New Oakland Raiders’ Head Coach Hue Jackson had the joy of meeting with the media today from the Raiders Alameda complex in the annual Pre-Draft press conference. He gave some clues as to the direction of the football team in 2011, but really didn’t get in depth into what positions the Raiders would be looking for high in the draft. Basically, he said they will take the best player available at the time when they pick, no matter what round it is. He also touched on the lockout and whether it hurts the team not to practice.
Let’s go ahead and get the easy part out of the way right off the bat. With regards to the most often asked Raiders Draft question: Is speed the end all/be all?
“Do we love measurables? You better believe we do,” Coach Jackson said. “But at the end of the day, you have to look at a football player and say, ‘Where does he fit on our football team?’”
Coach Jackson said the lockout has actually helped the coaching staff get on the same page: “It’s been great to slow down and get them to understand exactly what I want as far as offensively, defensively, and on special teams. We get an opportunity to really talk about what we want on a daily basis. I’m very excited about our staff.”
Is he concerned about the players not being there to work with those coaches?
“At some point in time we are going to practice,” Coach Jackson responded. “We know there is going to be some type of practice before any game. A pro football player knows what he has to do [to be ready], so I think players are working very hard, so when they walk back in this building they’ll know what to do.”
He also made it abundantly clear that there will be some sort of roster adjustments compared to last year, even though they are playing with relatively the same players this year.
“We’re going to go do what we need to do,” he said. “There will be changes, there has to be. The players, fans, and our organization know that.”
Jackson already has developed a plan in his head for his offense this year, a week prior to the draft.
“I know what I want to do as far as our offense is concerned. There’s no position [in the draft] that we won’t look at. We have a very young and talented football team, so we’re in a position that a lot of teams aren’t in. There are some things to fix, but not a ton. If there is a game changing guy when we draft, no matter what position, we will draft him.”
He did make mention of the fact that they are in good shape with their “veteran” quarterback, Jason Campbell, but would not rule out the idea of taking a quarterback high in the draft.
“If the talent is one that is going to make a huge impression on your football team – score a lot of touchdowns or block out the sun... you’d take him too, wouldn’t you?”
He also acknowledged that he is a believer of the “game is won and lost in the trenches” philosophy.
“I truly believe the game is won in the trenches. I expect us to be a very physical, tough, athletic, mean football team,” the first-time Head Coach said. “Our personality will be we expect to win on any Sunday, Monday, Thursday, or whatever day it is.”
When asked what positions the first year Head Coach thought were the deepest in this particular draft class, Jackson said those positions were offensive line, defensive line, cornerback, wide receiver, and maybe quarterback.
The press who were present at the conference asked Coach Jackson if he had been contacted about moving into the first round. Jackson jokingly responded by telling them that would be giving away all of his secrets. They then transformed the question into whether it is more difficult to be in the top eight to ten picks than it is to be in the middle of the second round.
“It’s a lot of pressure when you’re in the top half of the draft,” Jackson responded. “You have to be right [with your pick]. That’s a lot of pressure on you and the young man [that you draft].”
When asked if he was excited about the 2011 schedule for the Raiders, Coach Jackson replied, “I love it; does it get any better than that? Monday Night Football against the Broncos in Denver; does it get any better than that?”
Planning and working around traveling is going to be the mantra this year, as Coach Jackson referenced trips to Miami, Green Bay, Buffalo, and other “cross country” visits. The obstacles associated with traveling will essentially make or break the team this year. But he also said that he has complete confidence in this football team and is excited about trekking across the country with them so much because he believes in what they are building. What he wants to build is a team that will win football games no matter when or where they are played.