ALAMEDA -- There may be growing discontent within the Raiders fan base about rookie coach Dennis Allen, but he'll have plenty of support Sunday on the opposite sideline.

Allen was on the staff of the New Orleans Saints under Sean Payton from 2006-2010, working as an assistant defensive line coach for two seasons before moving to the secondary for the final three seasons.

The Saints won the Super Bowl after the 2009 season, and Allen moved on to become defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos the next year.

"I started coaching in the NFL in Atlanta, but I grew up in New Orleans," Allen said. "I've got a lot of good memories there, and we were able to win a championship. So it was a big part of my development as a coach."

One of the traits Allen admired with the Saints remains a work in progress in Oakland, where the Raiders are 3-6.

"The thing I think they do as well as anybody in the NFL is utilize their personnel," Allen said. "They know exactly what guys can do and put those in situations and let them do those things."

Coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons, most recently under Hue Jackson, fans have opined on social media that maybe it wasn't such a good idea for new general manager Reggie McKenzie to turn to a first-time head coach.

Jackson may have overreached after the Raiders lost the season finale and the AFC West title with a loss to San Diego in stating his intention to get into every corner of the organization and make changes.


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New Orleans interim coach Joe Vitt gave an impassioned defense of Allen in a conference call with Bay Area media. Whether intentional or by coincidence, his analysis seemed to contrast Allen with Jackson in the eyes of new general manager Reggie McKenzie.

"Dennis Allen is smart, Dennis Allen has great people skills," Vitt said. "Dennis Allen knows how to teach, motivate or inspire. Dennis Allen is not going to go off the cuff and off the reservation by saying or doing dumb things. He's going to have his football team focused and he's going to get them better."

As for Oakland's struggles, Vitt said, "The only reason that D.A. was hired to be the coach at the Raiders is they wanted to go in a different direction and improve their football team, and as anyone knows, you're going to go through tough times your rookie season as a head coach. That head coach and Reggie McKenzie are going to get the right people in there to fit the scheme that they're playing, and it's going to take a little bit of time."

Saints quarterback Drew Brees took notice of how Allen worked with and connected with the defensive backs and thought he would be a climber, although the ascent was quicker than expected.

"You knew he was on the fast track to be a head coach," Brees said by conference call. "I don't know if we saw it happening this fast. It's pretty amazing, he goes from being the DBs coach here to the defensive coordinator for one year in Denver and all of a sudden, he's a head coach."

Saints safety Roman Harper told reporters in New Orleans he was the first to forecast Allen as a head coaching prospect.

"It's been like two years and he's a head coach," Harper said. "That's crazy. I was really the first that told him, 'I don't want to take credit, but you'll be a better defensive coordinator than you will be a DB coach.' And he was a good DB coach. Lo and behold, the following year he's a defensive coordinator and now he's a head coach."

  • Players who weren't present for practice Thursday as the team session began included running backs Darren McFadden (ankle) and Mike Goodson (ankle), strong safety Tyvon Branch (neck) and defensive tackle Richard Seymour.

    McFadden was spotted working out and rehabbing at 6 a.m.

    Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) was present but not participating, while free safety Matt Giordano (concussion) was cleared to practice and on the field.

  • Cornerback Cory Nelms was added to the practice squad. Nelms was on the 49ers practice squad last season and participated in their training camp.

    For more on the Raiders, visit the Inside the Oakland Raiders blog at ibabuzz.com/oaklandraiders. Follow Jerry McDonald on twitter at Twitter.com/Jerrymcd.