On the road against Oakland... if Chip can make it there, he can make it anywhere...
Something about the Oakland Raiders seems to bring out the worst in the Eagles.
I snuck behind enemy lines to gather some intelligence about the Raiders. Who exactly are these Raiders guys in 2013 and should we be prepared as Iggles Phans to expect something out of the ordinary?
Head Coach Dennis Allen spoke to the media on Halloween as the Raiders get ready to face the Eagles this Sunday at O.co Coliseum.
Opening Statement: I’ll give you the injury report and let you fire away with some questions – Tyvon Branch didn’t practice today. Andre Gurode, Tony Pashos did not practice. Menelik Watson was back out there today, limited, and Andre Holmes was limited with a hamstring.
Q: Do you change tempo or anything during practice when you’re facing a team like the Eagles that has an up-tempo?
Coach Allen: Yeah, we practiced against the no-huddle offense a lot over the last couple of days just so our guys get used to the fact that they’re on the ball pretty quick and being able to handle that communication process that we have to be able to handle. Our guys, really to this point, have done a really good job of that, but it’ll be a big factor in the game of our ability defensively to get the communication out that we need to get so that we’re all on the same page.
Q: You had Peyton Manning already who does some of that and other teams that have done it. I think Tracy Porter was saying that these guys [the Eagles offense] are even a little more extreme in terms of how fast they run it. Is that the case?
Coach Allen: Yeah, they’re pretty fast. They may be the fastest we may have seen as far as getting on the ball and running plays. That’s part of what the philosophy of that offense is--- to get on the ball and run plays and try to get the defense in a situation where they’re not aligned properly, or so they’re not focused on what their keys are; they’re just trying to get back to the line of scrimmage and get lined up. That’s something that we’ve practiced a lot this week. We’ll practice it again tomorrow and hopefully we’ll be ready for it.
Q: Do you limit the amount of substitutions that you can make defensively when they’re going at that pace?
Coach Allen: If they’re on the ball, it limits what you can do from a substitution package standpoint. Obviously, if they substitute, we have the ability to match. That’s all part of what we have to prepare for, when can we get our subs on the field and when do we have to stick with the group that’s out on the field. We have to have a plan to prepare for whatever package they put out there to start with in a series--so that we can potentially be in that package the whole series.
Q: You mentioned that the Eagles have been fifth in the NFL in rushing even though they run this spread, up-tempo style. How has LeSean McCoy been able to be so effective in this offense?
Coach Allen: He’s a good runner. I think they do a good job up front. I think the type of scheme they run fits his running style. He does a great job with his patience in running the football and being able to pick his spots and pick the soft spots in the defense and get up inside or use his speed to get around the edge. I think their offense fits the personnel they have.
Q: At the same time, the Eagles have struggled to get their run game going the last two games. What have you seen from film that shows how some teams have been so successful against them?
Coach Allen: I think the key is you have to be able to get lined up and you have to be able to attack the line of scrimmage. You have to get, as I always say in the run game, you have to get 11 hats around the ball. That’ll be critical again because this guy is a good back and he can make a guy miss in space. So we have to try to limit the space that we have to make tackles in and then we have to get multiple guys to the ball to make sure we get this guy down.
Q: How has your interior run blocking been?
Coach Allen: The run blocking with our offensive line? I think it’s been solid. Like I said, the first half of the game last week we rushed the ball pretty efficiently. Not so much in the second half, but part of that is the team we played last week is pretty good on defense too. I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen run blocking-wise. We’re beginning to make a little bit of progress from a running game standpoint and hopefully we’ll be able to continue that through the rest of the season.
Q: Some of the players on offense yesterday were speaking on the importance of finishing strong versus how they start. How do you stress that this week?
Coach Allen: We made a big point of it. Right now we’re in the Top 5 in the league as far as first-quarter scoring differential. We’ve been able to start fast and I think that’s a critical aspect of playing good football, especially at home because the crowd gets in it, the crowd gets excited. But we’ve got to do a better job of finishing the game. We have to do a better job of staying focused and maintaining the same attitude, the same mindset, throughout the football game.
Q: How much special teams prep do you do, particularly against DeSean Jackson?
Coach Allen: I think we all understand that they’ve got a couple of really good returners. They haven’t used DeSean back there a whole lot, but obviously if he’s back there, he’s very explosive with the ball in his hands and we have to do a great job with our coverage teams of being able to get down the field. And again, coverage teams are just like defense – it’s about getting 11 hats around the ball, 10 usually when you consider the punter and kicker, but we have to get a bunch of guys around the ball. We have to keep him contained. We can’t let him get outside of our special teams.
Q: It’s almost half the season in the books now. The decision to bring in Charles Woodson, has it been everything you hoped it would be, maybe more?
