HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
When you look at Raiders WR Amari Cooper and WR Michael Crabtree, how good of a tandem is that and how important is it that you have the type of cornerbacks that you do for this matchup?
“No question. Big matchup. Big challenge. Both guys are big. One of the things about their whole core of receivers is they’re about six feet, six feet-one across the board. They can run, got good ball skills. Obviously Amari and Michael are excellent players. Can run all the routes – downfield routes, short routes, intermediate routes. Good hands. So, big challenge. We’re going to have to mix it up on them and basically take the mentality that, look, we’re going to play aggressively and that’s how we play.”
Can you talk about the memo that went to the players yesterday about Mexico City?
“We’re taking our team to a unique, unfamiliar environment to play an NFL game where basically peak performance is a necessity, so it’s responsible for our organization to offer simple suggestions just like
I’m sure the Houston Chronicle or the Associated Press - whenever you guys probably travel abroad, out of the country - I’m sure they give you simple suggestions too as to how to travel and things like that. That’s what we’re doing and that’s about all I’m going to say about that memo or whatever it is.”
You said that you were handling the game in Mexico like a regular season game. Are players allowed to have fun on the road during a regular road game and will that be different in Mexico City?
“We’re getting ready to play an NFL game. I mean, I don’t understand that question. Yeah, they can go to an amusement park and just show up at one o’clock for kickoff. I’m not sure what you’re asking. We have a lot of fun here. We just came off the practice field with music blasting, lot of fun going on, lot of chop busting going on, things like that. I don’t really know what you’re asking, but I guess that’s a better question for the players. Fun is winning, that’s what’s fun.”
You’re ranked 5th in rushing and the Raiders are ranked 4th in rushing. Is it more important to run the ball and control it or commit less turnovers?
“Most important stat is the turnover-takeaway stat. No doubt about it. We’ve got a hundred percent ball security and do the best we can to try to take the ball away.”
Are you concerned about the field conditions in Mexico City?
“I don’t know anything about the field. Again we’re just going down there. We’re going to have some fun and play a game.”
How good would it be to get ILB Brian Peters back?
“Big part of our special teams unit. It’s important to have him back and looks like he should be ready to go.”
Was there anything surprising about RB Akeem Hunt’s performance in the pass game and do you feel that he has earned more snaps going forward?
“Nothing surprising about what he did against Jacksonville. I thought he had earned the right to be up on the 53 roster and then the gameday roster and he went out there and played very well. Played very well and didn’t surprise us at all. As far as how many more snaps he’ll get and things like that, I think that’s all dictated by how we approach this game, how we’re going to try to attack the Raiders. He’ll be in the game plan.”
What do you think about what T Duane Brown has done since he has come back?
“He’s done a good job. He’s done an excellent job. I don’t know where to even begin. I mean he’s run blocking very well. His pass protection is really, really good. He’s graded out very high every week. Got the game ball, one of the game balls, for the game against Jacksonville. Excellent leader for us. He’s doing a good job. It’s good to - obviously been good to have him back in there.”
The Raiders running game is a huge part of their success. How important is it to earn the right to defend the pass when you face them?
“I think the number one thing that you have to do when you play these guys is you better - I think it is really true about November and December football, you have to be able to stop the run. They have a big offense line. Like I said yesterday, 300-plus across the board and then (Latavius) Murray is a very big back. Then they have the two sub-backs that are excellent players too in (Jalen) Richard and (DeAndre) Washington, so I think we have to stop the run and then, look, we’ve got to play the pass aggressively. We’ve got to mix things up. We’re still working on the game plan. We’re not one hundred percent sure on certain situations how we’re going to approach it. I think we’ve had two good days of practice. Some of it’s set but it’s a game plan that will be being put together all the way up to game and that’s how we look at it.”
What kind of boost will it be if CB A.J. Bouye and NT Vince Wilfork are able to play on Monday night?
