The Raiders this past season took a huge leap forward, compiling a 12-4 record, reaching the playoffs and being labeled by NFL watchers as a team on the rise.
But head coach Jack Del Rio says his team is a long way from where he wants it to be. He’s been on the job just two seasons and says there’s much more work that needs to be done to improve the roster and fine-tune performance.
“Understand, year three, we’re just getting started,” Del Rio said at the NFL Combine Thursday. “Don’t look at year three and say, ‘Yeah, we arrived last year in year two.’ No, we just scratched the surface and we’re just getting started and there’s a lot of work to do.”
Much of the groundwork for offseason improvement takes place this week at the annual NFL Combine, where Raiders talent evaluators are getting a close-up look at college prospects. NFL free agency soon will open also, meaning the Raiders will begin to bring in new talent to upgrade at some of the weak spots, particularly on defense.
Del Rio told reporters that team owner Mark Davis has given him and general manager Reggie McKenzie all the support needed to build a longtime winner. Davis rewarded Del Rio recently with a new contract.
“Davis has been a man of his word since the day I got here,” said Del Rio, according to Eddie Paskal of Raiders.com. “We talked about upgrading the facilities. We talked about spending in free agency, and we talked about when I come in and do what I was intending on doing, the vision that I provided, he would tear up that original contract and give me one that I deserve, and that’s what he did. I’m very appreciative.”
Del Rio says the team needs to be built to survive what happened late last season, when the loss of quarterback Derek Carr to injury resulted in enormous offensive struggles and a quick playoff exit. As a whole, the team needs to be stronger in all areas, he said.
“If somebody is missing, we have to fill in,” Del Rio said. “We have to run the ball better, we have to play better defense. We have to do certain things to help offset, in that particular case, the quarterback.”