing a prototypical 4-3, hand-in-the-dirt speed-rushing defensive end for 2014, and then firing the staff and a new coach switches to a 3-4 defense. Same thing with a press-cornerback who then has to learn how to play soft zone. It just won’t work.

Thinking out loud here, but if that is indeed the case, Davis should go ahead and part with Allen now to bring in a new coach with a new staff and new schemes to impress upon free agents going forward. And that's not considering the feelings of general manager Reggie McKenzie.

No, I’m not advocating one position over the other. There are seemingly as many pros as cons to each scenario.
ALAMEDA, Calif. – When Greg Olson was hired in January to be the Oakland Raiders' offensive coordinator, his quarterback was Carson Palmer.

Then the Raiders acquired Matt Flynn from the Seattle Seahawks and traded Palmer to the Arizona Cardinals before drafting Tyler Wilson in the fourth round. Terrelle Pryor beat out Flynn for the starting job at the end of training camp and started eight of the Raiders’ first nine games, Flynn was cut after a disastrous start against Washington when Pryor was concussed, undrafted rookie Matt McGloin replaced Pryor when he went down with a sprained right knee and now Pryor will start the season finale against the Denver Broncos.

[+] EnlargeGreg Olson
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsGreg Olson has two quarterbacks in Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin with very different skill sets.
So from Olson’s perspective, just how challenging a task is it for him to put together game plans for two quarterbacks with such different skill sets as Pryor and McGloin possess?

“You knew that as you were approaching the season,” Olson said. “This is a plan: We’re going to give you kind of two different offenses per se. If you can keep the core group of players with you throughout the season, I think it’s much more manageable.

“I think schematically, although we were doing some more things with Terrelle in terms of him running the ball and running the read-arc and the arc-option things, there was a lot of it that carried over where, and I hate to get into the football aspect, but where the linemen knew that, ‘OK, on this particular play we may have to push back two defenders, but because Terelle has the option to pull it, we’re only going to push back one defender.’ There is some carryover, but I think it’s important that you have those guys, particularly the guys up front, staying consistent and having a consistent core of players up front.”

Flynn was supposed to be the franchise quarterback, but with a beat-up offensive line and Flynn’s sore arm, it was not a good fit.

“I think going into the season the position became unsettled and so we have an unsettled quarterback situation here,” Olson said. “I like to think [Pryor and McGloin] look at it as a great opportunity for ‘me’ to come in and prove that ‘I’ can play and ‘I’ can be that guy on this team.”

Olson was the Jacksonville Jaguars' quarterbacks coach in 2012, and compared the talent on their roster to what is on the Raiders’ roster. And with two young quarterbacks like Pryor and McGloin, it would be hard to expect much from them with the “talent” around them.

Still, coach Dennis Allen has already said that he thinks McGloin may have a future in Oakland. The evaluation of Pryor, meanwhile, continues this weekend.

“I think it just gives us a chance now to decide where exactly we’re at at the quarterback position, which we’ll discuss at the end of the season with management and ownership and what we feel like our needs are as a coaching staff and where we feel like these guys are at right now,” Olson said. “Right now, if we felt like either one of them was a certain number one we would be moving in that direction.

“Let’s understand that with these quarterbacks, Terrelle and Matt McGloin, they’re young quarterbacks and they can’t shoulder the load at this point. We have to make sure that there’s development there, at least, and if we feel like these are guys we can develop moving forward and maybe add some pieces to the puzzle around them, those would be the questions and the discussions that we’ll have in the offseason when this thing is all done.”

How will Raiders utilize McFadden?

December, 20, 2013
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- So what, exactly, is Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson hoping to get out of running back Darren McFadden, should he suit up these final two games?

"I'd like to see," Olson said before catching himself, "we'd all love to see him stay healthy through these last two games and be very productive. You stay out of the 'what if's' and 'down the road's,' but I know he's expressed that he'd like to be with the Oakland Raiders.

[+] EnlargeMarcel Reece and Darren McFadden
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsOakland Raiders fullback Marcel Reece, left, and running back Darren McFadden could both be used in Sunday's game against the Chargers.
"So I think it's important he has two very productive games here and finish up."

If it sounds like Olson thinks unrestricted-free-agent-to-be McFadden needs to show up to even be considered to be re-signed, you're right. That is, unless the Raiders have already decided to move on from the teasingly talented McFadden, who played like a league MVP candidate at the start of the 2011 season but has missed 19 of 39 games since.

