ALAMEDA -- Todd Downing has made tweaks to the Raiders offense since becoming its coordinator. They’ve already been installed during the offseason program, and players are adjusting to them during OTAs.
Downing has implemented ideas on how to improve a productive system run by Bill Musgrave in two previous seasons, and players will execute that scheme as directed. They’ll also have some input in a system that's still evolving some.
Much has been made about quarterback Derek Carr’s influence and freedom at the line of scrimmage. He’s always had that, even as a rookie. He will have more say in game plans, and be allowed to operate concepts where he feels comfortable. A quarterback, Downing says, is "an extension of the play caller."
While player input starts with the trigger man, it certainly doesn’t stop there. Downing’s ears are open to all suggestions.
“The players we have in this building garner a certain respect,” Downing said. “We have a great group of veterans and some really hard working young guys. I like taking feedback from them on ways we can adjust things. We were talking about adjustments to the system or little tweaks, sometimes it’s their idea.
“There’s no pride in authorship from me on how we’re going to do things. If there’s something that’s better suited to our players, I want to hear about it. It’s my job to digest that and be the filter or the funnel from all the broad scope ideas to see what fits our offense. As a whole, I just want our players to have confidence in what they’re doing. I think you can play faster when you’re confident. If you have a sense of ownership in the scheme, you’re going to play even faster.”
That open-door policy played out during Tuesday’s OTA session, when Downing talked shop with running back Marshawn Lynch during some downtime. It’s common practice during Downing’s interaction with players.
“I like to kind of be a walk-around guy that gets feedback during practice,” Downing said. “Sometimes it might be a downtime during special teams period or it might be in pre-practice when they’re stretching, but I certainly like to get every opportunity I can to get their feedback and make sure they feel like they have a voice.
“I tell the guys in the offensive meeting, there’s a sliding scale to that. If you’re a rookie and you’ve never taken a snap in the NFL, my attention span might not be that long, but if you’re Donald Penn or Rodney Hudson or one of those guys, I’ll listen.”
Downing has been given keys to a Ferrari, and wants to make it hum. He has an MVP candidate at quarterback, a power rusher in Lynch, one of the NFL’s best offensive lines and dynamic players in the passing game. He has great tools to exploit opposing weaknesses, and must continue finding the best ways to do so.
“I think I like to just look for matchups and try to exploit those matchups and let guys go win their one-on-one battles,” Downing said. “I think that the roster that (general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio) have put together gives us the ability to kind of be a Swiss Army knife and use whatever tool we need to. I’m excited about creating those matchups against the Raiders’ defense for a few more weeks here and into training camp, but then as we game plan as well.”