Coach Allen: He’s been a huge addition to our football team. Like I said when we brought him in here, we didn’t bring him in here just to be a leader for our football here. We brought him in here because he’s a good football player and he still had the ability to make plays on Sundays. He’s gone out there and done that. He’s done a great job for us, both in coverage and tackling, he’s one of the best tacklers we have on the football team, and as well as that, his swagger, his demeanor, his leadership ability I think has really rubbed off on, again, not just the defense, but the whole football team.
Q: He said the other day talking about DJ Hayden and people had asked what he’d said to DJ and he said, ‘Not much. He’s just got to go out there and make plays.’ So he’s not constantly in the guy’s ear, but is that just kind of the way he approaches things usually from what you’ve observed?
Coach Allen: Yeah, listen, Charles is a guy that sits back, does his job, he understands what he’s looking for, but he also has some … A lot of times everybody looks to it that you have to be talking to the guy constantly, having private meetings with him all the time. It’s really more about the little things and where you need to put your eyes and what you need to be looking for so you can anticipate the things that you’re going to see on Sunday. With every offense or with every defense, there are certain tips and tells that give you an idea of what they’re going to do, whether it be run or pass or what type of route you might see. Those are the little bitty things that I think he can help, and I think he has helped, DJ with...
Q: With your return game, is it Taiwan Jones and Ford again or are you still tinkering with that?
Coach Allen: We’re going to go with Taiwan back there on kickoffs and Jacoby on the punt returns, and I did see some explosiveness in our return game. We still have to work to improve that, but our guys are working hard and it’s just a matter of time before we’re able to hit one.
Q: Going against a team that thrives in space and certain young players like Sio Moore, what are you really looking for from those younger players?
Coach Allen: I’m looking for them to go out and execute and do their job. I think we got some athletic players on the defensive side of the ball. I think our guys are playing with a lot of enthusiasm and I think they’re running to the football really well. When they get there, they arrive with a bad attitude. Sio is one guy that demonstrates that. I’m just looking for guys that want to go out there and execute their job and play really hard.
Q: You have a lot of different responsibilities as a head coach, but as a former defensive coordinator, how much time do you get into that defensive game planning, get your hands dirty?
Coach Allen: I spend a lot of time with the defensive staff and game planning and what we do defensively. But I have a great staff in there. They’ve done a great job, not only [defensive coordinator Jason Tarver] J.T., but the rest of the defensive staff. I think that being for the most part all of us are here together for the second year, I think we have a better feel of exactly what we’re looking for and how we want to attack different offenses and I think our players have done a great job of buying in to that system.
Q: With the group of backup receivers, is there a separation between the guys that are active and Juron Criner, or is it tight? How closely is that competitive?
Coach Allen: It’s pretty tight. I think really I feel comfortable with all our receivers. I think we have a good solid group of wide receivers. I don’t know that we have that [Lions WR] Calvin Johnson, [Texans WR] Andre Johnson, [Bengals WR A.J.] Green in Cincinnati, I don’t know that we have that guy, but I think we have a real solid group of receivers and I feel comfortable with any one of those guys we put in the game.
Q: Can I ask you a quick football philosophy question about special teams?
Coach Allen: Sure.
Q: What does a kickoff add to the sport and what would the sport lose if you took kickoffs out entirely and replace them with a punt or something?
Coach Allen: Well I hadn’t really put a lot of thought into it, to be honest with you. But it’s part of the game. Ever since I can remember, that’s always been part of the game and I think it’s an exciting part of the game. I’d hate to see that play being taken out of the game. I think the league’s done a good job of changing some of the rules on the kickoff to eliminate some of the violent collisions and some of the injuries, but I’d hate to see that taken out of the game.
THEN IT WAS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR'S JASON TARVER's TURN...
Q: How’s the preparation going for Philadelphia’s fast-paced offense? How close is it to what Chip Kelly had going on in Oregon?
Coach Tarver: Very close from what they’ve shown in the past. It’s a good scheme. It’s designed to get playmakers in space, so the biggest thing for us defending it is one making sure we’ve got eleven guys on the same page and two, making sure there isn’t any space and if they get the ball to go get them very quickly using our mix of calls and coverages that we do.
Q: What’s the key to keeping them from making the big plays that they’ve been making often this season?
Coach Tarver: One is being where you need to be in the run game. What this team does is they do a good job of being balanced running and passing. This is a running offense. That’s what people forget. When an offense goes fast people think that they’re necessarily throwing the ball because you picture Peyton Manning, but this is a team that wants balance. They want to take whatever is there based off your looks, get positive yard, get on the ball quick and do it again. The keys are making sure we’re where we want to be in the run game, not where they want us to be — knocking people back and setting edge, doing the things that I talk about a lot, using our hands, those things — and in the pass game it’s top-down coverage. Number 10 [WR DeSean Jackson] is a good player, and all their receivers can hurt you, can make plays. Some of them are big, and some of them are really fast. This quarterback Foles can throw a good deep ball. He’s accurate down the field, so it’s top-down coverage, and it’s setting the edge in the run game every time – getting eleven guys with our mix of calls to do that.
