HENDERSON, Nev.--The Las Vegas Raiders Josh McDaniels, like everyone in the Raider Nation, is disappointed with the team's 0-3 start.
But, McDaniels is keenly aware that the season is far from over and he took time moments ago at his Wednesday update to discuss the state of the Silver and Black.
You can watch the entire press conference below, and read the transcript:
Head Coach Josh McDaniels
Head Coach Josh McDaniels: “We are knee deep in Denver. This is an interesting group. Obviously going through some changes from last year to this year, relative to their staff and the systems that they're using and definitely some players that have changed. Explosive team in all three phases, no doubt. They're playing well on defense right now, good pass rush, very good pass rush. They play a lot of tight coverage, they're pretty good in the defensive backfield. [Pat] Surtain [III] and [Ronald] Darby may be one of the best duos that we're going to see all year. They've been keeping people out of the end zone, creating turnovers, forced more fumbles than any team in the league so far. So, that'll be a big challenge. Offensively, there's a lot of things you could say about Russell Wilson, probably not enough superlatives over the last 10 years. I mean, this guy's won games, fourth quarter comebacks, completion percentage, quarterback rating, and he's starting to do it again. They've trailed in the fourth quarter of all three of their games and he's brought them back and won a couple of those. Running game is good, backs are good, both of them can make yards with the ball in their hands. They're doing a good job of creating some big plays in the passing game with their receiving core. Tight ends have all made plays. And then the kicking game, kicker’s got a huge leg. He'll try them from basically the logo on. They cover well in their kicking game and they got a good, young returner who has averaged almost 20 yards a return in college, and he's already started to make some plays in the league. We're hard at work getting to know these guys. They're a little different than the team that we played last year, but looking forward to having a good day today."
Q: Dan Orlovsky was on ESPN yesterday and kind of implied, or maybe even accused, Derek Carr of purposely trying not to throw the ball to Davante Adams in situations where he was open, and the ball was intended to go there. Are you're seeing anything similar to that? And are there ever any discussions where you say, ‘Hey, maybe we have to spread the ball around a little bit more and it might come at the expense of a certain player?’
Coach McDaniels: “I mean, I didn't see that. I don't know what he's referring to. Look, there's one ball and there's five skill players. Usually, four or five of them are in the read somehow, someway, unless they're just full time in protection. Davante [Adams] would always be involved in the read part of that. Sometimes he's the first one, sometimes he's the second. He's very rarely the third, fourth, or fifth, but sometimes it is what it is based on the coverage. And so, again, we've seen a lot of different things in three weeks, much of which may not have showed up in the scouting report based on the way a team played someone else. So, I'd say one of the things that's a new experience for everyone is when you create a scouting report for an opponent, you can only look at what they've done against someone else. Now, you can guess what they're going to do against you, but you're shooting in the dark there. So, one of the things that's really been interesting, and I've experienced this a couple other times in my life, is that the scouting report almost takes a right or a left turn at the beginning of the game because a team decides to do something dramatically different than maybe what they did against two or three opponents prior to your game. And so, I think that getting used to that, being able to adjust to it and still be productive – a good example would be [Mack] Hollins has more opportunities because of certain things that maybe someone did to try to effectively take someone else away. Darren [Waller] was doubled a number of times the other day. Davante was as well. Hunter [Renfrow] has been doubled this year, multiple times.
So, you can't necessarily predict it, which is why what we try to always preach is the most important thing we can do is read the defense because if you're going to just assume that one guy is going to be open or I have to throw it here, the defense always has a vote in that and they get to determine how they're going to try to cover you. So, I don't think anyone's trying to do anything other than move the football and score points. Sometimes a double may occur, and it may look to somebody else like when he was still open there might be two or three guys that were more open, and so that's part of the process. We've talked openly to Derek [Carr] and Davante about this, and like I said, I've gone through this with a few other players before where you just have to get used to how you're getting played because it's not the same as what you see on the scouting report or what you see on the tape as you get ready for the game. So, I have no issue with either one of those two guys. They're trying their very best to do the right things always, and they'll continue to do that as we go forward.”
Q: Based on what you're seeing, do you feel like Derek is reading it correctly and seeing it?
Coach McDaniels: “Sure. Again, like I said, there's always opportunities where you say, ‘Well, he was doubled, but still had a shot.’ Yeah, that might have been true, and we might have completed a few balls in that situation as well. So, being right and wrong, there's definitely some subjectivity to that. Look, we grade every throw, we grade every route, we grade every read, and have a lot of confidence in these two guys doing the right thing. But it's a process for them. We've talked about it, like they didn't see this together when they played before in college. That's not what happened. So, they're getting these different things and some of which Davante is more used to because he's been played a little bit more like that. And now it's the two of them getting used to it together. We have a responsibility to help those two guys continue to be productive as well. So, we're all in it together.”
