HC LOVIE SMITH
"I guess it has been forever since we've played a game. It's good to get back into the routine. We're excited to go out to Las Vegas. I know what their record says, but when you start looking at who we'll be playing against, offensive skill, defensive skill, upfront, it definitely gets your attention. We need a win as much as they do. It was good to get back out on the practice field. We did a little bit Monday but today, Wednesday, is our regular Wednesday routine. The game is about adjustments, so you adjust and move on. Good work. We're in pretty good shape heath-wise this time of the year."
How will your offense try to contain Raiders DL Maxx Crosby?
"We're trying to figure that out. Most offenses have been trying to figure that out. He's just an excellent football player, good talent, size, quickness, speed, power, all of that. He's relentless. He plays until the whistle blows. You have to love how he plays football. We realize that though. Our offensive line realizes that we have good tackles. I know they're excited about whenever you have a great player like that coming in, you have to be excited about playing against a special player like that (Maxx Crosby). I know our guys are."
How does the organization approach going forward without Jack Easterby?
"I think it's like anything else. You look at a football team, you have injuries and there has to be a backup plan in place. Some guys are out for the season. Of course, things have to move on is what I'm saying. As I said then, my short time I worked with Jack was all good. He did a great job for us. Sometimes divorce is a good thing. I've said that before, too. As far as how we're moving, that's what we're doing. Moving forward. We have enough people in place to be able to pick up and keep going."
With LB Christian Harris coming off reserve/injured list, where have you noticed his improvement?
"I was really excited then and really exited now. We like the skill set, the talent of a young player. You have to keep that in mind. It's his first game in a long period of time. I think he has grown as much as you can grow without practicing. He's smart. He's put in the time. Now you have to have that first game. We have to get him out there and let him start playing. Eventually, that's what he'll be able to do."
Is LB Christian Harris up to speed and potentially ready to play this week in Las Vegas?
"Possibly. Let's get to that game. We're going through a week of practice, see where he is and go from there."
How do you balance giving your tackles help against the pash rush or letting them go one-on-one to give QB Davis Mills more passing options?
"I think it's just that, what you said. There's a balance. Two great defensive ends, we feel like we have two really good tackles. The game, most of the time, is a one-on-one game. You have to feel like you can start off with just that. We chip, we have tight end help, running back help. That's a basic part of offensive football also. The balance is to be flexible in mixing in, do both and try to keep a defensive end off balance as much as you can."
With the emphasis on running the football, do you see a need to have other guys help RB Dameon Pierce?
"How many reps did he get last time? 26? I think your starting tailback can handle 26 plays. Most lead running backs can handle that. As I see it if you're a running football team, your lead tailback needs to have over 20 carries in an ideal world. When he was getting 10, we said it wasn't enough. I'm just going from there. Is that too much? No, quick answer."
As you continue to run the ball, is there going to be a need to add other guys beside RB Dameon Pierce?
"Maybe. I'm going to start back with our lead tailback getting that amount. From there, we see how it goes. Is there a need to have someone else spill your lead running back? No, I don't think so. I don't think the league is that way. There's some third down situations that maybe like that. No, I don't think so at all."
What's your relationship with James Liipfert in your approach to evaluate rookies development?
"Starting off with, they're rookies. They're young. They're going to make mistakes. You can't expect them to be what they'll eventually be. If you're playing young guys and living with a few rookie mistakes, don't fear that at all either. You just evaluate your roster. Do they give you the best chance to win with knowing all of those things? Young, hasn't played a lot. To me, the answer has been yes. Instead of me saying that, are we playing rookies right now? A lot of them, yes. That's what we believe. Kind of as simple as that."
What's your evaluation of DB Jalen Pitre after the first quarter of the season and what do you expect from him the rest of the season?
"If you ask Jalen, he'll say just continue to wrap up with the tackles. Beyond that, everyday he's been here he's been working with the first team. He's gotten a lot of valuable reps, just normal growth of going through the season. Excited him about seeing him the second quarter of the football season. He's learned an awful lot. He can make plays. He's on record of course doing that. Excited about seeing both of our young safeties. Jonathan Owens hadn't played a lot of football, but both of those guys are healthy and they're trending this direction."
What do you expect from DB Derek Stingley Jr. and his matchup with Raiders WR Davonte Adams?
"That's why we drafted him that high. Each week there's going to be great receiver on the other side. Some weeks, that receiver is a little bit better than other weeks. Who is the highest paid receiver in football? He's (Davante Adams) right up there. Right now, to this point, we can argue about a few thousand dollars here and there. He's one of the best. There's a reason why is my point. If you're a corner in general, you have to be excited about that. For a young player like (Derek) Stingley, yeah he's excited about this challenge. Best of the league, that's why we drafted him that high. I know he's looking forward to it, like all of our teams. Davante Adams is a heck of a football player. There's a reason why he's in this position right now."
What can you say about WR Brandin Cooks not practicing today?
After the bye week, does giving DL Jonathan Greenard and DL Jerry Hughes a bit of rest give you more of a benefit?
