HENDERSON, Nev.--Coach Josh McDaniels has a lot to be happy about as his Las Vegas Raiders stand at 1-0 in the 2022 NFL pre-season, with the Minnesota Vikings invading Allegiant Stadium this weekend.
McDaniels took time, earlier today to talk at length about the progress of the Silver and Black, and you can watch the entire interview below, and read the transcript:
Head Coach Josh McDaniels
Q: Opening Statement...
Coach McDaniels: "It'll be a big week for us. Obviously coming off of the first preseason game we saw a lot of things that we can do better, we can fix and improve. The length of time between preseason game number one and preseason game number two for us gives us an opportunity to really kind of spend a lot of quality time this week doing that and get a few private practices in here this week. So, excited to get to work again."
Q: Going back to Thursday's game, Josh Jacobs played a significant sample size for preseason game. It kind of opened up some speculation that you guys might be shopping him or doing something along those lines. Just wanted to ask you if there was anything like that going on?
Coach McDaniels: "No. JJ (Josh Jacobs) is a guy that obviously we know what he's done, and as I said after the game, I really do believe that the backs in any situation, they don't really get to simulate what's going to happen during the course of the regular season. So giving them an opportunity to actually get tackled, take care of the football and get acclimated to a new system quite honestly I think is the goal. Each man is different, like I said, we chose to not play a few guys. There was a number of guys that couldn't play based on just coming back from something or rehabbing certain things. Andre James played three series as our starting center and there was a purpose for that, communication with the quarterbacks, really starting to do the do the things on the line of scrimmage with the guys on either side of him and do it in a game setting when we didn't know what was coming. You saw a lot of the linemen play most of the first half that started the game, again. So, like I said, we're trying to do what's best for the team. We felt like that was a good thing, a good opportunity for all our backs to play. We have a lot of confidence in JJ, and he did well with his opportunities which we hoped he would, and he did. But no, we have no desire to do that at all."
Q: Now that you've looked at the film from the first game, were there some positives that stood out that maybe from the vantage of the field you couldn't see?
Coach McDaniels: "Like I said, I thought we had great energy. I thought our guys really had a great approach to the game. We didn't do a whole lot schematically, which is fine, but we wanted to see fundamentally some of the things that we've been working hard on. I think some of those things showed up. I think one of the best things that came out of the game is it's a lot clearer for our team to see the areas where we can make progress from this point forward - our lanes in punt coverage, our double teams against different shades and techniques up front, our ability to be under control and tackle. When you play a game, now you're on film for everybody to see. We had a great opportunity the day after the game to go through every single play of the game. And now the players see it, it's on film, it's not just a practice period or an individual drill, now it happened in a game. So to me, that's one of the biggest positives you can take is, okay there's a clearer focus on what needs to improve, and that's kind of how we set our week up this week."
Q: Could you talk about the punt coverage on the big return? There was a big hole that was a big hole that obviously was pretty egregious.
Coach McDaniels: "Same thing, that's what I'm saying. And again, in things like that it's not just the first group that's out there because that happened to be later in the game, it's got to be every man. And again, on our team you never know who's going to end up out there. You only take 46 to the game and it may not be the guys that started the game because of injury or what have you. So our entire team, whether it's special teams, offense or defense, has to understand the big picture. We had poor lane coverage on that particular kick and it hurt us. We were fortunate that it got called back, but again like I said, those are great opportunities now. We learned the hard way what we can't do and we need to fix, and hopefully we'll do that this week."
Q: Chandler (Jones) and Darren (Waller) didn't make the trip - hadn't practiced for a couple days. Is the expectation...
Coach McDaniels: "Everybody is making progress. They're all working really hard. Like I said, there's a handful of them that are just continuing to grind away in the training room and rehab, and they'll be out there as soon as they're ready to go. Hopefully that will be sooner rather than later for some of them."
Q: You talk about fundamentals, contact balance, especially for the running back position. From Austin Walter I have seen a lot of that in practice, you're preaching this, coaching this. How excited are you to see some of these guys like Austin Walter who are kind of coming from these other teams who didn't want them now they're on your team and doing well?
Coach McDaniels: “Yeah, that's the other thing that really shows up, is there's opportunities and they've all heard the same thing that we've said since we got here. Which is, competition makes us all better. And they're going to earn their role on the team. We don't have it predetermined. Austin (Walter) made a play in the kicking game, too. He's one of the first guys down on the kick cover team. He's down here inside the 20-yard line, making contact with the returner. He plays really hard, made a couple of really nice runs made some people miss in the secondary. So yeah, there's no question that he showed up, he's competing hard. He's open minded to whatever role we asked him to connive in and again, he's added competition to our backfield no question.”
Q: You talk a lot about guys learning to offensive scheme, but you also implemented a scheme on defense as well. How did you feel like the guys performed?
Coach McDaniels: “Some good and some things to fix for sure. I thought our communication overall was decent because every play if you start with good communication, you have a chance and so I thought our communication with for the most part was decent. There's things we got to fix in our run defense things we got to fix in terms of our overall ability to see the quarterback and break on the ball on zone defense. And there's some things we got to clean up in main coverage. We ran into each other a couple of times as the game went on. Like I said, in the first game of the year, you're always going to see some things that you feel pretty good about, then there’s definitely, you know, it's right there on the film. It's easy for us to pinpoint ‘hey, we got to fix this, we got to make it better’ and I think the players left here on Friday understanding what some of those were.”
Q: You've been with Jarrett (Stidham) his whole professional career. What have you seen out of his progression?