Q: A small sample of three names, but with Mack Hollins, are you surprised with his production?
Coach McDaniels: “No, not surprised because of the effort he puts in and the way he works. He's worked like that since he got here. When we signed him, this was part of the equation, and he wanted an opportunity to try to compete on offense and be more of an offensive contributor, as well as all the good things he does in the kicking game. And so, what a tribute to him that he's still making impactful plays in the kicking game and playing, let's just call it, almost every single play on offense. I think it says a lot about the character of the human being and the type of person, type of leader he is because he doesn't want to come off the field for anything. I mean, if we told him you're running down on the kickoff team, you're protecting on the punt, you're the gunner on the punt team, your rushing punts, and then you're going to play every snap on offense; he wouldn't even blink. He’s taking advantage of his opportunities that have come his way. He’s obviously made some huge plays and what an unselfish player.”
Q: Has Mack Hollins worked himself into being one of the top reads for Derek?
Coach McDaniels: “It would depend on what the play was, and then the coverage. I don't want to bore you guys with this, but sometimes there's what we call a progression read and you're going from one side to the other. Sometimes you're reading it as a coverage read. So, if it's post safety, I'm over here, and it's split safety, I'm over there. And so, depending on what the coverage is sometimes the beginning of the read could change and Mack is in all of them as well because all the receivers really are at some point. But he’s certainly taken advantage of the ones that he becomes an earlier part of the progression. There's no doubt about that. And he has been first or second at times, no doubt.”
Q: In the preseason, we asked you about the rotations on the offensive line. Three games in and you’re still looking for the formula. When does the formula workout?
Coach McDaniels: “I think when it's clear and evident, I think that's what it is. Look, nobody would like that to be more evident and clear than all of us in here to say, ‘Hey, we don't need to do anything else.’ I think the biggest thing for us is we've tried to continue to stress execution and competition in practice, which I know you guys don't always get to see anymore, and the games. So, the adjustment we made last week was basically to try to find the right group that could play as one unit. Had no negative runs last week, kept them off Derek for the most part. It was a good pass rush last week, it’s another good one this week. And so, I think that there was definitely some progress made there. Andre [James] was out again, last week. There's definitely an element of patience for that. I just think sometimes you want it to be done before it's done. Sometimes you want it to be simpler before really the decision should be made. I want that as much as anybody else does. I think we're just trying to make sure that we put the right five guys out there as much as we can.”
Q: When your team is in the midst of a disappointing stretch, it's easy to point out what's gone wrong. There has been good things too. As a coach, how do you find that balance of, "Hey, this isn't acceptable, but there are good things."?
Coach McDaniels: "You do it the same way every week and be consistent. They know that; it's football. We've been in three close games. You're not in three close games against three good teams without playing well in stretches of each one of those games. And again, whether we have a good day or a practice that's a little less than what we wanted, or we play that game and we win or we lose, I think the consistent approach as a coach is really what I've learned is best for them - this is really good, we're really doing well here and we need to continue to do that well, and these are some areas where we where we can improve in. And again, I think our responsibility is to provide them with, 'Hey, these are some solutions here that will help us in this situation.' So just try to be consistent with them and the positives are the positives, they are what they are, and the negatives are the negatives. So, we just try to be truthful and open with them, and they do a good job of listening, and we're just trying to make the things that we can make better, better."
Q: It's very evident that Mack Hollins is a very interesting person. Do you have any stories or recollections that kind of sum up who Mack Hollins is as a person?
Coach McDaniels: "I have probably a few of them, but I look out my window every once in a while, and Mack [Hollins] is running to the facility. There's not many people that use their legs to get anywhere anymore, but Mack is one of them. He's a free spirit, but he's got an urgency about him and an attention to detail about him that you would ask every player to possess in the building. But he's also - boy what a breath of fresh air relative to the things he's interested in. And I know he's talked about a fish tank and a zoo and all the rest of that stuff. I mean, but that's real for him and having snakes and everything else. I mean, he loves that stuff. Believe me, my daughters think this guy is like - he's the top of the chart for them. So, I mean like Davante [Adams] and Maxx Crosby, those are great, but they are like, 'Where's Mack? Where's Mack? Where's Mack?' I mean, they just want to talk about Mack. He just has great interests, and I think that speaks to the depth of the person. You talk about what his role is here on the team, I'm not sure that there's anything he doesn't do. He leads, he practices well, he encourages others, he picks guys up, he makes big plays, he's tough, he's in great condition. Like I said, it's hard to find people that are more determined to help the team in any way they can than Mack."