And yes, the oft-injured McFadden himself characterizes this as a "lost season" for him.

"I feel that way, but at the same time there's nothing I can do about that," he said this week. "That time is gone. I can only move forward and deal with the things I have in front of me."

He did practice in a full capacity Friday after being limited Wednesday and Thursday. They were his first practices since he went down with an ankle injury on Thanksgiving Day at the Dallas Cowboys. And he had missed the previous three games with a hamstring issue before getting injured at Dallas.

In his place -- McFadden initially strained the hamstring on Nov. 3 against Washington and missed the following week -- Rashad Jennings has been a steady runner for the Raiders, even as he's missed one game with a concussion.

Jennings, who has 679 rushing yards on the season, is averaging 4.6 yards per carry; McFadden, with 365 yards, is averaging 3.5 yards per carry, just above last season's career-worst 3.3 mark.

"Rashad's done a great job," McFadden said. "He's been a physical runner all year. He's been out there picking up great blocks and making great plays. He's done a great job. I'm really proud of the job he's done out there."

Then, if McFadden is a full go, and fullback Marcel Reece is not forgotten in the game plan, how will McFadden be utilized against the San Diego Chargers this weekend?

"If he's healthy, then I think the big thing for us would be to roll him," Olson said. "Obviously, Rashad has earned the right to play and has done some very good things for us. Darren has looked healthy this week, but we'll get a chance to gauge him early on in the game Sunday and see how he feels early on.

"We'll get a chance to roll those guys and we'll continue to, again, try to find ways, like we have throughout the season with Marcel."

Dissecting the 'Pryor Package'

December, 13, 2013
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson shed a little bit more light Thursday on the thought process that went into the team's decision to play Terrelle Pryor for just one series in the team's loss at the New York Jets last weekend.

Basically, with three tailbacks inactive due to injury in Rashad Jennings, Darren McFadden and Jeremy Stewart, and Pryor -- a running quarterback -- practicing without a brace on his right knee for the first time in a month, it was scripted in the game plan to get Pryor in for the Raiders' third offensive series, no matter the score at the time, and then put Matt McGloin back in.

McGloin
Pryor
"There was probably a good chance (the Jets) hadn't been practicing the arc option series that we had shown earlier, because we hadn't done it the last few weeks," Olson said.

"We were going to try and cheat and find a way to get some explosive plays."

And while Pryor did jumpstart the offense by leading a 14-play, 58-yard drive that culminated with a 41-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal -- after Janikowski missed a 52-yarder a series earlier -- those "explosive" plays were not involved.

Which made the decision to go back to McGloin easier.

But when McGloin threw an interception from his own end zone on his next series and then went three-and-out before Marquette King's punt was blocked and returned for a touchdown and the Raiders trailed 20-3, there was a thought of replacing McGloin with Pryor again in the second half.

But just for another possession, here or there.

And for what it's worth, McGloin said he did not find any benefit in sitting out a series.

"No, I don't think so," he said this week. "Any time you're in or out it's kind of tough, but it's still not an excuse."

McGloin was also asked if it made it easier to deal with, then, knowing in advance he would be coming out for a series.

"It was part of the game plan," he said. "We're trying to do what's best for the team. Everybody thought that was going to help us, it was going to get us some momentum, and we didn't think (the Jets) were going to be prepared for it so we tried to throw them off balance.

"Like I said, it was a game plan thing and at the end of the day we all want to win and I'll do whatever it takes, the guys on the team will do whatever it takes, the coaching staff will do whatever it takes, to make sure we're put in the best position to win."

McGloin settled in after halftime and led the Raiders offense to four scores. The threat of Pryor running was not needed again, not with Oakland playing catch up against the Jets all day.

Would the Raiders unveil the "Terrelle Pryor Package" again Sunday against Kansas City?

Olson was playing coy, as he should. Besides, half of the battle is to keep opponents guessing, right?

"I won't give that away," he said to laughter. "The one thing that comes out of it, obviously, is (foes are) going to have to prepare for it. I said it's not an easy way to do it, not a lot of teams have done it or see it in the NFL, but when we're in the situation we're at, we were looking for playmakers on that particular day.

"With where we were at, we felt like it might be something that we need and we also know that the three remaining opponents that we have, whether we do it or not, are going to have to prepare for it."

Khalif Barnes primed to move inside

November, 26, 2013
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As has been widely theorized, Oakland Raiders veteran left tackle Khalif Barnes is expected to make the move from left tackle to left guard, with Jared Veldheer primed to make his season debut Thursday at the Dallas Cowboys.