“Be a good boost. You want all your best players up there. Vince – be good to have him back in there. Especially with, like I was just saying about how they run the football. A.J., you know, he’s having a really good year for us, so it’d be good to have him in there. Those guys have been out at practice and look pretty good, so looks like they’ll be ready to go.”
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ROMEO CRENNEL
What do you think about Raiders WR Michael Crabtree and WR Amari Cooper and what’s the difference between them skillset-wise?
“Well, they’re big first of all. They’re big receivers. They have great receiving hands, they go get the ball and they are kind of unique sometimes in the way they run their routes. Some of it is not the standard release from the line. They’ll give you a lot of different things that you have to study and be on top of or they will run by you. So we’ve been kind of looking at that and trying to figure that out. The quarterback has done a good job of getting them the ball too, whether it’s the deep ball or whether it’s a crossing route, they run comebacks, they run curls, they run it all and they do a good job of running it. So it’s going to be a big challenge.”
What do you think about the job ILB Benardrick McKinney has done since he’s been here and what he’s developed into?
“He’s done a very good job since he’s been here. He started last year growing and developing towards the last part of the season. He understood the defense. He understood how he has to play the game and puts himself in good position. He gets around the ball quite a bit. The last couple of games, when you start looking at tackles, he’s involved in quite a few of them. That’s very helpful to us. Then also he has some coverage skill and that helps as well.”
With his size, does it make ILB Benardrick McKinney’s ability to cover even more valuable?
“Sure. We like big guys that can move and have some speed and some length, so he kind of falls into that category.”
How much does it help to have CB A.J. Bouye back healthy with the other talented cornerbacks on the roster?
“Sure, particularly when you’re going up against a receiving group like the one we’re going up against. Having guys who can go out and play and matchup and maybe be able to sub a guy so that he doesn’t have to play the whole game. Maybe we can rest a guy for a minute and help him that way.”
How is DE Jadeveon Clowney still able to be disruptive despite not having a lot of sacks?
“Well, he has a lot of quickness. He’s got some power. He can knock lineman back. He can avoid them and get into the backfield. And when he gets into the backfield, a lot of times it’s on running plays. So now, the running play is designed to go a certain place but now the ball carrier has to put on the brakes and has to run the hump or cutback because the run is not able to go where they want it to go. So he’s been disruptive quite a bit that way. Now, as far as the sacks go, the unit doesn’t have a lot of sacks but I think as we look at the game, we’ve impacted the quarterbacks that we’ve played a little bit because a lot of times they are going with a seven man protection, a lot of times they are getting rid of the ball quick, a lot of times the guy is not able to throw where he wants to throw. Sacks are great. We want sacks because that momentum that a sack brings you is tremendous, but impacting the quarterback is also good if you’re not able to get sacks.”
Were you confident moving DE Jadeveon Clowney around the defense because you trust him more now that he isn’t rehabbing from any serious injuries?
“Yes. This is the first time he had an offseason. He had a full offseason that he really wasn’t rehabbing. He wasn’t in the training room so he had time with us, he was in the meeting room, he was able to go through the coaching sessions, able to go through the OTAs, able to go through training camp, so I think all of that helped him be a disruptive player. We knew he had the ability. That’s why we took him where we took him. If he had been healthy for the two years that he wasn’t, I think that we would have probably seen a different guy and be talking about him in a different light. But now that he’s healthy, he’s making an impact on the game and on this defense.”
What advice do you give the players about the altitude in Mexico City?
“I think that when you go to the altitude, you have to hydrate first of all and we’ve talked to the guys about hydrating and starting to hydrate this past weekend, rather than waiting until you get on the plane to start hydrating. You have to hydrate all week. So that’s one of the biggest things that we can do. Then the other thing is not talk about it. Don’t let it become a factor to them. Everybody’s got to play in the same conditions, so let’s go play.”
Did you talk to DE Jadeveon Clowney about moving him to defensive end before or did you just tell him you were moving him?
