Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden met with the media Friday following the team’s final full practice before Sunday’s home game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
He was relatively brief, but certainly showed plenty of his spunky and amusing personality.
He poked fun at Pro Football Focus (PFF), and paid reverence to Brett Favre while coincidentally being self-deprecating.
Most importantly, he led off with an update on some of the team’s injured players, noting that safety LaMarcus Joyner is Out, as is David Sharpe. Right tackle Trent Brown, Gruden said, is listed as Questionable. With Sharpe out, it would seem to indicate that Brown, despite being questionable, will play so long as he doesn’t suffer any setbacks between now and Sunday.
With Joyner missing the game, Gruden said that Nevin Lawson and Daryl Worley were the most likely players to take Joyner’s spot as the nickel corner.
And to provide depth at safety in Joyner’s absence, the recently signed D.J. Swearinger is likely to dress and be the on the active roster for Sunday’s contest. We chronicled what Swearinger can bring to the team here.
The other recently signed defensive player, Dion Jordan, is expected to play Sunday. Of the two recently signed veterans, Gruden proclaimed, “we’re going to get those guys up and start the process. We need ‘em.”
Raiders fans and analysts alike may disagree on just how much Jordan is needed given the recent production of both rookie defensive ends. It sounds as if Jordan may be used as a “move” player, meaning he could line up at linebacker, end, and possibly even on the interior in pass rush situations. Gruden wasn’t short of praise for the former No. 3 overall pick, though he did offer pause about his level of conditioning.
“I thought he did well. We had a couple live rushes for him, and we looked at him as an inside and outside rusher,” he said. “I don’t know what his overall football shape is without OTAs, training camp, missing the first 10 weeks of the season. We’re going to try to ease the boat into the water, give him as much as he can take. He’s a talented kid.”
On his rookie defensive ends, he reminded fans that Clelin Ferrell was sick and lost plenty of weight. He also uttered a similar refrain as Mike Mayock last week.
“We’ve asked him to do a lot, he played inside, he played defensive tackle. I don’t know what Football Focus says, but if they focus on the numbers, I bet they’d say he played inside quite a bit. And that’s a real challenge for a rookie that is undersized and under his playing weight. So we probably compromised him a little bit by asking him to do a lot. But I think last week seeing him at the outside position, I think you really saw him at his normal playing strength, playing weight, playing strength, playing better.”
Gruden was asked about coaching the head coach, quarterback, and coordinator of the opposing Cincinnati Bengals. Predictably, he hadn’t given it a ton of thought, but made sure to praise the Bengals.
“The Bengals are dangerous. They took Seattle to the brink in Seattle. I know they’re well-coached because I know those guys.”
When asked about Brett Favre calling him the midseason coach of the year, he quipped back, “I love Brett Favre, I’ll just leave it that.”
He didn’t leave it at that, however. He continued to praise Favre, while downplaying his, and other coach’s success:
“If it wasn’t for Brett Favre, I think Andy Reid and Mariucci would probably tell you, ‘None of us would be where we are without Brett Favre.’ I appreciate the nice words. It’s nice to hear a nice word now. You don’t hear many. Especially from you guys (the media).”
Given the nature of Paul Guenther’s presser on Thursday, it seems the Raiders coaching staff is really starting to jive. There seems to be a cohesive plan in place. It’s the kind of plan and culture that can overcome adversity, such as losing so many key defensive players to injury.
Gruden seems to have the boat headed in the right direction, exactly what Raiders fans optimistically hoped for when he returned to coach the team 22 months ago.
The Raiders just need to keep the boat going upstream on Sunday.