Barnes
Barnes was open to the idea last week.

“Whatever they want to do, I'm totally behind,” Barnes said at the time. “I'm here for whatever the team needs and I've kind of been like that since I've been here. Whatever direction, whatever they want to do, I’m totally cool with it.”

Barnes, who was penciled in as the starting right tackle before making the move because of preseason injuries to Veldheer and rookie Menelik Watson, would seemingly help shore up the interior. Second-year pro Lucas Nix has struggled mightily at times at left guard.

And while coach Dennis Allen would not commit to the move, citing game-plan issues, offensive coordinator Greg Olson raved about Barnes, the player and the person.

“There is a player to me, talk about an unselfish guy and a team player, that’s Khalif Barnes, and also someone we can count on,” Olson said. “To see him go from right tackle to left tackle and then to volunteer and say, ‘Coach, I’ll go inside, whatever can make us better,’ we’re obviously real happy with not just the way he plays, but his attitude and what he’s brought to us in the leadership role.”

Barnes, according to the Associated Press, has 31 plays at guard in his NFL career, the snaps coming in a backup role for the Raiders in 2010.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- So what was going through Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s mind as his team, nursing a 21-3 halftime lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers, came out of the locker room last Sunday?

"We really wanted to gut ’em,” Olson said Thursday, meaning, the Raiders were looking at running the ball down the Steelers’ throats and racking up 300 yards on the ground. Besides, the Raiders already had 182 rushing yards at the half.

"We’d like to make a statement here with our rushing game and let’s finish them off here,” Olson recalled thinking.

Instead, the Raiders had 35 total yards, 15 on the ground, and one first down, after halftime. They survived, 21-18, thanks in part to Steelers' kicker Shaun Suisham missing field goals from 34 and 32 yards, his first misses of the season after 15 conversions.

“So it was disappointing to come out in the second half the way we did,” Olson said.

The Raiders simply could not move the ball against the Steelers after the half. Not when the offense did not get to touch the ball until there was 5:49 remaining in the third quarter after a lengthy but fruitless Pittsburgh drive to open the second half.

Not when quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who opened the game with a record 93-yard touchdown run, mistakenly kept the ball on a zone-read option play on Oakland’s first play of the second half, a one-yard loss, rather than handing off to running back Darren McFadden.

Not when Jacoby Ford misplayed a punt that had the Raiders starting their second possession of the half on their own 1-yard line.

And definitely not when Ford lost a fumble on a catch at Oakland’s 11-yard line on the Raiders’ first possession of the fourth quarter, setting up Pittsburgh’s first touchdown of the game.

"It’s unacceptable,” Olson said of the fumble.

"We didn’t execute the plays; they were there to be had."
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- A disturbing trend has developed when it comes to the Oakland Raiders and their desire to nurse big leads.

On Sept. 29, the Raiders jumped on top of Washington 14-0 before giving up 24 unanswered points and losing.

On Oct. 6, the Raiders led the San Diego Chargers 17-0 at halftime and had to hold on for a 27-17 victory.

On Oct. 13, the Raiders were winning every phase of the game against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs early and would have had a 10-0 lead were it not for a missed field goal en route to a 24-7 loss.

[+] EnlargeOakland's Dennis Allen
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsDennis Allen and the Raiders are struggling after halftime.
And last weekend, the Raiders had the Pittsburgh Steelers on the ropes with a 21-3 lead in the fourth quarter but had to hold on until literally the last second to escape, 21-18.

The offense goes flat in the second half, some critics suggest by design. In fact, quarterback Terrelle Pryor said the game plan after halftime was to simply run the ball on the Steelers and grind out the clock.

A sound philosophy, except after halftime Oakland could only muster 35 yards of offense, the fewest of any team in the NFL this season, and one first down.

Also, according to Associated Press, the Raiders lead the NFL with 5.78 yards per carry in first halves of games and are seventh at 5.91 yards per offensive play. But in the second halves, they are 18th in yards per carry (3.57) and 29th in yards per offensive play (4.40).

Is it the play-calling of offensive coordinator Greg Olson as the Raiders try to take the air out of the ball to milk the clock, or a simple lack of execution on said play calls?

“Well, really, if you look at it, we’ve got to execute better,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Monday in his weekly media conference. “I mean we’ve got some opportunities to make some plays and we’re not making the plays that are there for us.”