Q: How much quicker do you need to get play calls in this week as opposed to a normal week?
Coach Tarver: Some games are slower than others, but there are so many people playing at this pace now. This is the trend at all levels of football, so we’re equipped to get calls in very quickly. That’s built into our system. That’s what we do.
Q: It’s harder to substitute when they’re going at that pace, so how does that alter what you can do defensively?
Coach Tarver: Well, as you continue to build one of the strengths of this system is, as you guys hear us say a ton, is multiplicity through simplicity. We can do most of our looks out of one personnel group, so we’re able to be multiple at a fast pace. That’s our challenge. That’s a challenge to the guys. We need to execute that.
Q: What are your impressions of Martez Wilson so far?
Coach Tarver: He’s a big, athletic guy, and he’s done what we’ve asked him to. He’s studying, so that’s good. He’s working on the look teams, and he’s moving around pretty well. Like Coach Allen has said, it’s not exactly easy when you walk in mid-season to pick something up when you haven’t been in it, so we’ll see as he progresses in the next few weeks what can happen.
Q: How has Vance Walker made an impact?
Coach Tarver: Like many things about Vance, one of the things we liked and why Dennis [Allen] and [General Manager] Reggie [McKenzie] were able to bring him in is he’s smart, and he can play multiple positions — go to the right spot with power. You’re starting to see maybe even a little more of his quickness come out too. I’m proud of Vance. He’s doing well. He’s really coming into his own. He gets better every week. Hopefully he can continue that trend. That’s a good one to ask questions about. I’m glad you asked. I like where Vance is going.
Q: Do you get excited for a game like this to go into the film room and be like a mad scientist game planning against them?
Coach Tarver: I like that nickname better that some of the other ones right now. (laughter) That’s great. You guys hear it a lot from me; this is why you do it. I mean they’re exceptional. This running back is exceptional in space, and to try to give them no space is that challenge — why you do it. That’s what excites us is no matter what type of scheme it is to be able to stop the run, keep the top on the coverage and be able to swarm and make plays. Like we said, we’re turning bad into good. Now if you slow down this running game, you’re turning good into great. When we go in there we’re looking for ways to do it, but most of it is the execution of whatever calls you put them in quickly against this team to do what we need to do.
Q: Do you think that this defense plays with a chip on its shoulder?
Coach Tarver: I think that D.A. [Dennis Allen] gave me a great compliment Monday when he said that I coach with passion. If you’re going to do anything in life you want to be the best. You want to be the best, and why limit yourself. That’s what we talk to the players about. Why can’t you do that? You guys can run and you’re smart and you love this game, so if you love this game why limit yourself? Why say, ‘I can’t do that,’ ever? Why not say, ‘Let’s do our best, play as eleven together and learn to communicate and see what the heck happens, and when in doubt get the guy with the ball on the ground and go to the next play?’ That’s how we talk.
Q: What have you learned about Charles Woodson since training camp that maybe surprises you? Is there anything?
Coach Tarver: He’s absolutely amazing in how he studies and what he watches. He’s watching football all the time, and how he interacts with these guys and how he feels the game. He’s special in that regard and I really hope that these young men that are around him right now, coaches and players can take some of that. When you’re around that greatness and how he prepares and you’re a rookie like DJ [Hayden] or whoever, learn what this guy’s doing. He loves it. He’s watching as much film as any mad chemist or anybody, and that’s what makes him great. Of course he’s got ability, but the love of the game is what comes out when you watch Charles. It’s what comes out, and it’s what I hope our young guys keep with them forever because that’s what gives you the long career.
Q: You talked about coaching with passion. How difficult is the balance of coaching with passion and not letting your emotions get the best of you like they did last week?
Coach Tarver: Well you better have just an outlet. I’ll quickly take a deep breath or say something, and then you go to the next play. I mean, that’s what happens, so that’s it. You’ve got to let it go. You breathe; you go to the next play.
Q: How much of the defenses success seems to be based upon players just buying into what you’re doing here?