“You kind of introduce the possibility. You introduce the possibility and then ‘Hey, what do you think about that?’ And he’s a football player. He just wants to be on the field and he wants to help the team win, so there was no disagreement or anything like that. Just ‘Yes, let me play. Let me help this team.’”
Why did you tell DE Jadeveon Clowney you thought the move would be best for him?
“I didn’t say it would be best for you. I said it would be best for the team at this time and that in itself is enough because we are a team-oriented group and whatever he can do for the team to help this team, that’s what we want him to do.”
You faced Raiders QB Derek Carr early in his career. Is there one area where he’s really improved?
“He’s a more complete player then when we played him early because he was just a young guy the last time we played him. Now, he shows signs of reading defenses, changing plays at the line of scrimmage, he can make all the throws, he can control the pocket and his movement in the pocket so that he can make a throw. He’s a different cat and better. He’s a better guy then we faced a couple years ago.”
Despite not having a lot of sacks or turnovers, the team is still ranked fourth in the NFL in total defense. What’s the key to playing great team defense?
“We had been getting off the field on third down until last week. I think that helps because now when you’re able to get off the field, one, defensively you’re not on the field and then your offense is out there. So that’s been one of the things. Then we’ve been able to hold the points down and not give up as many touchdowns. So I think when you can do those things, that helps. We’ve been inconsistent in the running game and I’m a believer that you have to be able to play good run defense to help yourself get off the field and try to be in that top-5 range. We just have to do a better job on third down then we’ve been doing of late. Then try to get back to that and I think that will help us.”
You’ve been better against the run the last two games. What’s been the difference?
“We put a little bit more emphasis on it. I think they understand that we need to play better against the run. Like we talked about last week or the week before, we talked about the run fits, the guys taking care of their gap and not trying to do too much. Linebackers fitting where they’re supposed to fit. When everybody wins their gap, then there’s no place for the guy to run. Then the other thing that usually when we give up yards in the running game, we don’t tackle well. So we’ve concentrated on tackling and talking to them about tackling and knowing where your help is, taking proper angles to the ball, wrapping up instead of trying to ‘block tackle’ and I think some of those things have helped.”
What do you think about the different types of running backs that Oakland has?
“I think it’s pretty good. They’ve got a downhill guy that’s really fast. Then they’ve got a little bit smaller, compact third down guys that are really quick. I think that combination gives you some problems and things that you have to defend. Then when you add to that the size of their offensive line, they’re offensive line is huge, so stopping the run is going to be a major task for us. If a team can run the ball, then that opens up their play-action game then they don’t have to throw it as much. So it just goes back to stopping the run, so if we can stop the run, our chances of winning are improved.”
RB ALFRED BLUE
Your yards per carry have jumped pretty dramatically this season. What is different?
“More focus on the detail of the play and knowing what the O-line is going to do and knowing what the defense is going to do watching film and stuff and anticipating what the D-line is going to do in certain formations.”
How gratifying is it for you to have the success that you’ve had in the run game late in games?
“It’s good. It shows that we can run the ball late in the game to close out a game and this late in the season when it gets dark and cold, you’ve got to be able to do that – run the football. As long as we keep on progressing at that and getting better each week, we’ll be good.”
What has T Duane Brown’s return meant to the line and what you guys have been able to do in regards to running the ball?
“It means a lot. He’s the leader of that O-line, that room. Once he came back, I know he started leading. He’d go out there and lead by example, pushing other guys, the younger guys around him just to keep moving forward and pushing. It’s a long season. You got to just keep on moving forward.”
What is the big challenge that the Raiders defense presents?
“They’re very good on defense. Their front, the front four are good. The linebackers are fast and I will say they have a solid defense overall. I would say it’s a penalty free, mistake free type of game. Whoever has the least amount of turnovers will win.”
How do you feel about the back field right now with yourself, RB Lamar Miller and RB Akeem Hunt?
“I feel like we have a very diverse backfield. I feel like everybody brings something to the table. In the last game, the Jaguars game, we rotated a lot of guys in there and were able to run the ball a lot more effectively.”