Coach McDaniels: “Great kid, smart, works hard at the game. Hasn't had a tremendous number of opportunities, just based on the circumstances that he came in under and dealt with an injury a year and a half ago that kind of slowed him down a little bit, but he's healthy now. And, again, understands what he's trying to do, ran the offense pretty efficiently the other night. Took care of the ball, made some plays with his legs. He's just to me, I see him as a young player who's continuing to develop and improve. We have not reached his peak yet. We have a lot of players on our team I'd say that about but certainly Jarret (Stidham) is one of them.”
Q: With a bonus game, do you prepare for this like it's week one preseason game, or are you going into it like your second game? Preseason plans? Personnel playing time?
Coach McDaniels: “Yeah, it's definitely the second one for us. Meaning we're not going to go backwards and treat it like we haven't done anything. We learned a lot about what we can fix and get better at in camp the other night. I think for us, like I said from the very beginning, when we learned we had that game, we were going to try to take advantage of all four. Maybe not the same way in terms of how we utilize them, what we try to put the focus and emphasis. Who plays and doesn't play. How we're going to navigate that all those decisions will try to do what's right for our team, which, you know, there's a number of things that we can do differently, play in a different way, etc. But we're definitely going to look at it for what it is which is a great opportunity for us to make progress from week one to week two.”
Q: These preseason games become pretty big opportunities for undrafted and free agents. Anybody in particular like Darien Butler, Isaiah (Thomas) the safety from USC, Sam Webb that seemed to have shown up?
Coach McDaniels:” Yeah, we have a number of guys, undrafted, that were in there and competing. Luke (Masterson) and Darien (Butler) at linebacker, Sam for sure, and Chase (Garbers) made a few big hits in the second half of the game, the two young safeties. I have some guys on the offensive side of the ball as well, that had opportunities and made the most of those. They're all here for a reason and if we didn't believe that they had an opportunity to impact us and make us better and make our team then we wouldn't have put them here. They all understand that the opportunity is the same for them as it is for somebody else, and they've gone out there and tried to make the most of those and they got to continue to do that in all three phases of the game.”
Q: Josh, we've talked about your teaching and training camp the why to the players, so they understand, but are you happy with how they've made that transition from the classroom?
Coach McDaniels: “You start to see the habits that have been formed or we have yet to form. That's really what you can see in the game is they have to revert to what they feel comfortable with and subconsciously what they know. They don't have time to stop and think once the ball snapped, should I make this decision, or should I make that decision? They have to go and react. It gave us a pretty clear blueprint on what we're doing okay, but we need these things to improve. I think they do understand the ‘why’. I think the habits we're trying to form here; the fundamentals are trying to continue to work on, the techniques that we're drilling. We're not there yet. But I don't know that any team would be there at this point. And so that's where our focus is going to be this week.”
Q: This week will be your debut at Allegiant Stadium coaching, what do you make of the building and what do you envision it's going to look like on gameday?
Coach McDaniels: “I've never coached there. I've been in it a few times since January, so I’m super excited. What a great place to play. I’m excited to be with our fans and Raider Nation in there and just see what that's like during the course of the game. And I understand it's a preseason game, but I think our team's excited. We have a lot of guys that have never played in the stadium either. Our coaching staff, our team, our players, I think everybody's looking forward to this. I’m kind of excited we have it in the one o'clock – the 1:25 pm time slot because that's where most of our games will be. It'll help us simulate our preparation. We're going to use this for that as well. And there are a lot of logistical things that you want to kind of get out of the way; from getting to the stadium, to where do I park, to how early do I need to leave. All those things you get an opportunity to go through a dry run of doing. I’m definitely excited. This is going to be fun on Sunday.”
Q: You're pretty familiar with [Vikings Head Coach] Kevin O'Connell having drafted him right, any surprises to you about where he is in life now?
Coach McDaniels: “Kevin's been a football junkie since the moment I met him. I went out to his university and sat with him and worked him out and evaluated him a long time ago. He's a great human being and he's a really, really good football coach, who has taken the opportunity to learn from each person that he's been with starting when he was with us. I think you could just tell he was soaking it all in and it was kind of in his blood. Kevin and I, we have a really good relationship, I’m really proud of what he's been able to do as a coach. I’m excited for him to have this opportunity. I look forward to seeing him on Sunday and following his progress this year.”
Q: Can you talk about what it’s like to have the opportunity to go through the motions of regular season situations in a preseason game?
Coach McDaniels: “It's a great, the preseason. There are so many benefits to it if you use it the right way. For us, we tried to simulate everything the way we would do it during the game; from our bus schedule to the stadium, to our pregame routine to what we were doing on the field – which got a little disruptive with the weather – to what we do with the pregame meetings, what we do at halftime. Including those types of situations. We knew going into the game that if there was anything close, we wanted to go through our procedure. [Director of Football Research and Strategy] Coach [Matt] Sheldon is out there in the in the box and he he's going to always give us the input that we need and make the decision about whether or not you we go ahead and challenge something. We had a couple of conversations as the night went on about those things and just so happened that that one was close enough that we felt like it was worth doing. And we were fortunate that we won it. These are great opportunities to simulate what you're going to in the regular season and hopefully we'll take the opportunity to do some more of those things here in the next three games.”
Q: What were some of the things you took away from Zamir White’s play after you were able to look at the tape?
Coach McDaniels: “He played fast. And for a rookie, there's times where you're thinking and processing and sometimes that makes you play a little slower than what you would normally do. I didn't see that; he ran down on the kickoff team, made a hell of a tackle really close to the lane, and did a good job scalloping and coming under control. He made a good tackle on the kickoff cover team. This guy just plays hard, loves football. You saw how he finished his runs; he's a physical player. He's a tough guy. He adds that element to our team. And he's unselfish; whatever role we've asked him to compete in, he just gets in there. Whether it's on the punt team, or the kick cover team, offensively. He’s trying to get better every day – loves football. I thought he got off to a good start the other night.”
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