Coach Tarver: There are no perfect calls; there’s only perfect execution. I’ve said that before. That’s the key, but that’s how we approach it. Hey look, do your job. Do your job, and do it with that kind of passion. If you’re not doing it with passion you’re going to hear about it, but there’s very few of our guys that are that way. That’s where we’re thankful for Reggie and Dennis for who they brought into our room, and who they keep bringing into our room because these guys want to be great. Greatness is not one thing. It sure as heck doesn’t have to do with me. I don’t cross that white line. I don’t play, but our job is just to put them in position to make plays. The more that you do it together the more plays you make. I don’t know how many guys on the defense have sacks right now. I do know that our interceptions and our sacks are spread pretty well, and when you do your job, the quarterback picks who sacks him — not me, not the player. He moves towards somebody, right? That’s how you approach it, and what I’m not proud of with this group of men is that’s what they do. They’re very unselfish because the more unselfish you are and the more you throw yourself into anything the better you can be. That’s anything. That’s a team. That’s anything in life. Nothing was accomplished by one man by himself. It’s everybody working together in their roles, and that’s what we talk about.
Q: How’s Miles Burris been looking the last couple of days?
Coach Tarver: Again, I light up when you talk about Miles because he’s a stud. He needs some more field time, but he’s covering a lot of ground, and he’s working of course. It’s just good to see him out there because that’s a great person and a big athlete that can hopefully get himself in shape and help us. We’ll see how it goes. I mean that’s obviously going to be Dennis and Reggie’s call of when and if that process occurs, but for two days, I’m excited about where he is.
Q: How do you think Miles Burris did last year?
Coach Tarver: I think he did well for a rookie. It’s hard to be a rookie in the NFL. You’re a young guy against men, and that’s why you don’t see as many young guys come out in the NFL — with the exception of those quarterbacks last year, that was pretty special — come in and play because these are grown men that have lifted and trained longer than you and are absolutely brilliant with their film study, like Charles. You’re just becoming a man. You pop in and yeah you were able to throw people around in college, but everybody’s good. Assessing Miles, pretty good as a rookie. Learned from his mistakes and used his hands, and by the end of the year he was finishing the down unblocked which is one of our big things. He was doing that, so it was pretty productive as a rookie. We’re excited to see him back.
Q: Guys have said as a unit they’re getting better and having more fun.
Coach Tarver: Well winning is another one. Winning is a process that ends in a result. Our process is just to continue to get better at doing things together, and then what happens is — especially when you watch them like the second third down when Mike Jenkins makes that play on the quick screen. It was a great tackle on a great athlete in space, and you watch all the guys run over together and celebrate with him. Every single player entered that screen all the way over there. The big guys came from all the way over there because Mike made a play. That’s what it’s about, and that’s what you see our guys doing. When we put on our black jerseys that’s what we want to do. We want every guy to be on the screen at the end of every play and enjoy the heck out of playing football because you don’t know how long you’re going to get to do it.
Q: What are your thoughts on Sio Moore’s development?
Coach Tarver: Sio’s starting to do everything faster. When you’re activated go, as you hear from me all the time. He’s starting to do that better—leading with his hands more. We like Sio leaning forward, and he’s also gotten better in coverage. It’s been reps, and the biggest thing that Sio’s doing right now is how he’s working in practice. He’s just better at working in practice, and that’s how it translates into the game. Allen Iverson’s quote isn’t exactly applicable to football about practice because you’ve got to do it at a fast speed. It’s not always in pads, but you’ve got to do it at a fast speed to be able to do it in a game especially as a young player. Some players have seen it enough. They’ve seen enough reps, but young guys haven’t seen enough yet. It hasn’t just happened enough times right in front of their eyes or what they feel. Sio’s feeling it in practice and translating it to the game, and that’s good. It’s good for us, and it’s good for him.
Q: Coach Allen said Monday that Sio is doing a better job of preparing, film study and all that stuff, does he take it more serious, Coach Allen also said rookies just don’t know what it takes to play in the NFL and it comes as a shock.
Coach Tarver: Yes, and that’s it. Sio is spending more time on Monday’s and Tuesday’s. Tuesday is players day off, Sio is studying more film and calling [linebackers] coach [Bob] Sanders or calling me and texting, saying what’s in for sure in the plan early in the morning so he can start to get his mind right. Lifting on time, setting a schedule. You get up in the morning and you set your schedule to watch film, we all have set schedules to come to work, you guys have to get your stories out. You have to remember that in college their schedule is set for them a lot. Now you set your schedule as a pro, that’s where he’s growing and that’s exactly right. Football is a seven days a week business, it’s not only hard on your body, you have to let it rest, on Tuesdays you have to look, you have to prepare so that when we show all these looks real fast on a Wednesday and we’re all on the ball really fast, what are you going to do? I know that look, I already saw that. Let me knock that guy back and make the play, and that’s where he’s going. He’s continuing that process, if he continues that process we have a pretty good pro on our hands. The same thing Miles [Burris] did last year, he built himself a process and that’s the way they grow.
AND THERE IT IS---- a snapshot of the Oakland Raiders. Suffice it to say Chip Kelly and the Eagles have their hands full on Sunday in Oakland. In many ways, we are similar teams--- trying to innovate and grow despite past setbacks. It suits us.