How do you feel about your chances of playing on Monday night?
“I’m optimistic about it.”
Do you know any Spanish?
“Last time I took Spanish was in high school. I’m a little behind on it.”
Having RB Lamar Miller on the team creates a change of pace for you. Do you like your role?
“Yeah. It’s what I’m accustomed to. It’s what I came from. It’s my background. I came from LSU. Downhill back, one cut, slash and dash and get up field and make the defense play.”
Do you have any concerns going into Mexico City?
“I don’t have any concerns. I’m just going down there to win.”
DE JADEVEON CLOWNEY
Did you get to watch Raiders DE Khalil Mack much last year?
What do you think of Raiders DE Khalil Mack as a player?
“Good player. He plays hard. He gets after it a lot. He’s a really good player.”
How do you feel about the progress you’ve made this season?
“I feel great. I just want to keep getting better. There’s a lot of season left to be played and I’m looking forward to it.”
What do you think about the way ILB Benardrick McKinney has played this year?
“I think Benardrick is playing great. He’s been playing good since he got here. He’s just getting better and improving each year.”
Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel was telling us about how disruptive you are. Is that a mindset you take onto the field?
“Yeah, I just play the game hard. Growing up, I played the same way. Try to be disruptive and keep playing the same way. They line me up to be disruptive and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
Does your mindset change when they move you around the defense?
“No, it doesn’t change. Wherever I’m at, I’m just trying to make plays and be disruptive.”
Do you think defensive end is your long-term position?
“I have no clue. Whatever they want me to play. I’m just having fun and trying to win games.”
What allowed you to embrace playing defensive end?
“My teammates. They laugh about it and I laugh with them, but they stay on me and say they need me to do it. I fuss sometimes about it, but I go out there, do it and have a good time with it.”
What do your teammates laugh about in regards to you playing defensive end?
“That I’m underweight playing down there, but it’s coming along well. I’m making a lot of plays and we’re winning football games. That’s all that matters.”
How important is it to disrupt the Raiders offense with the way QB Derek Carr is playing?
“It’s going to come in hand. I think if we get after him, hopefully we can get some bad passes and the DB’s can make some interceptions to put our offense in good position to score touchdowns.”
What stands out about Raiders QB Derek Carr?
“He can make any throw on the field, in the pocket or outside the pocket. He can make any pass on the field. That’s what makes him a good quarterback.”
Are you the same weight as you were during training camp?
“About the same. A little less or a little more, who knows? About the same.”
ILB BRIAN CUSHING
What do you remember about Raiders QB Derek Carr from when you saw him as a rookie?
“I remember he took off one time on us about 60 yards. Obviously it was only the second game of his career. He’s grown tremendously since then as a player and he’s matured big time. So, he can obviously do it all now. Very diverse quarterback. Can throw and run, so we’re going to expect it all.”
Does any part of his growth stand out?
“Not really. I think we expected him to be a good quarterback and he’s grown into that for sure.”
How about the spectacle of playing in Mexico City?
“Yeah, it’ll be unique. It’s something we’re looking forward to. It’s obviously very different. I think the second regular season game in I don’t even know how many years have been played down there. So, it’s something we’re looking forward to for sure.”
Any concerns going there?
“No, no. We’re just going down there and we’re worried about winning a football game, so we’ll do whatever it takes.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien was talking about the uniqueness of their running game. How unique is it and how important is it to stop the run this time of year?
“Yeah. You know, I think, for the most part, they bring a bunch of guys in and they kind of tell you they’re running the football and they just challenge you to stop it. They’ve done a good job all year. They’re a very balanced football team and they throw it and run real well.”
Your run defense the last two games has been much improved. What have you guys been doing differently?
“Yeah. I mean, it’s just one of those things. I think we’ve really emphasized it and really attacked the run and gotten off blocks and done a good job, so we have to continue to do that, obviously this week and for the rest of the year.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH RAIDERS HEAD COACH JACK DEL RIO
Can you tell us what makes Raiders DE Khalil Mack so special?
