Cornerback Isaiah Oliver has agreed to document his first offseason, training camp and preseason with the San Francisco 49ers after joining the team in free agency. Over the course of the next few weeks, Oliver will share a first-person account of each of his experiences of these big events leading up to the start of the regular season. Below is his third and final blog entry detailing joint practices with the Las Vegas Raiders, his first preseason home game at Levi's® Stadium and making the team. To read the first chapter of his series click here and to read the second installment click here.
Joint practices are always really beneficial, just being able to go against a different team with different players and different schemes. Being out there for those two practices helped us a lot. We got to see where we're at as a unit and as a team. I thought that was really helpful, and then, obviously going into preseason games, it gets you ready for that too.
Joint practices have a different feeling. When you're going against someone else, you get a little more excited, I guess, is the easiest way to put it. It's a little bit more fun too. You get used to going all out again in joint practices, which is good because then you get those surprises before you have to do it in the game.
There's always good and bad when you have joint practices. There are the things you know that you do well, that you felt really good about, and then, some stuff that you can clean up and that you can kind of see through any practice. Things get magnified, I would say, versus another team because we don't really know their scheme that well. It's kind of just going off playing our rules, playing our techniques the best that we can. If they do stuff a little bit different, we can see where the holes are in our defense. We were able to do that for those two days.
My approach to the preseason games is pretty much the same as a veteran compared to my first few seasons in the league... It’s still an NFL game. You still have to go out there and prepare that way to be able to play your best.
My approach to the preseason games is pretty much the same as a veteran compared to my first few seasons in the league. When I was younger, probably my first two years, I was a little more nervous for them, which is kind of natural. For rookies, that's your first NFL game, that first preseason game, but the approach to it is pretty much all the same. We try to just treat each game like it's A GAME, whether it's preseason, regular season, whatever it may be. It's still an NFL game. You still have to go out there and prepare that way to be able to play your best.
I definitely got to see that rookie nervous energy in real time. It's their first NFL game, and a lot of times, it may even be their first time playing in an NFL stadium. The nervous butterflies, or whatever you want to call it, comes with that, but you get settled in once you start playing football. I thought the rookies played really well against the Raiders.
Seeing the Faithful take over Allegiant Stadium, that was different. I've heard what they say about the Faithful, how they travel and how they're just everywhere, but I don't think I've really ever experienced it firsthand like that. That was really, really cool, especially there in Vegas, because Raiders fans are also pretty widespread. So that was really cool to see all that red in there.
The stakes get higher as you go through the preseason schedule because you're getting closer to the regular season.
Coming out of the Raiders game, there was good and bad for the defensive unit. I felt like there was a lot of stuff that we were able to do well. We didn't really have too many mental errors which is something that you look for in the first piece of the game because in the first game guys kind of get out of position and things like that. In terms of the scheme and everything, guys are able to play their spots and their positions really well. It's usually just more the tackling you have to work on, maybe some of the techniques that they usually ask to get cleaned up out of those first couple of preseason games.
The stakes get higher as you go through the preseason schedule because you're getting closer to the regular season. Each game gets that much more important because the next one is going to be the real one, the real thing. As you go through the games, you're fine-tuning anything that you need to fine-tune. The goal is to always get better, master the techniques, make sure that you know what to do on every play and how to play against different offenses. As a defense, we were able to do that, getting better each game as we went through. It sets us up well for Week 1.
Getting that win against the Denver Broncos was really cool. The Faithful were very excited, even though it was a preseason game. I actually had family in the stands for that game, and they were telling me that after every play fans would go crazy like it was a regular season game. I thought that was really cool. They're really excited, so it helps us play.
It means a lot to have family in the stands. I'm closer to home, being from Arizona, so my family will get to come to a lot more games. Always having family in the stands, it's great to be able to see them after the games and stuff like that.
Getting off the field on third down really is, other than turnovers, the No. 1 thing for a defense to determine how good they really are.
My third down stop against the Chargers is probably my favorite play of the last two preseason games. It was really good to be out there since it's still a new system for me, playing with new players on a new team. Being out there, it's about getting that feel of what it's like inside Levi's® Stadium and to play 49ers football. Third down is always such an important aspect of football, especially as a defense, third down and red zone are when you have to be at your best so being able to get third down stops is critical. Getting off the field on third down really is, other than turnovers, the No. 1 thing for a defense to determine how good they really are.
My production against the Chargers comes from being more comfortable. That's the one thing that can always be said to improve as the season goes along and should improve as the season goes along. It's about being more comfortable, understanding where I'm supposed to be and how I'm supposed to fit within the defense. I was able to improve that over three games and progressively get better.
You have to understand that you did all you can over the training camp. After that, it's really out of your control. Whether you make the 53 or not, you’ll probably get an opportunity elsewhere with another team or on the practice squad.
The roster cut deadline is nerve-racking for mostly everyone. You have to understand that you did all you can over the training camp. After that, it's really out of your control. Whether you make the 53 or not, you'll probably get an opportunity elsewhere with another team or on the practice squad. You have to understand that that's the business of the NFL and it's just how it goes. There are only 53 active guys on each team and that's what it is. Being able to make that is obviously a huge accomplishment for everyone and practice squad as well. Being a part of this team, being a 49ers player is big, and everyone is proud of that. I'm definitely a lot more peaceful headed into the roster deadline six years into my career. As you get older and understand where your role on the team and where you fit in going into training camp or the preseason games, that makes it a little easier.
There is only one team goal here and that's to win a Super Bowl. That's everyone's mindset. My individual goal is to help the team do that in any way possible and that might look different now than it will a few weeks from now. Things change and injuries happen. There are always moving pieces. For me, it's about helping the team in any way that I can so that at the end of the year, we're holding up the Lombardi.