NAPA — If first training camp impressions mean anything, new Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson appears to favor the run.
First he ended Thursday's morning practice by joining players in a series of four 100-yard jogs. Then, approached by reporters after practice ended, he broke into a nifty backpedal.
"I can't," he said when asked if he had time to answer a couple questions.
Raiders assistants, you see, have long been forbidden from consenting to interviews. Beginning this regular season, the NFL will require teams to make coordinators available once a week. So mark the week of Sept. 6 down for the first big matchup of the season: Raiders obstinacy vs. NFL mandate.
Meanwhile, this is not the regular season. And as we all know, the Raiders are still the Raiders.
Too bad. Jackson, by all accounts, is a departure from the norm. This makes him a perfect fit for the Raiders, who have seven years of soul-sucking norm from which they would like to distance themselves.
"He's a lot of fun," defensive end Jay Richardson said. "He keeps it live and exciting. He likes to challenge us on defense. Sometimes he'll tell us the plays — 'Now see if you can stop it anyway.' He's the first (coach) I've been around with that kind of personality. I think it's a great change."
"He doesn't keep anything inside," tight end Zach Miller said. "He goes ahead and says what he's thinking. He's not as full-throttle yet because we're doing so much install right now and getting the whole offense in. But Hue gets loud and he talks a lot of stuff so (eventually) you'll be hearing him a lot."
Competition, fun and offense installation are themes. It would nice to hear the specifics of Jackson's plan for applying defibrillator paddles to an Oakland offense that finished 31st in the NFL in both yards and scoring last season. But short of breaking bread with the man himself, we're a little short on those.
"What he preaches to us in the meeting rooms, he says we're going to run the ball to open up the passing game," running back Michael Bush said. "Once we get that going we'll build up a good offense."
So that's something. So is Jackson's manner on the practice field. He's not a large man, yet he's a magnet for even the untrained eye. He looks and acts like a man in full control of his environment.
"He's taken charge of the huddle, taken charge of the offense," Richardson said. "He's trying to get the guys right and get everything perfect."
Intrigued? Join the crowd. Jackson began his coaching career at Pacific, where he played football, in 1987. He has been relentlessly, if incrementally, upwardly mobile ever since. He's been an offensive coordinator in Washington and Atlanta. He is well-regarded to the point that he is considered by some to be head coaching material.
Interestingly enough, Raiders owner Al Davis hired Jackson in late January, before publicly committing to retaining Tom Cable as head coach. "We continue to evaluate the staff and make changes to get better achievement," Raiders executive John Herrera said at the time. "It's still an ongoing process."
Well, from there it's as if the conspiracy theory practically jumps in your lap: With such a bright light on his staff, one to whom he has already surrendered play-calling duties, Cable might be well-advised to avoid a two-game losing streak this season.
Keen insight, or a misrepresentation of the facts in evidence? Maybe we should consult Lane Kiffin on that one.
Either way, Jackson's plan for the Raiders' offensive renaissance is classified information. Despite several requests for access to Jackson (the Raiders' response: Talk to the patch), he still hasn't been formally introduced to the media or to Raiders fans.
We know you're dying to know more, and we're here to help. So in lieu of allowing a grown man to speak for himself, here are snippets of Hue-isms gleaned from the first practice of the first day of training camp:
"You've got to move your feet a little bit."
"Here we go!"
(After confusion at the line of scrimmage.) "Get back in the huddle. We ain't going to do that. Come on, quarterback." (In this case, Bruce Gradkowski.)
"Our pads need to be down."
"I don't want to see any black (defensive) shirts (in the offensive backfield). I don't care if it is a walk-through."
Further updates as they slip past the censors.
Contact Gary Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First-round pick Rolando McClain in fold and in camp. Page 2