There was a lot of reports of sloppy play throughout the OTA's this year and at the beginning of their mini-camp which wrapped up yesterday. There is one person out there who wasn't worried about the sloppiness and is happy about the way that the team is progressing. That person is head coach Dennis Allen.
DA opened up his press conference yesterday stating exactly how he felt about where the team is currently after the completion of OTA's and mini-camp.
“First of all, I’ll just say this was a good camp. I thought OTAs, I thought we improved, I thought we got better. I like this football team. I like their mentality, I like where we’re at, I like the way they’re working. Obviously we’re going to give them some time off before we go to training camp, but I think we’re all anxious to get there, get the pads on and really see what we’ve got. With that I’ll open it up to questions.”
Allen isn't blind to the struggles that were out on the field but he sees the progress and the work that the players are putting in. He expects to see some mistakes at this time of the year, especially with so many new players. He also expects to see his players putting in hard work and to be developing their team mentality during this time span so he is not surprised at what he has seen so far.
“I don’t know if surprised, I’ve been pleased with the work that these guys have put in, and obviously we’re not the finished product. We’ve still got a lot of improvement to do, but I wouldn’t say that’s any different than any of the other 31 teams. But I like their mentality, and I like the way that they work.”
Its good that he sees progress from the players but it is great that he is taking notice to the team mentality. The Raiders lacked an overall team mentality last year and never really had a team unity stand out. If that mentality amongst the players is starting to form then that is a very good thing for this team. They lacked an identity last year and they lacked that team mentality, for them to be successful under Allen then he has to make sure that those things form this year.
Another reason for that lack of identity last year was the offensive coordinator Greg Knapp who stuck to his set plays and showed an impressive lack of creativity in his offense. There is a big difference now that Greg Olson has taken over the OC duties and people have taken notice to the change in atmosphere. DA was asked about Olson and the difference of his evolving offense over Greg Knapp's set play calling.
“Yeah, absolutely, I think that’s what great coaching is. I think great coaching is adapting a scheme to fit the players that you have. Putting those players in the position to give them the best chance to have success. I think that he’s done a real nice job of that from an offensive standpoint.”
I find this quote to be ironic due to the adapting of the scheme to the players being not much of a priority last year. The team almost went out of their way last year to stick with schemes that did not fit their personnel. It is really great to see that Allen has learned this important lesson and I can't wait to see how much of an effect it will have on the overall product that he puts on the field.
My favorite quote of Allen's in this press conference though came when he was asked if he had seen anything that would effect how they start training camp, which begins 5 weeks from now.
“I don’t think there’s going to be anything that influences the way we start camp, but I will say that again, we got a lot of change, a lot of turnover on this football team and the thing I’ve been the most pleased with is the mindset of this team. I know there’s a lot of experts out there that might thing differently, but I like this football team.”
That was my favorite quote because he went out of his way to mention the experts. It shows that Allen hasn't been ignorant to the plenitude of negative reports coming out about his team. He has definitely noticed the insults being thrown his team's way and he is not letting them get under his skin. Even just a simple thing like this saying that he disagrees with the “experts” about the team tells us that he knows about the articles being written about the Raiders and that he is eager to show those reports wrong.
All in all Dennis seems excited about where the team is and hopefully that is from a point of reality and not hope. Now we have 5 more weeks before we get to see them come back for training camp and finally put the pads on. There is only so much you can glean from “Football in shorts” as Mike Tomlin called it, so we really will get a better idea of where the team is once they come back. Dennis Allen seems to be just as anxious as we are to see this team with some contact involved.