Though the Oakland Raiders only have two picks in April’s draft – and those aren’t until the fifth and sixth rounds – the team made its presence known at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this past weekend.
New head coach Dennis Allen and General Manager Reggie McKenzie both spoke with Bay Area reporters about their offseason plans, and owner Mark Davis – on hand to accept the Tank Younger Award (which promotes diversity in the NFL) – had a chance to reiterate the need for change in his organization.
Davis told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group that he has “the utmost confidence” in McKenzie to transform the football side of the Raiders organization while the front-office and business operations become more sophisticated to keep up with developments in the rest of the league.
“The business part really wasn’t there,” Davis told McDonald. “It was all football. Just win. Over the years it just grew and grew and grew, and I think the size of the league and the size of the organization and different things you had to deal with, media and all those things, kind of dwarfed the capabilities of the organization.”
When it comes to picking new talent for the roster, both McKenzie – who has a history of selecting good players in his years with the Green Bay Packers – and Allen said they’ll take a broader look at college players than was done in the past by the team, when owner Al Davis put a premium on speed.
Though the Raiders have just two picks in April, Allen – the Denver Broncos’ defensive coordinator last season -- told reporters the Raiders intend to put their time in on talent evaluation and make additions that can help.
Of particular concern is the defense, which was a weakness in 2011 when the team lost several late leads and stumbled late in the season, falling from 7-4 to 8-8 and missing the playoffs again.
“I think obviously, defensively that is going to be a priority for us,” said Allen, when asked about the team’s focus on talking to linebackers and defensive ends at the recent Senior Bowl.
“It’s obviously a high priority for us and we’ve got to get better in that area.”
Though Allen said the team still hasn’t determined the system it will run next year – a 4-3 or 3-4 – talent evaluation at the Combine and throughout the offseason, is crucial.
“I told the coaching staff the other day, the most important thing that we can be doing right now is picking players, and making sure we’ve got the right guys on our team,” Allen told McDonald. “…There’s nothing more important to us right now that making sure we get the right guys.”