OC PEP HAMILTON
What have you made of OL Tytus Howard's season so far and how do you assess his progress?
"Tytus (Howard) stepped into the role of being the right tackle and he's done well. I think it starts with how he practices each day and how he prepares in the meetings. We feel like the strength of the offensive unit is the offensive line and Tytus plays a big part in it."
What have you seen from TE Jordan Akins since he arrived here?
"That process of understanding what he offers started last year for me when he was part of last year's football team. It's been good to see in certain situations when's he asked to win a one-on-one matchup, he's been able to do just that."
What stood out in particular with TE Jordan Akins when you started that evaluation process?
"Just a guy that can play without the ball first and foremost, but at the same time, he poses a threat in the vertical passing game at tight end as a guy that's coming out of a three point stance."
How does being able to use both TE Jordan Akins and TE Brevin Jordan in similar situations across the offense help with game planning?
"The hope is that we can continue to mix personnel groupings, and however we do it, we want to make everything look the same. Running the football, throwing the football, the play action pass, the double-triple reverse around the back pass. All the same. We want it all to really be presented to the defense the same way, and then ultimately be able to execute all of the above at a high level."
What challenges does a defense set up in man coverage present to an offense?
"It's the challenge of winning all of your matchups. Because the matchups start with the pass protection, and they have two really good edge rushers, as well as an abundance of guys that can rush the passer. But nevertheless, we feel like we'll continue to find the right matchup, move our guys to create space, and ultimately, Davis (Mills) will make the appropriate throws so we can convert more third downs."
What is your philosophy on using a higher tempo offense? Is that something you are considering moving forward?
"We like to do all of the above. We like to mix tempos. We like to mix personnel groupings. We like to ultimately do whatever we feel will give us a chance to mitigate some of the looks we'll see from the defense. So yes, we want to mix all of the above."
Do you want your offense to take on the identify of turnover free football and manufacturing some wins like you did in Jacksonville?
"Yes. You just said it. You said it all."
How do you approach utilizing RB Dare Ogunbowale when he can play a role on both special teams and on offense?
"We feel like at that position specifically, we have three guys that we dress on gameday that can do whatever is we ask them to do, and it starts with playing without the ball. Then at the same time, we feel like all three of those guys can create their own yards. We have a role for each of them, but it starts with the lead guy having a majority of the touches. We do feel good about the rest of the guys in that group."
How do you feel about the way RB Dameon Pierce handles success and the way he comes to work every day?
"We feel like it's important that you learn how to manage success. Ultimately, managing success is sometimes tougher than reacting to adversity. Just having a reset button and being able to come in each day with the mindset of just improving."
How would you describe what RB Dare Ogunbowale is able to give you offensively?
"Once again, if we're dressing three on gameday, we feel like each one of those three can go out and execute the game plan and facilitate playing without the ball. We feel like he can do all of the above. That's the reason we nominate him each week as a guy that we want to dress on offense."
How do you work with QB Davis Mills to prepare him for those third down moments in games?
"You prepare based on what you see on tape. You come up with schemes and different ways that you feel like you can create the matchups or create the space to give us a chance to get guys open. But ultimately, that situation specially is one that as a quarterback you learn how to react and respond in the pocket to different interruptions. The preparation for how the pocket is going to evolve is an ongoing process. It's an ongoing process of trying to simulate maybe a pass rush or trying to keep them on the clock. Whatever it is, it's something that forces you now to get your eyes and feet in sync and get the ball out on time, and more importantly, make accurate throws."
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR FRANK ROSS
What's it like to have a John Carroll University reunion with guys like with Raiders HC Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler?
"Just trying to win a football game. I'm sure there's a player that played at Ohio State that plays against another player from Ohio State. Trying to win a football game. Glad to see whoever from our alum doing well in our industry."
What do you think has been the biggest difference for K Ka'imi Fairbairn this season?
"Good question. I think I've said it time and time again, he's not going out there, doing anything different even if he has missed a kick. I think capitalizing, just being intentional from his daily and Wednesday to Thursday to Friday routine. He's been very serious and focused about that. Hopefully it continues to pay off for him, continuing to take advantage of opportunities. We're counting on points every time we send that unit on the field, doesn't matter what type of kick or situation it is."
But it's the same approach as last year too?
"Yeah and maybe success is from a field goal kicker, makes or misses, I understand that. He's a process-oriented guy. I just think regardless of whatever kick it is or whatever season it is, he's not going to be too high or low. Everyone knows Ka'imi (Fairbairn) is a pretty mellow guy. Happy with where he's at and want him to continue to succeed for our team."
What did you think of the special team unit's performance versus Jacksonville?
"It feels like forever ago, so it's kind of out of sight out of mind. Overall, there are things we need to improve. There have been good impact plays. There have been takeaways or downed punts with inside the five. That's great, but you're never going to hear me come up here and say how satisfied we are. There's things to improve. We've had too many missed tackles. We're having these great tackles, great impact plays. The next play is 14-yard return versus Jamal Agnew. We were down there in coverage and missed a tackle, so to be 100 percent execution on every single thing we ever do is the goal. Until we get that, I'm never going to say there's nothing we can improve on. Got to find more ways to generate more yards in the returns. We haven't had enough opportunities. Whenever we get those chances, they've got to be capitalize on. If it goes from seven, we've got to get that thing to 10 and get a full first down for offense. On the kick return game, we've only had three on the season, so whenever those opportunities arrive for themselves we hope to capitalize. We're going to be playing against a different composite team from their entire core. They're playing with Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell are in the punt rush for them. Matthias Farley, veteran, savvy, plays all their game plan roles, their personal protector. We're playing against size linebackers, a former D-end from Buffalo in (Malcom) Koonce. The guy's playing, running down on kickoffs, playing on kick return, whatever unit they're asking him to do. A different made-up roster that we're playing against this week in Vegas. We're going to have our hands full. If you look at who their returners are, Keenan Cole has done a great job in the league so far. The guy has explosive speed. The guy that's really the starter for the first part of the season, if he's back there, we have our hands full. My buddy Danny Amendola is like the biggest comparison to Hunter Renfrow. That guy is dangerous. He has elite feel, instincts, things you can't teach on how to wiggle and find space, vertical yards. Our tackling will be at a premium to preserve field position in coverage this week."
