What happens during the bye week? The general manager chats with beat writers.

That’s exactly what Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie did on Thursday.

Two questions stood out to me: About the coordinators and a seldom-seen second-round draft pick.

When asked to give his evaluation of the coordinators, McKenzie expertly answered, yet dodged, no, deflected.

“I’m not going to sit here and evaluate coordinators with you guys,” the Oakland Raiders decision-maker said. “But it’s obvious we need to get better offensively and score some points and move the football and help the defense out. And vice versa, the defense has to get the ball back for our offense. We have to continue to work together in every facet of our game, starting versus New England.”

Then came the topic of Jihad Ward. The second-rounder has been a healthy scratch leaving many questioning exactly why McKenzie picked him.

“Last year we moved him to a different position,” McKenzie said. “He kind of played a number of different positions. I don’t think he was quite mentally ready to understand the techniques of them all. There were three different positions he was playing. That’s a little different for a guy who hasn’t really played D-line for a while. He’s still in the learning process. If there’s an opportunity for him to get in there and play he’ll be ready.”

There’s plenty of fixing that needs to be done. And with New England claiming tight end Martellus Bennett off of waivers (cut by Green Bay), the Patriots add another element to an explosive offense. Yikes.

Stay Grounded

Much will be made of air superiority as the winning formula against New England, yet the ground-and-pound may be the true difference maker. It’s imperative Oakland be balanced on offense — much like they were against Miami — against the Patriots.

“Even when things didn’t start with the most efficient or best numbers in the first half, we were able to kind of get our momentum going and hit some of those same concept runs,” offensive coordinator Todd Downing said. “I was pleased to see that growth throughout the game. Some adjustments made on the sideline by [offensive line] coach [Mike] Tice and his staff and his crew. They really did a nice job of putting it to them in second half from a standpoint of staying ahead of the chains, the run game was good to see.”

Wrap It Up

Bringing down Rob Gronkowski and Bennett is going to be difficult, but the Raiders shouldn’t make exacerbate the problem. If Oakland is going to have any defensive success against New England, the Raiders must tackle well.

Wrap up, secure the tackle and bring the Patriots down.

“I asked the guys, what’s the one thing you know you’re going to get from our defense. They said, ‘Tackling, coach.’ And then they go out and miss the tackles,” said defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. “So I think maybe the guys are trying really hard. It was a little wet and a little slippery early with the rain. But tackling at the end of the day is about ‘want to.’ It’s about getting the guy down.”

Johnny On The Spot

Oakland’s offense is going to need to provide a sharp bite of its own against New England. Special teamer and speedster Johnny Holton has shown he can be a lethal deep threat and if the Raiders need to throw everything including the kitchen sink, the second-year wide out should be in the game plan.

“He’s a good blocker. He can come in and catch deep balls,” quarterback Derek Carr said of Holton. “Today with some of the veteran guys getting a little bit of rest, he gets in there. I’m throwing him routes that I’m throwing to any of my receivers. I say that to say that from day one to what happened today, it would’ve been hard for me to believe, but he worked his tail off.”

No Sweat

What impressed Norton about rookie safety Obi Melifonwu?

“He’s cool, he’s collected. You can talk to him, he listens. It’s not too big for him,” the DC said. “So I think that as the games go, he’ll get more time and he’ll get more exposed to better players. And i think next time we play, we have pretty good matchups for him so we’ll see how he plays in the big matchups”

Norton proved to be a great prognosticator, as his quote came a day before the Pats re-upped Bennett.

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