Amid all the coach speak to today's press conference (try this one, "We'll see, after we go through free agency, after we go through the draft, which grouping gives us the best chance to be successful. I would expect that we'll be very multiple in that regard"), Raider's Head Coach Dennis Allen dropped some interesting nuggets if we dig deeply enough.
First, if I were OLB/DE Kamerion Wimbley or FS Michael Huff, I wouldn't get too optimistic about my prospects. In response to a question directly about those to players and their high contract numbers Allen gave this response, "Right now, with all those guys, we're looking at all our options and what we have to do from a financial standpoint to make sure we put ourselves in the best position to get the best players out there and be on our final 53-man roster. So between Reggie and myself, we're working through all those scenarios right now." That is certainly not, as they say, a ringing endorsement.
Even worse for Huff: on a question about whether he would move to corner – something that the previous regime was looking at doing – Allen instead talked about not making decisions until he knew who would make the roster. He said, "Again, that question is to be determined after we find out exactly who we have on the team to find out what are options are. The one thing do I do know about Michael Huff is he's an extremely good athlete and he has skills athletically of a corner, and so that obviously would be an option for us, but again, we won't make any decisions along those lines until we know exactly what we got."
Contrast that with how he responded about a question as to whether there was any chance star running back Darren McFadden wouldn't be back, "Not as far as I'm concerned. I think he's an extremely dynamic player. Again, from playing the Oakland Raiders twice last year, they were much more challenging to defend when Darren McFadden was in the backfield, and having that kind of two-headed monster between him and Bush, that was a real challenge. Darren is a vital part of what we're going to try and get done next year." Now that's the kind of ringing endorsement a player wants to hear from the head coach.
Aside from personnel questions, other interesting points that were brought up involved what kind of players the Raiders would be looking for. Allen, talking about the 40 times that were so important to Al Davis said, "It only fits after we find out whether this guy on tape when we look at him, if we feel like he's a good football player. That's where 40 times come into effect. If you got two guys that when you look at the tape, these guys are about the same football playing wise, well let's take the faster guy. But we're not going to take guys just because they run real fast. Because that doesn't co-relate to being a good football player."
He also confirmed something we had talked here on TFDS – that the Raiders will be looking toward defense in the draft and free agency – specifically, the question was about the Raiders looking at LBs and DTs – two positions on our top 5 needs for the team. Allen said, "I think obviously, defensively that is going to be a priority for us. I think I was really pleased with what the Raiders were able to do last year offensively. I know from having to defend against them, they were a real challenge to defend. Defensively, if you look at the defensive rankings, not too different than what the situation I came into last year with Denver. So it's obviously a high priority for us and we've got to get better in that area."
I am, personally, excited about these changes. It has been frustrating when the Raiders would, year after year, mortgage their future for a player that never seemed to be worth their contract. It sounds like the Raiders will bit the bullet and make the tough decisions to shed some over-priced contracts and finally focus more on defense, which has been their Achilles heal for too many years.
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