Del Rio: Raiders built to last, 'nobody wants to take one swing'

Del Rio: Raiders built to last, 'nobody wants to take one swing'

General manager Reggie McKenzie has said several times the Raiders are set up to be competitive for a long time.

“This thing is built to last,” he said last month.

He wasn’t lying. The Raiders have significant talent under contract, with the ability to pay those nearing extensions without handicapping the rest of the roster.

Head coach Jack Del Rio has firm command of the club, and has become an attraction for potential free agents.

The Raiders went 12-4 in 2016, a five win improvement over the year before. A steady ascent, however, can’t be guaranteed. Freak things happen in the NFL, as anyone at Oakland Coliseum on Christmas Eve can attest, that derail a season.

While adversity will come, there’s no doubt a competitive window is open that shouldn’t be shuttered any time soon.

“That’s part of our responsibility, to build it the right way and build it so that it can last,” Del Rio said. “Nobody wants to take one swing and hope that you have a magical year one time. I think you want to build your roster strong, build your team strong and build the culture strong so that what you’re able to put in and put together is a roster that can go out and compete at a championship level year after year. That’s what the goal is.

“That’s where we are in terms of the football team is raising the expectations, creating the culture of ‘can do,’ a lot of sacrifice, a lot of adhering to the process that we talk about all the time of how we recover, prepare, compete and continue to build the roster strong and then go out and compete the way we’ve learned to.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day. The Raiders were far more talented this season over the last, but still had glaring holes that can be fixed with proper use of draft picks and free agent spending.

Players believe this franchise is on the rise, with room to improve as a young core grows together.

“I think (the future’s) really bright,” Raiders running back Latavius Murray said. “This year we were able to do some good things. We made it to the postseason and obviously when you do that, you give yourselves a chance to play for a championship. We were one of 12 teams to be able to do that. I think we just need to continue to do the things that we did since Jack has been here. He’s done a great job and everyone has just been buying in. I think just continue to trust and embrace the process that he has. That will be just fine.”

The Raiders have 13 unrestricted free agents on their way to the open market. Some will return. Others won’t, and a few under contract could find themselves looking for another employer as the team continues to strengthen the roster into one that could compete for a Super Bowl.

“Whatever pieces Reggie (McKenzie) and them come up with it’s going to be a tremendous help to this team,” safety Reggie Nelson said. “It could help get us over the next step, get us to that next step and over that hump that we’ve been wanting to get over.”

The Raiders will have high expectations next season, in search of their first AFC West title since 2002 and a long playoff run. Del Rio and McKenzie will lead and organizational evaluation in an attempt to be better than before.

“You evaluate who you are, what you are,” Del Rio said. “Look at the things you can do better and areas where you feel like you can strengthen. You don’t always get your wish list. You try to strengthen the best you can. You don’t always get your wish list, but to me it’s a never ending process about building yourself as strong as possible and preparing for the next opportunity.”

Vanderdoes out to 'prove people wrong,' show Raiders his very best

Vanderdoes out to 'prove people wrong,' show Raiders his very best

ALAMEDA – Eddie Vanderdoes knows his UCLA game tape is inconsistent. The powerful defensive tackle admits he wasn’t always at his best, especially after tearing his ACL in 2015. Before that, he was difficult to stop. Afterward, he wasn’t the same player. He doesn’t blame the knee.

He struggled with ankle injuries and weight issues in 2016, a lackluster campaign by his own standard. Since that season ended, Vanderdoes has returned to 100 percent. His ankles are fine. His knee is great. And he lost 40 pounds heading into the NFL scouting combine, preparing for a return to his old self.

The Raiders see great potential in the former Bruin and made him their third-round pick on Friday evening. The Auburn native was excited by the prospect, and believes the Raiders will get his absolute best. His voice was passionate, his determination clear even on a conference call with local press.

“I am going to be the player I was earlier in my career,” Vanderdoes said. “I had a bad season. That wasn’t me. That’s not the person that I am. That’s not the character that I hold. I’m definitely going to bring that to the Raiders’ defensive line. I’m going to bring that energy and I’m really happy to be an Oakland Raider.”

The Raiders will be thrilled if that’s true. They liked what he showed at the Senior Bowl and the NFL scouting combine, where he showed traits that should translate to NFL production.

“I am definitely back 100 percent, very confident with the combine, the Senior Bowl,” Vanderdoes said. “I got my explosiveness back. I got my speed back, my athleticism back. I am definitely at the top of shape right now, so I’m ready to get back to work and show them the player that they saw on the film and the player that they wanted to draft and I’m also looking to turn even more heads and do things that some people might expect that I couldn’t do.”

That includes rushing the passer, being a consistent three-down tackle in the Raiders scheme. He might be a rotational player first, filling the void created when Stacy McGee left in free agency.

“He’s a good, active defensive lineman that we think his best football is in front of him,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He had an ACL (injury) a couple of years ago. His weight has been up and down. We expect him to come in here and be a real professional and work hard with (head strength and conditioning coach) Joe Gomes and the strength staff and get himself ready to roll. He needs to come in here and add depth to our defensive line and give us a little interior push.”

Vanderdoes believes he can do more than that if he does things right. If his weight stays down, strength stays up and he learns the system well, he wants to compete for a significant role as a rookie.

“I’m coming in expecting to contribute and play right away,” Vanderdoes said. “That’s the mindset that I’ve always had. I’ve came with that mindset that I need to be the guy to step in and do what I do and dominate. I definitely think people slept on me a little bit this past offseason.

“I love the fact that (the NFL) slept on me, I think that’s what motivated me every morning waking up, knowing that I get to prove people wrong. I think I’ve done a good job so far of that, and I’m going to keep doing as well being an Oakland Raider because I know I’m at the bottom again. I have to work my way back up.”

Del Rio: Marshawn showed 'authentic passion' joining hometown Raiders

Del Rio: Marshawn showed 'authentic passion' joining hometown Raiders

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have been focused on the NFL Draft the last few days, and rightfully so. Friday night, however, was the right time to ask about what happened just before.

The Raiders acquired power running back and Oakland native Marshawn Lynch. If he’s close to top form after a year away from the NFL, the Raiders offense will be tough to stop.

He’s a big physical rusher the Raiders were looking for. The Raiders were the team Lynch wants to finish his career representing. The Oakland Tech High grad and Cal alum might be the town’s most popular citizen, someone who consistently gives back to the city he loves.

Lynch was downright giddy after formally signing with the Raiders, greeting everyone in the building with child-like enthusiasm. He got fitted in his Raiders helmet and refused to take it off, wearing it out of the building and the car ride home.

Del Rio loved the energy Lynch brought to the team’s complex, and believes that will carry on while he represents the Silver and Black.

“Authentic passion. That’s what I see,” Del Rio said Friday night. “He’s a homegrown guy. He’s extremely excited about joining this football team and being a part of the Raider Nation. We’re excited to have him.”

Lynch is a bruiser of the highest order, though some may wonder how effective he can be at 31, a year removed from professional football.

“There will be questions about how much is left in his tank, and we’re going to find out,” Del Rio said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone else be more excited, more pleased to be joining a team, my team, our team.”

Del Rio understands where Lynch is coming from. The Hayward native longed to be a Raider at some point in his career, but never got the chance.

I told him he was lucky, because I didn’t get a chance to do that as player. I wanted to finish here as a player too. He’s getting that chance and he’s fired up about it.

“He’s a big man, and he plays with the violence that we like and appreciate. I think he’ll look forward to running behind (the Raiders offensive line) and those guys up front.”