Allen then specifically mentioned the Raiders’ first offensive series of the second half, when Pryor, perhaps buoyed by his record 93-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game, kept the ball rather than giving it to Darren McFadden on a zone-read option. Pryor was stuffed for a 1-yard loss.

One play later, Pryor again kept the ball and gained 2 yards.

“He tried to hand it off around the edge and we felt like we had a little bit of a play right there, but we had a couple of communication errors,” Allen said.

“It boiled down to when we get the opportunities to make the plays, we need to make the plays. We’ve got to throw the ball, we’ve got to catch the ball and we’ve got to create some lanes to run the ball more effectively.”

In the second half against Pittsburgh, the Raiders had four three-and-outs in their first six possessions, getting that first down on one before punting and receiver Jacoby Ford losing a fumble on the second play of another series.

With the Philadelphia Eagles coming to Oakland this weekend, the trend comes with an impending sense of dread after halftime. The Raiders need to find a sense of balance on offense in the second half ... or have more success running the ball.

“Every game is going to be different, alright?” Allen said. “You’ve got to understand how you’re going to win the game, and it’s not always about how pretty does it look. The ultimate goal is to win the football game.

“We had a defense that was playing outstanding in the football game, was taking the ball away, was creating a lot of pressure on the quarterback, that wasn’t giving up a lot of points. And the only chance (Pittsburgh) had to get back in the game was for us to make mistakes and give them those opportunities. Unfortunately, we did that.”

In the end, though, it merely served as a cautionary tale for Oakland, which has outscored opponents by a combined 59-20 in the first half with an average of 196.3 yards, while getting outscored by a cumulative 63-10 with 91.3 yards.

“So, I understand how you’re going to win football games,” Allen added. “And when the defense is playing really well, you’ve got to protect the football and you’ve got to let your defense go out and win the game for you.”
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Terrelle Pryor did not head to Los Angeles to work with quarterback guru Tom House over the Raiders’ bye this past weekend.

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Instead, House came up to Oakland to work with the Raiders quarterback on Sunday.

“We went to a local field and got in some good work,” Pryor said after a light practice Monday as the team began preparations for Pryor’s favorite team growing up, his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pryor was not able to work out with Raiders coaches during the bye -- players are guaranteed four days off due to the CBA -- but Pryor said he did come into the facility to study film on his own after Oakland’s final team practice on Wednesday.

“You know me,” he said, “steady trying to get better.”

House, a former big league pitcher who is now a pitching coach at USC, has worked with quarterbacks from Drew Brees to Tom Brady to Carson Palmer to Tim Tebow on throwing mechanics.

Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said last week he was the one who recommended House to Pryor this past offseason.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- While the Raiders players are off for an NFL-mandated four days during the team’s bye, Oakland’s coaching staff is working until the weekend.

Fans of Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece, and maybe even Reece himself, are hoping the offensive coaches are using the extra time figuring out ways to get the ball into Reece’s hands more in the season’s final 10 games.

As a hybrid, the former college wide receiver has also played tailback for the Raiders, and good things seem to happen when Reece has the ball. Thing is, he only had one touch in the Raiders’ 24-7 loss at Kansas City on Sunday, a 9-yard catch and run.

[+] EnlargeMarcel Reece
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsThe Raiders' Marcel Reece recorded a TD reception in Denver earlier this season.
And yes, everyone on the organizational totem pole from general manager Reggie McKenzie to coach Dennis Allen to offensive coordinator Greg Olson recognizes this.

So what gives?

“Again, unless you’re handing [Reece] the football, which we have to monitor what we’re doing because we have to make sure that Darren McFadden is getting enough touches, and with Marcel it’s changed a little bit this year because of the quarterback position,” Olson said. “We’ve become more of a read-option kind of an offense. A lot of times in the passing game, he may be involved, or may be in the progression [of reads], but if he’s not catching it in the passing game, the best chance of getting him the football is to hand the ball off.

“Every game or every week when we finish a game, we go back through a stat sheet and look at how many times the guys were targeted and how many times they actually touched the ball. We’re aware of that with Marcel. We’re constantly aware of it throughout the game.”

Keep in mind, Reece is still dealing with the effects of a sprained knee suffered in the Raiders’ loss to Washington on Sept. 29. So Oakland is wary of riding him too hard, too soon.

But thus far, he has carried the ball nine times for 47 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown run against Jacksonville. Reece also has caught 10 passes for 86 yards with a 16-yard TD from McFadden against Denver. He has been targeted 16 times as a receiver.

“I’ll do whatever is needed,” Reece said earlier this season, “whenever my number is called."