How do you define RB Dare Ogunbowale's essentiality to the special teams unit?
"What a pleasant addition he's been. He's really a midskill. He's a safety body, so those guys that are over 200 pounds, right in that midskill body that can also run and play both versus a linebacker or undersized linebacker and then of course any skill player. Those guys are M.J. Stewart, Eric Murray, Jonathan Owens, Rex Burkhead, Dare Ogunbowale. Those guys are all hard to find really good ones. He's doing a good job so far in playing in those exact roles that our safeties and defensive players, yet an offensive players is doing and making tackles. Happy with where he's at and need to continue to get him ways to get him to the point of attack and make those tackles for us. The one thing you asked, the essentiality to our system. He's very smart. Love that veteran presence and the willingness to come in here and learn form a new coach. He's very intelligent and has added to our room a ton."
How do you evaluate offensive players that have a safety body type?
"That's the fun part. That's the puzzle pieces fitting together when you're building a roster from the offseason all the way up to final cuts. Finding out who can make the tackles in space, who can hold and command leverage, who can block. Some safeties are great tacklers, but they don't know how to block. Now you have running back who's really efficient in pass protection and experienced going up against different types of matchups. I think he's done a great job of finding that hybrid player role and also now learning, 'I'm a coverage player, I've got to be able to tackle. I can't just protect and be a problem in coverage, leaving my teammates out to dry because I can't finish as a tackler. He's done that so far and need him to continue to keep doing that."
In the off season, how do you go about getting offensive players like RB Dare Ogunbowale to tackle and be a part of special teams?
"I would think not necessarily this case because part of the free-agent process with Dare (Ogunbowale) was he was a proven special teams player that has already shown he can do that. Then you just want to improve any skill set that he's bringing to the table. It's a great question. The first thing you're going to do in minicamp is you're going to run new running backs in, rookie defensive ends that don't play in space, wide receivers that are going to play gunner for the fist time in their lives. Let's go play space tackling and let's find out who can breakdown cover, continue to gain ground and see how to enter in on appropriate angles. That's more earlier in the career then you're just refining whatever skill set you're working with that if it is a veteran like Dare."
SAFETIES COACH JOE DANNA
What do you think about DB Jalen Pitre's progression and how he's performed so far?
"So far so good. But like all of us, there's positives we have to build on and there's plenty of things we've got to work on every week as an entire team. We're not exactly where we want to be and everybody has got to do a little bit better to get the results that we want."
What things specifically has DB Jalen Pitre worked on over the past couple of weeks?
"It's never just one thing in particular. It's got to be the total package, whether you're playing the run game, in the pass game and all the fundamentals that go into it. You can't let anything go. As soon as you let one thing go, the next thing is going to creep up. Just polishing up on all the details in every part of our game."
Can you talk about the presence of Raiders WR Davante Adams?
"He presents a lot of problems. They've got plenty of good players, not just him. That's why they're such a good offense. In every defense you play, there are strengths and weaknesses. Everybody's got a job to do in each defense. As we go into Sunday from the safety position, we've just got to try and execute our job the best that we can."
How about Raiders QB Derek Carr?
"Again, it's another veteran quarterback. We've played a few of them. Nine-year veteran. He's seen it all. You can tell he's a smart guy. You're not going to fool him. He's going to force you to play a disciplined brand of football."
How has the dynamic in the safety room grown as the year has gone on?
"We spend a lot of time together. I think the more you spend time, whether it's player and player, coach and player, that relationship is built over time. Once you get into a few games, you kind of been through some of those battles together. That builds trust and it's just something we're trying to work on every week."
How do you learn and communicate what works best?
"It's just human interaction. It doesn't matter who you're with whether it's football or the game of life. Everybody is different and you've got to learn what makes people tick. Maybe one way of communicating with somebody is different than the other. So just trying to get to know the players and the players getting to know me. That develops over time."
What makes DB Jalen Pitre and DB Jonathan Owens tick?
"Some of that I've got to keep to myself. They don't even need to know that quite yet, you know. I've got to kind of keep that edge on them. They're competitive guys. They don't need a lot of poking and prodding and push real hard. Fortunately, they're good pros that are highly motivated on a daily basis themselves."
HC Lovie Smith referred to DB Jonathan Owens as still a young player with it being his first year as a starter, how does he carry himself in that room?
"He's young from the sense that he hasn't played a lot. He's a hungry player. He wants success in the worst way. He's a sponge, he studies, and our whole group does. We've got a great room. He's just a guy, you can't give him enough information. He wants to study and he wants to be a great player."
On player motivation at the safety position
"Not necessarily, I don't think it's position specific. Like I said, we've got a good group that comes to work every day, willing to be coached. They're very self-motivated."
How do you teach safeties to effectively execute hide or show two-shell?
"It takes patience and practice. Coach (Lovie Smith) has got a good system for how we that so it's following the parameters that he set forth. It's like anything in football, no matter what you do it's going to take some discipline and patience and dedication to your job."