"No, not really. As far as pressure on the quarterback, look at the results a little bit. Sometimes you don't get the sacks but there is pressure to make the quarterback throw the ball maybe when he doesn't want to. To get a player like Jonathan (Greenard) back, yes that's good. A week of rest, that has to help. I know guys really look forward to the bye week when it's comes up. I know that there's a lot of energy out there today. They're ready to go and I know we'll need to be rushing as well as we have all year. I think as you look at the defensive line, we've talked a lot about, as I see it each week, we talked about Las Vegas's defensive line. I'm talking the challenge, It's D-line vs D-line. Everybody is talking about their defensive line. It's about our guys stepping up and putting pressure on a quarterback. If we don't, that could really pick us apart. Looking forward to the challenge and Jonathan and the rest of the guys showing up, yes."
Is the plan to get LB Christian Harris up to speed at one position and then give him position versatility?
"Position versatility, I don't buy that an awful lot with most people. To me, how many positions does a quarterback play? One. How much does Dameon (Pierce) play? We don't play him at wide receiver. Position flexibility with a young player is almost impossible to do that. We're trying to get him up to date on one position. That's the chore in itself to do that, an awful lot that goes into. Most people I hear say, 'Put him out there and let him run around and make plays.' It's a little bit more to it. We're trying to get him up speed on one position is what we're trying to do right now."
What's the chess match when it comes to sticking to you guns even though it plays into their strengths?
"A lot of that two-high shell is not really two deep that we're playing. As a general rule, if a team is running, you don't want to play a lot of two. Two is more designed to stop the run. I think there's a fine line between the two. Some formations allow you to do it if it's a single gap. A combination of both, we play more two-high shell in passing situations. I wouldn't say that we're a two-high shell in running situations, whether we pre-snap that a lot. Most of the time in run, we have a run defense set up. That's not that."
QB DAVIS MILLS
What kind of challenge does the Raiders defensive front pose for you guys, with Raiders DE Maxx Crosby and some of the other guys?
"They have Chandler Jones on the other side too, so we need to know where both of those guys are at. Maxx (Crosby) is a really good player, obviously. I think our tackles are up for the challenge, though. They've been really good in protection all year and will be looking to do the same this Sunday."
How did you spend your bye week?
"I went up to Horseshoe Bay outside of Austin. Played a little golf and tried to get away a little bit. We've still got a long season ahead of us. You try to flush football from your mind a little bit, but then just get back to it.
How much can you really get away during a bye week?
"It was good, but you can never fully get away. You're always thinking about stuff, and there were some big-time college football and NFL games this weekend too that I had to watch. You get away as much as you can, but we're still midseason, still in form."
With the bye week being this early in the season and coming off your first win of the season, how do you keep the momentum going?
"The big thing is that we continue executing and doing our jobs. I haven't been in the league too many years, so the bye week this early on isn't crazy for me. It kind of breaks up the season from training camp to the end of the year right in half, so if you look at it in that way, it's a good little break. But like you said, we've got to carry the momentum from the Jacksonville game. A big thing on offense, we've just got to continue playing and executing situational football. We're trying to be better on third downs and down in the red zone. We got an extra day of practice last week and earlier this week with how we moved the off day during the week, just allows us more time to work on the situational football, so we can go out and execute and play fast.
Do you think TE Jordan Akins has found early success this season because of his familiarity with the offense last season?
"Knowing what we had with him (Jordan Akins) last year, and I threw to him a bunch last year, we knew what he was capable of. We just gave him time to come in and learn what he needed to do to go out, play fast, and be open and he's been doing that."
What do you think is the key to the chemistry you seem to have with TE Jordan Akins in the limited time that he's been here?
"It's every day. Post practice, we're getting extra reps in, depending on what we hit or want to talk more about from the practice that day. He is one of those guys. We do that post practice. Quarterbacks go out early prior to practice, and those guys come over to talk about the script for the day. Any time we can build in extra work to build that chemistry is key. Like, early in the season there's stuff where he is still running similar routes but since we saw looks earlier in the season, we've continued to develop what we want from that concept, what we want from each look, so we're on the same page for all of the different defensive looks they're going to give us."
Why do you think you have that level of trust in TE Jordan Akins on the field?
"We know what he is capable of. Especially if they give us any sort of man-to-man looks. That one against Jacksonville showed us man, and they ended up buzzing out to zone. He was able to feel the space and stay away from that cloud corner to catch it. We feel like in a lot of man situations, I mean really with all of our tight ends, but especially (Jordan) Akins, he is able to separate versus linebackers and safeties with his quick twitch and speed through transition. We are able to find him getting open a lot.
How much does it help having TE Brevin Jordan back practicing and potentially playing?
"It will be great. Brev (Brevin Jordan) is a guy like (Jordan) Akins who can separate and make mismatches out there. We want to continue developing and allow him to come in and make a big impact."
Do you think time and live reps has allowed you and WR Nico Collins to build up chemistry?
"Definitely. I mean, as much time on tasks as we can get together is going to help both of us. Nico (Collins) is going to go out and make plays when he gets the ball thrown at him, so we just have to continue doing that."
Why do you think your connection with WR Brandin Cooks has not been as productive as last year?
