It is the final day of mandatory minicamps for the Raiders. Up to this point the Raiders OTA's and minicamps have been dominated by the offense. Rightfullly so considering the complexities of the new defensive playbook with which the Raiders defense is now working. That and there is no contact which eliminates the pass rush and tackling.
After Wednesday's practice, Dennis Allen was saying that he could see marked improvement in the play of the defense. The thing was though that it wasn't showing itself in terms of turnovers or even slowing down the offense. Today that all changed.
It was as if Allen said to his guys ‘ok, the media needs to see some plays being made out there by the defense so give them something to talk about.' That is likely not the case. The more logical explanation is the defense was on schedule for this kind of performance and finally broke through. They have also had time to study the tendencies of their offensive counterparts.
The defensive pays began early with some players in the secondary getting hands on passes. Brandon Underwood, Conroy Black, and Shawntae Spencer all had passes defended and Demarcus Van Dyke had good position but Criner leapt over him and plucked it away. DVD later had what looked to be a sure interception but he dropped it.
The first interception of the day came from linebacker Nathan Stupar on a Matt Leinart pass.
In fact, the linebacker were playing well in coverage overall. At one time Palmer had two incompletions within a short time span while attempting to throw at the guy Rolando McClain was covering. First it was Darren McFadden and then Jacoby Ford. He missed on the throws while attempting to throw it where McClain wasn't. He ended up throwing it where his receiver wasn't.
A few minutes later, Miles Burris joined the fun by jumping a Pryor pass intended for Kyle Efaw and nearly intercepted it.
The offense had their share of fine plays on the day but it was a refreshing change to see the defense really step up for the first time this offseason. It shows they are picking up on the playbook which Allen and Tarver have been feeding them in doses. It also shows the progress of which Allen has been speaking but we had yet to see materialize.
"Just like I said the other day," said Allen. "When you come off the practice field and you look at it with the naked eye, and it's not a real game-like situation, sometimes it may appear that something happened and it was a big play, when in reality, the defensive guys at times were in position to make plays. And I think this, I think when I look over the course of this last minicamp, and really, over the course of the whole offseason, with OTAs, there's been a lot of give and take. Offensively, we've had our good moments and then defensively we've had our good moments. So, I think as a head football coach, that's the way you want it. You don't want it to be too one-sided so I was pleased with both sides of the ball. I think we've got some ability to have some explosiveness on offense, and I think our guys have really taken to the culture and the way that we're going to play defense."