Raiders

Downing will make subtle changes to Raiders offense, looking for greater efficiency

Downing will make subtle changes to Raiders offense, looking for greater efficiency

New Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing  has been given the keys to a Corvette, not a clunker.

He understands that fact. That’s why he won’t start from scratch in his first season running the show.

He doesn't see a reason to change much from a Raiders attack that scored 26 points per game last season and was productive on the ground and through the air.

“I believe in efficiency. And if we’re efficient in a concept, I am not going to go changing it just for change’s sake," Downing said Wednesday afternoon in a conference call. "If we’re inefficient or we failed to live up to expectations in a certain concept, then I am going to figure out a way to tinker with it and make it work. If I can’t make it work, we simply won’t do it anymore.”

Downing is currently evaluating what worked in 2016, and what didn’t. He’ll search for ways to improve a talented unit without losing the continuity key to offensive progress with a personnel group expected to remain largely the same heading into the 2017 season.

Franchise quarterback Derek Carr and a hulking offensive line led last year’s efforts and will do so again next season. Carr will continue having freedom at the line of scrimmage and will have input in the game plan. Downing says there will be differences from last year’s offense, but they won’t be major.

“It will be very subtle,” Downing said. “We’re going to keep the same system terminology. There’s no reason to change any of that stuff. All we’re doing right now is finding the ways that we can all individually do our jobs better, prepare our positions better and how we can just quarter turn a couple things to make the offense as efficient as possible.”

Efficiency doesn’t always mean high yards per play. At times it’s about getting first downs and vital yards, areas where head coach Jack Del Rio was critical of his offense. He wanted to play “big boy ball” at times, using old school tactics in the run game to pick up important yards.

The running game was productive as a whole with 120 yards per game, but it could be consistently better and Downing said it might need some tweaks.

Del Rio thought his offensive staff needed some tweaks as well. That's why he let Bill Musgrave leave on an expired contract. He wanted to keep Downing in silver and black, especially as his young offensive mind drew interest from other clubs. Downing had a year left on his contract, which included a clause allowing him to interview for offensive coordinator jobs outside the organization. 

The Raiders didn't want Downing to leave, especially considering his strong relationship with Carr. Del Rio made a switch shortly after a playoff loss at Houston that caught some off guard. 

"I wouldn’t characterize it as a surprise because I’m ready for anything that comes my way in this profession, but I was looking forward to the opportunity to run an offense somewhere in the NFL in 2017," Downing said. "I just feel really fortunate that Coach Del Rio has the trust in me, moving forward, to have that opportunity be here.”

 

Downing’s transition from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator has been smooth thus far. The offensive staff remains intact save Musgrave – he’s now Denver’s quarterbacks coach – which has helped Downing hit the offseason evaluation hard.

“It’s an incredible blessing to have my first opportunity come this way,” Downing said. “I know everyone on the staff very well. I know how to communicate with them and what makes them tick, which gives me a great head start in that vein. We’re going through offseason cut-ups from last year, and we’ll able to have real and honest conversations about that without them feeling like I’m taking shots at their position. They know I was in the trenches with them.”

Scott Linehan isn’t in the trenches with Downing anymore, but his teachings certainly are. Dallas’ offensive coordinator was Downing’s mentor during stints in Minnesota and Detroit, and helped shape his philosophy in regard to game planning and play calling.

“He’s really my mentor in this profession,” Downing said. “He raised me, taught me how to coach quarterbacks. He taught me how to put together a game plan, so I certainly will use a lot of what he taught me.

“I think what’s unique about the situation here is I’m not installing an offense from the ground up. There is already a system in place and there is a lot about this system, to use a phrase before, that’s not broke. So, there will be things that we do a little differently than I did in my time with Scott, but he certainly is probably the biggest shaping influence in terms of how I will play out as an offensive coordinator.”

