Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable made a special pre-OTA’s appearance on KNRB’s Murph and Mac show this morning with most of his discussion revolving around the quarterback position and the furthering development of the offense. Cable first told listeners of the purpose of OTA’s, “It’s about a lot of situations, putting a team back together, getting the rookies caught up and advance where we’re at on offense and defense.’‘The most important thing about OTA’s is taking the bottom half of your team and raising its level. You’d like to have everybody here, but it’s not the most important thing right now. You want your young guys here and your guys that you drafted a year ago and still need more development. [Those] are the most important guys, but certainly having as many as you can makes it easier to do as many drills and situations as you can.”
Cable told Murph and Mac that all the rookies the Raiders drafted this year are at the voluntary workouts that begin today and run thru Thursday this week. He spoke of the popular pick of the draft, 20 year old MLB Rolando McClain, once again saying, “He fit a very important issue for us in trying to make our front seven better on defense in terms of stopping the run [and] letting the secondary perform on third down,” the Raiders coached praised. “What we got from him was a guy that is a champion from a very good program, he’s been taught well. His mindset is whatever it takes and he’ll work all day. So, I think it’s a breath of fresh air in that, you got a young guy in here that’s committed to working.”
Guys who are young and hard workers actually appear to be in abundance in Oakland lately rather than a breath of fresh air as the coach suggests. The past four drafts have made Oakland one of the youngest teams in the league with their average starter on offense being only 26 years old (including 32 year old guard Cooper Carlisle) and the average age of the defensive starters being only 25 years and 10 months old (including DE Richard Seymour and CB Chris Johnson, both 30).
Cable continued on to say that Charlie Frye, Jason Campbell, and Kyle Boller are all present for Oakland’s OTA’s but said while Bruce Gradkowski has been “working and learning”, that Gradkowski will not do any on the field work until training camp starts in Napa. Cable said that is when the QB competition will really heat up.
Then he was asked a barrage of questions centered on former QB JaMarcus Russell. Cable made it quite clear that the removal of JMR from the Oakland roster was best for the team to move forward. He said things like, “We did what we think gives us the best chance to succeed,” and, “I think guys in that locker room expect from myself and the organization, no B.S.. Let’s go out and work hard and become champions and get ourselves in the playoffs. That’s our goal now, that’s it. I think that guys are fine with [Russell’s departure]. We really haven’t talked about it. What’s necessary for us to do as a football team is to work hard and that’s what it’s about. Who’s here doing it is here because they want to be here doing it and they want to work and they want to do it right.”
He did take the time to mention that JaMarcus was a good person, though, even if he doesn’t want to work hard to be a champion, “JaMarcus is a good human being and I think people need to understand that and I have a lot of respect for him that way. But at the end of the day, this is a business and you got to help your team do what’s best.”
Then, he said enough is enough, and spoke of beating up a dead dog, meaning that he wanted to talk about the guys who were still on the practice field for the Oakland squad. The conversation quickly turned to Jason Campbell.
“Without having Bruce healthy, Jason is certainly going to have a good chance to be our guy. We traded for him for a reason, because we felt like we needed an upgrade at the quarterback position and he certainly has done that,” Cable said with regards to the upgraded work ethic provided by Campbell. “I think you’ll like his athleticism, he’s going to be able to escape and get some first downs with his feet; I think that’s a real positive. [The] Guy throws very well on the run, so I think moving the pocket and those kinds of things are a plus for him. I think in general, his ability to be accurate and deliver the ball on time, those two things impress me the most, but he does have some great ability with his feet.”
The coach was asked what he thought Jason could bring to the team in terms of mentality, “[He’s] Had some ups and downs, [he] has dealt with that, [he] has dealt with the scrutiny that I think comes with being a QB in this league. The whole time he did it with honor; kept his head up, kept moving forward, kept playing, kept doing the things a QB has to do in this league to succeed. And when you really look at him and you’re around him a little bit, you can really see why he has had some success and why he has a good future.”
Then he was asked if Campbell is the opposite of JaMarcus Russell. This was one of those things that kind of drops your jaw a little bit, “I don’t think there is any question about that,” Cable said. “The way he has gone after it since we made the trade: you know, we make a trade, he shows up, he’s here for four days, goes into mini-camp…never blinks. Takes it, gets it, sure he made some mistakes, it’s not real familiar to him in four days, but never once did he back away from it or ‘wow, this is too much‘ or any of that. Kept going forward and going for it, now he’s been around here for a couple of weeks really studying and working for it. I’m anxious to go out there today and see how far he’s come in just a short time.”
Coach Cable made it a real point to talk about how much better the offense was after JaMarcus Russell was removed from the starting line-up last year. Basically, he said it didn’t matter who the QB was, as long as it wasn’t JaMarcus Russell, “Last year, once we went a different route at QB, the team became better offensively, became more explosive, better on third down, better in the red-zone. You know, we went up 106 yards a game with Bruce and Charlie playing. Ran the ball better, threw it better, and scored another touchdown, seven points a game better.”
He also wanted to make sure Raider Nation knew that the skill players were working together to develop good chemistry, “Johnnie [Lee Higgins] and Chaz [Schilens] are third year guys, then you’ve got Darrius [Heyward-Bey] and Louis [Murphy] being second year guys, so their maturity is going to come just from being in this league and understanding what it takes to perform at this level; how to take care of you body, how to study all those little things. Then you put a guy like Jason in there with them, who literally, if they want to go out there all day, would go out there with them and play catch, throw routes, work on ball handling on reverses, just whatever, their all kind of gym rats. Their hanging out together, their hanging out and I think they complement each other that way, there’s not a huge age disparity, that whole group is young, they kind of fit, if that makes sense.”
It makes perfect sense to me, and it sounds a lot like what Drew Brees does with his guys in New Orleans. That offense is extraordinarily productive because Brees is constantly working out with his guys and making sure everybody is on the same page. But it’s not even a bit premature to compare the Raiders offense to the Saints offense at this point, it is absolutely ludicrous. They certainly still have a long road ahead of them to develop any kind of similar productivity. Nevertheless, the opportunity exists and it appears the guys have good work habits. Where opportunity meets hard work; that is where you find success.
But it’s a success that will not involve Terrell Owens, according to the coach, “No, we really haven’t had any discussion about that, we got a good young receiving core, it’s never even been a point of conversation.”
So, let me end by offering my sincerest apologies to all of you who are supporters of Flozell Adams, John Henderson, and Terrell Owens. But in all honesty, I don’t blame Oakland at all for wanting to develop this young squad they have. This, after all, is how dynasties are created.
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