“Khalil is, I mean, he’s just a great athlete that’s a great young man, he works extremely hard every day. He’s been a super teammate. Just a treat to coach. He comes in every day ready to work and ready to be a great teammate, so I really appreciate him.”
What have you seen from Texans P Shane Lechler and how rare is it to see a guy punt this well for so long?
“Yeah, that’s what he’s been able to do. It’s been a tremendous career. He’s been able to punt the ball a long way for a long time. He’s still doing it at a high level, and obviously it’s a credit to him and his work ethic, I’m sure.”
How tough is it to prepare for a game in Mexico City? Is it any different than any other road game you would go on?
“I think for us, we look at it very similar to our trip to Denver, where we’re going to play in the altitude. We understand it’s quite a bit higher, but it’s still altitude. We travel over time zones throughout our season, so that’s something that we work hard at, being able to acclimate and being able to adjust and being able to put out a good effort when we get to game time, and that’s what we’re after.”
Can you talk about Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney?
“Tremendous athlete, very gifted and really good football player.”
What have you seen from Raiders OL Kelechi Osemele in terms of adding some nastiness and athleticism?
“Yeah, ‘K.O.’ has been a great addition for us. I think he’s brought in, like you said, the nastiness, the aggressiveness. He’s worked hard at becoming a member of that offensive line. It’s a tight group. They work hard, they challenge each other. I think he’s fit in real well. He’s been a great addition for us.”
What is it specifically that impresses you about Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney?
“I would say his burst and athleticism. Obviously he has great size. So, you know, good football player. Somebody that we’ll need to know where he is.”
How much has having two guys like Raiders WR Amari Cooper and WR Michael Crabtree helped you guys build this explosive offense?
“Well, it’s a good group, and I think they all have things that they do well. I think one of the things that we get from our wide receiver group is they block well, they care about their teammates. (Crabtree’s) come in here and been a real pro for us and kind of led the way with the entire group. Obviously, Amari Cooper was taken high last year and he’s come in and been very professional in everything he’s done and he’s off to a good start in his career. And then there’s some great stories on some of the backup guys – Seth Roberts, who kind of earned his way last year, got an opportunity to compete in camp and became our third wide receiver and has done a good job for us in that role and on special teams, and Andre Holmes as well is the fourth guy in, in most cases but he’s a guy that gives us great effort and is good as a receiver and on special teams. It’s a good group.”
What have you seen from Texans QB Brock Osweiler? He’s not throwing for 300 or 400 yards per game but the Texans are still winning.
“Yeah, I think, to me, it’s about winning and losing in this league. He’s 6-3 this year as a starting quarterback for them. We’re 7-2 with our starting quarterback and we get a chance to go at each other on Monday night.”
What’s the biggest growth from QB Derek Carr this year?
“Derek has done a great job in a lot of different areas. I think the biggest thing is he’s a natural leader. His having the reps in our system and with the same corps of receivers returning I think has been very good for him. Then, obviously, any quarterback benefits from having good line play in front of him and a running game to help compliment the passing game. Those are things we’ve worked hard at, but Derek’s done a nice job.”
When you look at the Texans secondary, do you normally see a team that has that many corners that are starting caliber and can step in and play against really good wide receivers?
“Yeah, no, that’s a good group. Romeo (Crennel) does a great job of – known Romeo for a long time in this league and have a lot of respect for him and what he does with his defense. Yeah, we’re getting ourselves ready. It’s a good group and it should be a great challenge.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH RAIDERS QB DEREK CARR
What are your thoughts on the matchup with the Texans?
“I know that they have a really good defense. I know that they have done a great job this year, being ranked, I think in the top five in total defense. We know that we have our hands full. It’s going to be a great competition and great test for us.”
Are there any worries about playing in Mexico City, especially with the elevation?