“When you want to be a Raider, you show it out on the field, just show it in everything you do,” he added in the wake of signing a three-year contract extension that will pay him $12.4 million through 2016. “If you show that, what else can you do?”

Then there’s his main duty as a fullback in a traditional offense -- blocking. Not only for McFadden, but for quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

“We’ll call some things up in the passing game,” Olson said. “He’s No. 1 in progression and for some reason or another, we don’t get the ball to him. We’ll keep continuing to put him in the position to be at that No. 1 in the progression.

“But the only way you can really and truly ensure it, is to hand him the ball.”
ALAMEDA, Calif. – Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson coached Josh Freeman for three years in Tampa Bay. So the news that the quarterback had been released by the Buccaneers Thursday morning after a mostly acrimonious relationship struck a nerve with Olson.

“You know, I’ve always been a fan of Josh’s,” Olson said. “I have a lot of respect for him, as a person and a player, and it’s unfortunate to me to watch what happened in Tampa … really over the last couple of years.”

Olson was Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks coach and then offensive coordinator from 2008 through 2011, and the Buccaneers used their first-round draft pick, No. 17 overall, on Freeman in 2009.

“But I’ve always had the utmost respect for him and I think he’s a great player,” Olson added. “I feel bad for him and that situation, how it’s played out. I just found out myself coming off the practice field that he was released.

“So, I don’t think there’s any winners for anybody in that situation.”

Freeman is reportedly due $6.2 million by Tampa Bay for the remainder of this season.

The Raiders, meanwhile, are going all in with Terrelle Pryor at quarterback after Matt Flynn, who was acquired from Seattle for a fifth-round draft pick in 2014 and a conditional pick in 2015, was demoted to third-string, behind Pryor and undrafted rookie Matt McGloin. Flynn is making $6.5 million this season on a restructured contract.

Raiders coach Dennis Allen was asked if there was any interest in Freeman.

"I don't know," Allen said softly.

Reece a forgotten man in Raiders' O?

September, 20, 2013
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders' front office obviously thought enough of playmaking fullback Marcel Reece to have inked him to a three-year contract extension.

So why does Marcel Reece become Marcel Marceau and disappear in the offense on game days?

[+] EnlargeMarcel Reece
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsThe Raiders aim to incorporate FB Marcel Reece into the offense more in the upcoming weeks.
“I know,” Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said with a smile and a shake of his head this week.

“Some of that is stuff they have as a receiver (so) we have to find him, too. At times he can be covered. At times, when it’s designed to go to him, for whatever reason he doesn’t get it his way. That falls on a little bit of everybody. But he’s definitely a part of the offense now. We’ll get him the ball.”

Good things seem to happen for the Raiders whenever the matchup nightmare touches the ball.

In the season opener at Indianapolis, Reece caught one pass for nine yards, though quarterback Terrelle Pryor missed him downfield for a big gainer when he was wide open.

Sunday against Jacksonville, he rumbled 11 yards to score the Raiders’ first touchdown on an opening drive since 2011.

So how do the Raiders get Reece more involved?

“You can hand him the ball,” said Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson. “Obviously his first carry last week was a touchdown, so maybe I need to hand him the ball more.”

Olson smiled.

“The one way you can ensure that a guy gets touches is to hand him the football,” he added. “We’ll look at that. He’s also obviously a threat out in space, as a matchup issue. We look at those things and we make sure he’s involved in the progression.”

Reece has never griped about how he’s used, or rather, not used.

The former college wide receiver-turned-street free agent and practice squad refugee is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance after catching 52 passes for 496 yards and a touchdown while rushing 59 times for 271 yards in 2012.

“I’m not drawing up the plays,” McKenzie said. “I don’t know what I’d be doing, maybe a fumblerooskie. He’s fine. It was nice for him to score the first (home) touchdown of the year for us. That was nice. Nice run.

“I’m sure we’ll see more of Marcel this year. Trust me.”

QB Watch: Raiders' Terrelle Pryor

September, 11, 2013
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A weekly analysis of the Oakland Raiders' quarterback play.

Pryor
Rewind: Terrelle Pryor termed his play “awful.” His coach would not go that far. And, really, Pryor was closer to revelation than reclamation in the Raiders’ 21-17 defeat at Indianapolis. He said the loss was on him, after throwing two red-zone interceptions and taking a costly sack. But were it not for his play-making skill set, Oakland would not have had a chance to win at all. And with his 112 yards on the ground, Pryor leads the AFC in rushing.