"We've just got to continue to keep pushing and doing our own thing. Obviously, Brandin (Cooks) is going to go out there, get open, run crisp routes and catch everything. We've just got to keep findings ways to switch up the looks for the defense and find ways to get him open so I can get him the ball and he can make plays."
It seems like this offense is set up to easily convert third downs. How have you seen that progress?
"Third down in the current state of the NFL right now is you're getting a lot of different blitz packages. You're getting designed coverages where they are disguising and trying to catch you off guard. Some of it, if we can stay in third and manageable, hopefully we're able to run the ball on third down, we're able to mix it up and get easy completions on third down. But then sometimes you have to just make a play. That's what we talk about in the quarterback room. There's only so much coaches can do to gameplan and scheme against what they're going to do on third down to get guys open. When we're out there on the field, we're the guys who make the plays. You just have to do anything you can to convert and that's what we've got to do."
Do you feel like this team is just a few pieces away from clicking and finding its rhythm?
"Definitely. I'm extremely confident in what we are capable of as a team. Any given week we can go out and put up a bunch of points, shut them out on defense, and get a win."
Where do you think you have made the most progress in terms of areas of growth?
"I think a big one is decision making. I feel like I'm protecting the football. I have a couple of picks on the year, but some of those there's not much I could do in the situation. Always keep improving in that regard. I'm continuing to work on pocket presence. There have been sometimes when people are starting to show two man a little more, so being able to use my legs and extend plays and pick up some yards on the ground too. That'll be beneficial to all of us."
WR BRANDIN COOKS
How did you spend your bye week?
"Chilled with the fam (family). Took advantage of being home in the mornings with my son and wife. Went back to Oregon and chilled. Got that mental reset to be able to come and do what we've got to do for myself next quarter."
What kind of challenges do that Raiders secondary present to the passing attack?
"The great thing about I think what they're doing is typically you get a team you can really study on what they're going to do. They do a good job of mixing it up throughout different games and how they play people. Obviously that front seven, those guys on the edge, they're one of the best in the league on both sides, so you have to be aware of those guys and not be oblivious."
Do you think teams have been preparing differently for the QB Davis Mills to WR Brandin Cooks connection?
"I think it's been similar. Like Lovie (Smith) talked about, we're a running team and we've got to buy into that, which I think we've been doing. Being able to get Dameon (Pierce) going at a high level, just working and waiting for those opportunities to come to be able to take advantage of in the pass game."
With not practicing today, are you doing alright?
"Yeah, I'm solid."
Have you ever gone up against a Patrick Graham led defense before?
"No, no I have not. I haven't."
Have you noticed anything on film when it comes to his pass rush that allows you to win matchups in the secondary?
"As a receiver, you still have to be aware of those guys on the edge. You can't just be out there taking your time. Let's be honest, they pass rush at a high level but being able to play within the scheme and timing and rhythm of the game, I think we should be fine."
What do you think of the potential matchup between DB Derek Stingley and WR Davante Adams?
"It's never just one guy against the other. That's what I would tell (Derek) Stingley, just focus on what you're being coached to do, doing your job the best that you can and everybody else doing theirs. We'll see where it goes from there."
With being with the Patriots and being with Jack Easterby, what are your thoughts to seeing him let go?
"My relationship was nothing but great with Jack (Easterby). Just dating back to New England, spent a lot of time together, even here. One of the things I think about is a lot of the positive he had around here. Light gets shed on the negative or whatever the case may be but what he was a part of, building our sub-programs and stuff like that was special. Put a lot of great people in place. A lot of people should be thankful for him. I know I am. I know a lot of people are definitely going to miss him and I appreciate our relationship. Obviously, wish him the best going forward and there's no doubt he'll get on his feet."
How tough was it to hear a lot of the negative given your relationship with Jack Easterby?
"Perception in this league is one thing. You write something and you automatically believe it. At the end of the day, I know what our relationship was and I know how he treated people. Walking around the building, I know how guys felt about him. I don't get into what's being said. I go off of the actions that's being dealt with me or people around me. When I see that, he's treated everyone with the upmost respect, and that's all I've got to say."
Do you still believe in Nick Caserio 100-percent after everything that has happened with Jack Easterby?
"I don't know whose decision that is. Nick (Caserio) we all know, in my opinion, is one of the best GM's in this game. Starting off in his first couple of years, I think he's been able to show that with his draft picks, this year, last year. Fully trust him moving forward whatever that looks like. That's his job as far as putting guys in place, players in place, to be able to help this team win. There's no doubt in my mind he'll do that on however that looks. We've got a full trust and confidence in him. I got a lot of respect for Nick. Dating back to our relationship as well, I've got a lot of love for him regardless of the fact."
How you keep the momentum after a win into the bye and carry it over to the next game?
"I think the biggest thing you tell guys, especially because it's an early bye, obviously get that mental reset but don't get too far away from it. Remember that feeling you had going into the bye week with a win and try to start that way coming out of it. Focusing on one game at a time, getting your bodies back, those nicks and bruises that you may have had. Being able to take that time to recover and get back into this game. Go out and try and have the best performance we've had all season."