OAKLAND, CA. — Go ahead … snicker all you’d like. Get it out of the way … BUT!!! … The Raiders in the past few seasons have been quietly building a juggernaut of a team. In every facet and in every category, the Oakland Raiders have made moves to solidify not only the starting positions but their depth as well.
It all begins with their coaching staff. Head coach, Jack Del Rio started his coaching career as a strength and conditioning coach with the New Orleans Saints in 1997. He progressively worked his way through the ranks as any other coach would have to at this level. He spent time with the Saints, Ravens (linebackers coach), Panthers (defensive coordinator), and landed his first head coaching job in Jacksonville where the front office set him up to fail each of the nine years he was with them. Once the Jaguars let him go after he failed to accomplish what he had hoped to there, he took over the defensive coordinator job in Denver and held that position for two seasons before becoming the interim head coach. But that was never his dream job or dream scenario… since he was a young child, Del Rio always had dreams of becoming the Raiders head coach.
Del Rio has put together in a very short time one of the most competent and versed coaching staff’s in all of pro football.
Here are the current members under Del Rio:
Sam Anno (Defensive Assistant), Todd Downing (Quarterbacks Coach), Darryl Eto (Asst. Strength and Condtioning), Jethro Franklin (Defensive Line), Joe Gomes (Head Strength and Conditioning, Tim Holt (Asst. Offensive Line), Nick Holz (Quality Control – Offense), Bobby Johnson (Tight Ends), Kevin Kijowski (Strength and Conditioning Asst.), Wesley Miller (Strength and Conditioning Asst.), Rob Moore (Wide Receivers), Bill Musgrave (Offensive Coordinator), Ken Norton Jr. (Defensive Coordinator), Bernie Parmalee (Running Backs), Jake Peetz (Asst. Quarterbacks), Marcus Robinson (Defensive Backs), Brad Seely (Special Teams), Tracy Smith (Asst. Special Teams), Travis Smith (Quality Control – Defense), Sal Sunseri (Linebackers), Mike Tice (Offensive Line), Brent Vieselmeyer (Asst. Linebackers), and Rod Woodson (Asst. Defensive Backs).
There are some very big names in there ranging from Bill Musgrave, Ken Norton Jr., Brady Seely, Mike Tice, and Rod Woodson… the experience and years have been put in there.
Musgrave has run a pretty balanced offense in the past and has a plethora of weapons at his disposal to use behind a very competent offensive line coached by former Vikings head coach, Mike Tice. Ken Norton Jr. came over from the Seattle Seahawks where he is trying to build a defense very similar. It starts with a strong front seven and ends with a powerhouse defensive backfield.
If this coaching staff can get this stacked talent to play as single unit and gel together, the sky is the limit.
Typically the game is won in the trenches. The Raiders have beefed up both on the offensive side and defensive sides of the ball. The offensive line features a starting five lineup of Donald Penn, Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osmele, and Austin Howard. They could potentially be the best in the NFL in 2016. This will give star quarterback, Derek Carr and the skilled players time to work in the pass game and lanes to run through in the run game.
It’s just as stacked on the other side … the Raiders will run a hybrid between a 43 and 34 defense depending on the situation and will run a lot of nickel as well considering how pass-happy the league has become. There will be a rotation between Mario Edwards Jr., Justin Ellis, Dan Williams, Khalil Mack, and Bruce Irvin. Those guys will make the back end guys’ jobs a lot easier and free them up to make more plays. Guys like Malcolm Smith (who made a key play to help secure a trip the Super Bowl in the NFC Championship Game a couple years ago) will make a bigger impact.
The Raiders drafted safety Karl Joseph this past season in the 1st round and went out and spent some money on Cincinnati Bengals free agent, Reggie Nelson. They brought in a Pro Bowler in Sean Smith, one of the better and more underrated corners in all of football. David Amerson came over from the Redskins to secure the other corner position… and then there’s guys like Travis Carrie, D.J. Hayden, and Keith McGill who all will be fighting for playing time as well.
Under the guidance and coaching of both Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton Jr., the Raiders will once again be lethal on the defensive side of the ball. Something they were known for when they won all three of their previous championships eons ago.
If all goes as planned, and the Raiders stay relatively injury free, they will not only be punching a ticket to the playoffs and potentially winning the division but they will have a solid chance at making it to the AFC Championship and ultimately playing for ring number FOUR!