Q: It's obviously been a while but being a head coach against Denver - is there any significance to that to you?
Coach McDaniels: "Other than it's a division game, obviously. We want to try to get ourselves going here at home. First division home game, we're excited about that. But no, I've said this many times, they gave me a great opportunity at a young age and I'm thankful for that and learned a lot of lessons from that."
Q: Being a division game, there was so much talked about this division coming into the year, everybody was so excited about it, but it's not like all of the teams are 3-0 - the pack isn't running away from you guys at this point. Do you look around and say you're not out of it yet, it's still kind of right there to be had?
Coach McDaniels: "I don't think we talk about it. I mean, like I said, it's still September and I think all three other teams - and then you throw ourselves in there - I can't imagine that there's any team in the league that's saying right now, 'Man, we're where we want to be at the end.' I heard something the other day, the scoring average in the league is at 21. I was like, 'Whoa." You know what I mean? It's shocking, and that just tells me like there's a lot of development and there's a lot of improvement and there's a lot of things that need to get better. And I don't worry about like, 'Well, why is that' or, 'Where have we misstepped?' Our focus is on trying to fix the things that we can fix and make ourselves better. But looking around and all that stuff, it just distracts you from what you need to do this week, and we've got an important game, obviously. We want to try to get ourselves rolling in the division, and that's what we're going to focus on.”
Q: You guys are nursing a few injuries at cornerback; how do you feel about your depth at that position on the roster and on the practice squad?
Coach McDaniels: “You get challenged at a lot of spots, whether it’s been the offensive line and we've had some things like that crop up here. That's what they're all here for. We're no different than any other team. No different. You look around and this guys out, this guy is on IR, this guy is injured, he's inactive. The bottom line is we're going to make a handful of guys inactive on game day and the other guys are going to go compete their butt off and try to win. I feel good about all the guys on our roster and all the guys on our practice squad because I know what they're doing each day to work and get ready to go. I think this is a really important time of the year where you say, anybody that is sitting in that meeting has to understand that you may be elevated. We've elevated players in each game so far this year and that would not shock me if that continues. They understand that it's not just 53 getting ready for the game, it's 69. If there's obviously somebody that's hurt and can't play, then that's one. Everybody that's nursing some injuries right now, they're doing everything they can to get ready to go and get ready to play and get back and help their teammates as soon as they can."
Q: Duron Harmon has made some of the biggest defensive plays. What stood out most about him early and is he a steadying influence for the young guys?
Coach McDaniels: "He's such a great preparer. He's a guy that has great experience. We talk about this a lot, but it's really a great thing for young players to really work hard at, is your preparation can help you play faster on the field because you can anticipate. Sometimes young players rely on skill and talent and ability, and they don't factor in the anticipation part of the equation. The play that Duron made the other day on the interception, he anticipated it, read the formation properly and made a good play. A couple of big hits he made in the Arizona game, same thing. He now knows how to use that after so many years in the league to really provide himself with every advantage possible. And what an opportunity for those younger players because he tells them and helps them in any way that he can. He doesn't hold anything back. He knew he was competing with them all during the entire offseason and training camp and the only thing he cared about was if there was anything else he could do to help them get better. Great influence and happy we have him."
Q: With edge rushers coming in town with Denver, is this a game where you have to lean a little heavily on the run game if possible?
Coach McDaniels: “Like I said, we want to stay balanced. There is some really good duos in the league. This one is at the top. Our division is kind of brutal in that way, but when you talk about [Randy] Gregory and [Bradley] Chub, and even the guys that come in behind them, they're coming. The one thing that I think that they've done a tremendous job of this year defensively, and Ejiro [Evero] has done a great job of putting them in positions to do this, is their ability to play great first down defense has afforded them more pass rush opportunities. It's the best defense in the league on first down. So, most of the second and third downs are in the pass category. And so, being able to be productive, regardless of what scheme we use or play we run, we're going to have to be more productive than what other teams have been because that's what's given them so many opportunities to pin their ears back and go because the offense finds themselves in too many long yardage situations. Great duo, play with great effort, really do a good job when they get near the quarterback. We're going to have to do a good job collectively of playing the game the right way, which a big part of that is going to have to be getting off to a good start in the series. First down can't turn into second and 10 every time, or you're playing behind the sticks."
The Las Vegas Raiders return to action next Sunday, as they play host at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas to their AFC rivals the Denver Broncos. That game kicks off at 4:25 PM PDT and can be seen on CBS.
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