News Column

Oakland Raiders Feeling Good About Progress

June 15, 2012

Jerry McDonald


Quarterback Carson Palmer and general manager Reggie McKenzie think the Raiders are ahead of schedule as they closed a three-day mandatory minicamp Thursday.

Coach Dennis Allen believes his team is right about where he expected it to be.

Exactly what the Raiders have is difficult to discern, given the restrictions on offseason contact and the fact that they have instituted new systems on offense and defense.

They will have a better idea when the team reports to training camp the Napa Marriott on July 29 and has its first practice the following day.

At that time, Palmer, McKenzie and Allen -- the three key figures as the Raiders transition into the post-Al Davis era -- will determine how much was retained from several weeks of minicamps and organized team activities.

"It's always an ongoing process, but I think for the most part we've installed really who we are and what we are," Allen said.

Palmer has taken to a system that calls for more rollouts, half-rolls and naked bootlegs after mainly being a dropback passer.

Concerns that he might not be mobile enough to execute the system have been largely alleviated, and the new style has been a welcome challenge.

"It's a completely new offense, there's really no similarities to anything I've done before, but I love all the boots and play-actions and nakeds and keepers," Palmer said. "I'm excited to do that, and really all those things are going to help the running

game, and the more the running game moves the chains, the better everyone else is on the entire team."

The grasp the Raiders have of their new systems leaves Palmer encouraged.

"I can't wait for camp," he said. "We got a lot of good work in, and you never know what to expect as you're coming out of the last minicamp after OTAs. I can't speak for everybody, but I'm definitely pleasantly surprised with where we are."

Allen thinks the quarterback has something to prove after throwing 13 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions in 10 games last season.

"He wants to prove he still belongs in this league and can play at an elite level," Allen said. "As with everything else it's all about your mindset, and his mind is in the right place right now."

--McKenzie and Allen were pleased the Raiders had no serious injuries during offseason activities. Players who have sat out recently -- wide receiver Denarius Moore (hamstring), linebacker Aaron Curry (knees) and center Stefen Wisniewski among others -- are expected to be ready for camp.

--Wide receivers Juron Criner and Rod Streater, a fifth-round pick and an undrafted free agent, respectively, have a chance for significant playing time with further development.

--Defensive end Dave Tollefson, a free agent from the New York Giants, said Allen has stressed the importance of reducing penalties and winning the turnover battle, using slides as visual aids to enhance the message.

"To give it lip service doesn't do it justice," Tollefson said. "The number of penalties this team had was unreal. To go 8-8 on top of that, it's kind of impressive."

--Palmer is the latest Raider to express wonderment at the complexity of the team's defense.

"Our defense has everything -- every possible coverage, every alignment," he said. "(It's difficult) just getting to know our offense and how to execute against every look in the book, every look you could possibly see from every defense across the entire NFL. Our defense does a lot."

--McKenzie echoed Allen's sentiment that middle linebacker Rolando McClain won't be punished for sins of the past, although the legal system or the NFL could have something to say about it.

McClain is awaiting appeal on misdemeanor convictions including illegal discharging of a firearm that could mean jail time.

"Since we've been here he's been great," McKenzie said. "I'm not going to hold anything over his head about what he's done in the past. We're only concerned with what he does from here on out. ... We'll take care of the issues as they come."

Source: (c)2012 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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