Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing
For the next several months – really until the 2017 football season comes to an end – there will be one question that Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing will try to answer. How do you take something good and make it great?
Downing was promoted to offensive coordinator in January, and the Raiders unit he inherits finished 2016 as one of the best offenses in the league.
Captained by quarterback Derek Carr, the Raiders were the sixth-ranked offense in the NFL, totaling just under 6,000 total yards, en route to putting up 416 points by the conclusion of the regular season.
With Carr, who's quickly making the case that he's one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL, as well as a dynamic group of playmakers, Downing admittedly won't be looking to recreate what the Silver and Black do offensively. Instead, he'll just be looking to tweak small things, and keep the Raiders offense rolling.
"I think there's a certain amount of if it ain't broke, don't fix it," explained Downing. "I think you're always, as I said earlier, always looking for ways to tweak things, and kind of adjust them to best fit your personnel and personalities. We won't be doing whole sell changes."
That's not to say the Raiders offense won't look a tad different in 2017 than it did the year previous; Downing will undoubtedly put his own spin on things schematically, but not only that, the personnel at Downing's disposal will be a bit different in 2017 as well.
Running back Latavius Murray is now in Minnesota, and following his departure, hometown hero Marshawn Lynch has joined a young nucleus of rushers ready to improve on an already-impressive 2016 season, adding not only a veteran presence, but a bruising, physical style of running to boot.
"It's just nice to have another piece added to the puzzle," Downing said. "We really like the young backs that we have, and we feel like Marshawn added to that group is really going to solidify our running back situation, and give us a chance to put our best foot forward in the run game and in protection in passing."
Marshawn Lynch won't be the only new toy that Downing is set to have at his disposal once the regular season gets underway, General Manager Reggie McKenzie was active in free agency, adding not only some depth to the offensive line, but a pair of offensive weapons in tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson too.
"He's a big, long guy," Downing said of Cook. "Runs really well, stretches the field vertically inside. He's a matchup nightmare for linebackers and most safeties. He really brings a sense in the passing game of a mismatch that we can count on week in and week out. Beyond that, and kind of what I'm pleasantly surprised with, is he's a really good in line blockers as well. Jared's versatility is going to be something that we're able to feed on a little bit and use him in different packages."
Downing described Patterson as a "fun tool," and like Cook, the addition of the speedy wide receiver will give Carr another weapon to hopefully make life difficult for opposing defensive coordinators come August.
Even though Downing is set to embark on his first season as an NFL offensive coordinator, he's not interested in any personal accolades when it comes to his group; instead, his sole mission is to find a way to make the group better and more effective than it was a year ago.
"There's no pride in authorship from me on how we're going to do things," Downing explained. "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."