The Oakland Raiders hired a defensive head coach for the second straight time after hiring nothing but offensive coaches ever since John Madden. But despite his foundation as a defensive coach, Jack Del Rio needs to focus his attention on the offensive side of the ball during both free agency and the NFL draft. Del Rio will be licking his chops at some of the defensive talent that will be available and should definitely bring some guys in, but needs to drastically upgrade the offensive skill players before he does anything.
Clearly the primary decision maker when it comes to the roster will be general manager Reggie McKenzie. However, McKenzie worked closely with Dennis Allen when targeting players, making sure to get guys his coaches wanted. Plus, given the fact that McKenzie had his power diminished when Mark Davis played a large role in the coaching search, don’t be surprised if Davis and Del Rio are pretty involved this offseason in the construction of Oakland’s roster.
In desperate need of receivers
Beyond James Jones, the wide receiver group is one collective question mark. Rod Streater looks like an NFL caliber player, but whether he is anything more than quality depth is yet to be seen. Everyone past him may not even have an extended career in the league. At tight end, the team has Mychal Rivera, a promising young pass catcher who is terribly inconsistent. Behind him is a whole lot of nothing.
Depth at running back would help, too
The team looks like they have a talented young back in Latavius Murray, but to say he is unproven is an understatement. The team needs at least three backs who can compete for playing time if they have any hope of jump starting a run game that was one of the worst in league history last season.
Other than the left side, lots of questions on the o-line
On the offensive line, the Raiders are looking at their starting center walking in free agency as Stefen Wisniewski and the team have not appeared close to a deal. The team also has major questions at every position other than left guard and left tackle which will be held down by Gabe Jackson and Donald Penn. Austin Howard had a rough first season with the team and could still be salvaged if they move him back to tackle, where he was very good. Menelik Watson is a big-time question mark. After those two, everyone else is just a backup who shouldn’t be starting.
Improving the offense actually improves the defense
The Raiders have plenty of holes on defense as well, especially along the defensive line, but they just cannot afford to leave their second-year quarterback out there without any help. Derek Carr had an admirable rookie year considering the lack of talent surrounding him, but his development will be severely stunted if he keeps being forced to carry the offense on his back. While the Raiders will add players to both sides of the ball, their priority needs to be finding help for Carr.
This might go against Del Rio’s natural tendency as a defensive coach, but if he wants to find success with his defense, Del Rio needs to focus on boosting the offense first. Over the last few seasons, the defense has struggled in large part because the offense simply couldn’t stay on the field. The defensive unit was forced to play without much rest — which led them to be worn down by the end of the game, when things often went terribly wrong for the Raiders.