Three things you need to know from Raiders’ 27-10 loss to Washington

Three things you need to know from Raiders’ 27-10 loss to Washington

LANDOVER, Md. – Three things you need to know about the Raiders’ 27-10 loss to the Washington football club:

1. Raiders eat ‘humble pie’

The Silver and Black were riding high after two dominant showings to start the season. That produced positive press clippings claiming the Raiders might have the league’s best offense and a real shot to win the AFC.

Everything went wrong against Washington, as the Raiders got outplayed and outcoached in every phase.

“This was one of those games that will wake you up,” edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “They served us some humble pie.”

The Raiders were honest about the fact they got their butts kicked. They gave credit to Washington, and admitted they didn’t play up to their high standard.

The hope is that it’s an aberration, not the start of a trend. The Raiders remained confident even in defeat, knowing they must play better to beat a tough Denver team on the road next week.

2. Third-down disaster

The Raiders offense faced 11 third downs on Sunday. They didn’t convert a single one. True story. That seems impossible given the level of offensive talent, but Oakland never earned a first down. That stat, more than any other in the box score, explains just how bad things got for a normally dynamic unit.

Head coach Jack Del Rio was beside himself looking at that stat. Derek Carr said that was the main problem with his unit.

“That’s not good. It sucked,” Carr said. “Getting off on third down, for a defense it gives them life. For the other offense, it’s joyful. It really is. We did not do a good job executing on third down, obviously. That just sucked. There’s no other word for it.”

It’s safe to call that stat an outlier. The Raiders converted 54 percent of their third downs over the first two games, before laying an egg in the nation’s capital.

3. Bullied up front

The Raiders might have the best offensive line in football. The front five didn’t play like that on Sunday night. Typically steady guys had an off night. Donald Penn was penalized. Marshall Newhouse struggled in pass protection. Even Kelechi Osemele was off. The Raiders struggled on the ground, and didn’t give Carr much time to get going. He was sacked four times on the night.

The offensive line makes the Raiders offense go. When it’s not right, the attack stalls out. Other teams will use this game film against the Raiders. That’s why the line has to get right in a hurry and put a bad day in the rearview.

“We have to keep practicing and get things fixed because people will watch this tape,” Osemele said. “We’ll go back to the drawing board and be more prepared next time.”

Carr's message after rough offensive showing: 'Put all the blame on me'

Carr's message after rough offensive showing: 'Put all the blame on me'

LANDOVER, Md. -- Derek Carr had a horrible, no good, very bad day at the office. The Raiders quarterback was uncharacteristically out of sync in Sunday night’s 27-10 loss to the Washington football club, turning in one of the worst performances of his career.

His first pass was an interception, and he didn’t fare much better after that. He was 19-for-31 passing for 118 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked four times on a bad night for the offensive line. The Raiders offense was 0-for-11 on third down.

Many played a part in this disaster, but Carr insists the blame only head his way.

“I have to be better,” Carr said. “Put all the blame on me. It’s my fault. Everybody wants to pat you on the back when you win. You have to own it when you don’t. Put it all on me. I’ll be all right.”

Carr’s stats have been worse only once. He had 117 yards passing in a Thursday night loss to Kansas City, but he didn’t add turnovers to the situation.

Carr had two against Washington. Montae Nicholson snagged an underthrown ball intended for Amari Cooper that set the tone for a terrible offensive showing. Washington scored a touchdown off that turnover and Carr’s next pick, which came in the second quarter.

“I mean, we've obviously seen him play at a real high level. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “It started on the second play of the game, and I think it just kind of unraveled from there. We didn't get a lot done with our offense and he's the triggerman, makes it all go.”

The Raiders didn’t go far, only exceeding 100 yards of offense late in the fourth quarter. They didn’t execute well on the ground or through the air, in stark contrast to the season’s first two games.

The offense got stuck in the mud. Carr says now the Raiders have to work their way out.

“This isn’t alarming, but we did get punched in the mouth,” Carr said. “It’s all about how we respond. We’ll be ready to fight.”