Fast-forward: The knock on Pryor was his downfield passing, as he completed just one of seven attempts of at least 20 yards. Might visiting Jacksonville provide a tonic, especially with first-year Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson having worked with the Jaguars last season? The Jags gave up but 173 yards through the air to Kansas City’s Alex Smith on Sunday, on 21 completions, so he averaged just 8.2 yards per. Pryor averaged 11.4 yards per completion against the Colts. Expect Olson to call more short passing plays, at least early, to get Pryor comfortable. Pryor can always take off and run if he doesn’t like what he sees.

Reading the zone read: Speaking of taking off, Pryor did just that every time the zone read was called against Indianapolis. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Pryor kept the ball on all five of the Raiders’ zone-read option calls, gaining 33 of his 112 rushing yards that way.

Prediction: The Jaguars, like the Colts, reside in the AFC South, meaning that there’s not a lot of familiarity there with running QBs and the zone-read option. So the play should be there for Pryor on Sunday. Expect Olson to use it, and the threat of Darren McFadden breaking a long run, to set up the play-action for deeper Pryor throws later in the game.
ALAMEDA, Calif. – Khalif Barnes was initially acquired by the Oakland Raiders in 2009 to become their cornerstone left tackle.

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But an ankle injury suffered in his first training camp scuttled those plans and Barnes took up residence on the right side, where he has played almost exclusively the past four seasons.

Is Barnes now about to move back to his initial projected position on Oakland’s offensive line? Injuries to Jared Veldheer (left triceps) and rookie Menelik Watson (knee) have Barnes slated to start at left tackle in the Raiders’ season opener Sunday at Indianapolis.

“Next man up,” Barnes said Thursday. “I’ve done this position before, been on the bike before. It felt good today.

“The first day, it was a little awkward.”

That was probably just rust. Barnes, Jacksonville’s second-round draft pick in 2005, started 57 of his 60 games with the Jaguars at left tackle.

Watson, meanwhile, tweaked a knee in practice Wednesday and was not able to practice Thursday, hence Barnes moving to the left side and Tony Pashos getting first-team reps at right tackle.

“Injuries occur and you try to put a plan together when those things happen and players have to step up,” said Raiders first-year offensive coordinator Greg Olson. “I think competitive players understand it. Players that play professional football understand that.

“We’ll continue to see how Menelik feels and we’ll put together a plan and we’ll show up on Sunday. ... If Menelik is not ready, I think Khalif Barnes is ready for that challenge. He was optimistic and felt good about it.”

Barnes sounded like a man readying for his fate against the Colts.

“It’s going to be a heck of a matchup going against (Robert) Mathis over there,” Barnes said.
Raiders coaches made some interesting comments Tuesday about two of Oakland's key players.

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Moore
Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said he wants receiver Denarius Moore to take the next step in his career, while it sounds like defensive coordinator Jason Tarver is beyond thrilled to get to work with future Hall of Fame defensive back Charles Woodson.

Let’s take a look:

Olson on Moore: “Well, a lot of it is going to be on Denarius. To me, it’s that whole character issue, becoming a self-starter, becoming a self-motivated person, and a lot of that comes with maturity. I think he’d be the first guy to say we’re constantly on top of him and it’s hard to give someone like that any base, so we just coach him up, but I think he’s becoming a more mature player and more mature person, so I think that’s going to help as well. A lot of players will tell you, if they’re fortunate enough to stay in the league for any length of time, they will all tell you, ‘Boy, I wish I had been more mature as a younger player.’ And I think that maturity will happen for Denarius.”

My thoughts: It seems like Olson is waiting on Moore to become a totally reliable star. I think Moore has the ability, but has disappeared at times. The team is ready for more consistency.

Tarver on Woodson: “Charles, his bursts surprise me every day. The guy just covers ground. He had a couple interceptions at practice today. He’s an amazing athlete. That’s why he’s a big piece of getting this defense to where we want it to go in our black jerseys, and hopefully that cements his legacy -- because he can still cover ground. He has those great ball skills, he’s got great feel for when the quarterback is going to release the ball and that’s still there. He’s practiced all camp and he’s still as explosive out of his stance, and that’s what makes the great DBs great -- that ability to close the distance at the point of no return when that ball’s in the air. He’s showing that, and obviously we hope it continues.”

My thoughts: The Raiders will ride Woodson -- who turns 37 in October -- hard this season. The team loves everything about him. He will make an impact on the field and in the locker room.

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