“Oh, no. We’re so excited, to be honest – our whole organization. To go down to Mexico in front of the fans down there, it’s going to be so exciting for us. It’s going to be a loud, rowdy environment. We’ve been hearing – some of our teammates have gone down there for appreciation days and things like that, and they say there’s a lot of Raiders fans down there, so it’s going to be exciting.”
They don’t come back and tell you they were out of breath?
“No, no. They never said any of that.”
What are your thoughts on Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney?
“He’s got freakish talent. I know he’s a very good competitor, he loves football. You see his athletic ability jump out at you on tape.”
Do you see some similarities between him and Raiders DE Khalil Mack?
“You know, I think that they’re kind of different. I know (Jadeveon) Clowney has been hurt a little bit and he hasn’t gotten to play as many games as Khalil. I have the utmost respect for Clowney and I think that he’s going to be a really special player in this league.”
What are the Texans in for when they face Raiders DE Khalil Mack?
“Yeah, he’s definitely going to hit your quarterback. That’s the mindset that he has. That’s how he does it. He’s definitely going to be back there causing havoc. That’s like any of those good pass rushers – like (Jadeveon) Clowney, he’s one of them, he’s another good one. Justin Houston is another guy, Tamba Hali, Von Miller. You know those guys are going to be back there hitting your quarterback. It’s just a matter of time. They just have that kind of talent.”
What has led to the Raiders’ offensive resurgence this year?
“I really think it’s the combination of a lot of things. I could go on and on, but it’s definitely a lot to do with hard work. We put our heads down and we just decided that we want to better. So far it’s been working out for us. We have a long way to go. We’re barely scratching the surface of what we’re going to be able to do for years to come, but so far it’s been good growth for us.”
What’s the state of your running game right now? It seems like you have a three-headed monster this year.
“Yeah, yeah. We definitely have a lot of guys that carry the ball for us and do it efficiently. We have some littler guys that are quick but also run with power, we have a fullback that we can put back there and he can carry the ball too, and then obviously we have our Pro Bowl running back in Latavius (Murray). There’s a whole bunch of guys that carry the ball for us. With our big offensive line, something we like to do is run the ball, just like anybody. Everyone wants to assert themselves in the run game. I’m looking forward to seeing our guys play.”
What have you seen from the Texans’ secondary? It seems like they’re so deep that some of their reserves have starting-caliber skills.
“Oh yeah, definitely see guys that have played a lot of football, guys that have seen a lot of route combinations and things like that. You can definitely tell that they’re very skilled, not only at the secondary position but all over their defense.”
Going back to draft night, did you think there was any chance you would become a Houston Texan?
“I didn’t think so. They didn’t even talk to me one time. So, I really didn’t think so. I would have loved to play for Mr. (Robert C.) McNair, and I say that just with respect. I’m just trying to give a compliment to Mr. McNair. I love him. The city was great to myself and my family. We have nothing but respect for respect for that city and I have nothing but respect for Mr. McNair.”
So you didn’t think you could have been a Houston Texan in a parallel universe?
“No, definitely not. They didn’t say one word to me or talk to me so I didn’t think I was going to go there at all.”
Being a Northern California guy, it must have been a happy time for you to go to the Oakland Raiders.
“Yes, it definitely was. It’s where I wanted to go all along. When I got the phone call and saw that 510 area code, my face lit up because it was exactly where I wanted to be.”
What are your fondest memories from your time in Houston? You started out at Clements High School and then you finished out in Northern California.
“That’s right. I started off at First Colony Middle School and then I went on to play at Clements, at Fort Bend Clements, and we had a great run there, winning the district and all those things and going 10-0, having a 10-0 season my junior year. Just a lot of great memories, man. I love Houston. I still have some of my closest friends that not only live there but are from there, my time there, and we all keep in contact. So, I have nothing but love for the city of Houston. I had a great time there, and like I said before, Mr. (Robert C.) McNair is first class, so I wish him all the best, except this week.”