Downing Won't Change Raiders Offense Much, Looking for Greater Efficiency

Todd Downing has been given the reins to a Raiders offense that scored 26 points per game last season and was productive on the ground and through the air.

Jack Del Rio's new offensive coordinator understands that fact. That's why he won't start from scratch in his first season running the show.

Downing's approach after being promoted from quarterbacks coach is a simple one. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

"I definitely think that that's a phrase you can tag to me," Downing said Wednesday afternoon in a conference call. "I believe in efficiency. And if we're efficient in a concept, I am not going to go changing it just for change's sake. If we're inefficient or we failed to live up to expectations in a certain concept, then I am going to figure out a way to tinker with it and make it work. If I can't make it work, we simply won't do it anymore."

Downing is currently evaluating what worked in 2016, and what didn't. The Raiders offense wasn't perfect, not even close. He'll search for ways to improve a talented unit without losing the continuity key to offensive progress with a personnel group expected to remain largely the same heading into the 2017 season.

Franchise quarterback Derek Carr and a hulking offensive line led last year's efforts and will do so again next season. Carr will continue having freedom at the line of scrimmage and will have input in the game plan. Downing says there will be differences from last year's offense, but they won't be major.

"It will be very subtle," Downing said. "We're going to keep the same system terminology. There's no reason to change any of that stuff. All we're doing right now is finding the ways that we can all individually do our jobs better, prepare our positions better and how we can just quarter turn a couple things to make the offense as efficient as possible."

Efficiency doesn't always mean high yards per play. At times it's about getting first downs and vital yards, areas where Del Rio was critical of his offense. He wanted to play "big boy ball" at times, using old school tactics in the run game to pick up important yards.

The running game was productive as a whole with 120 yards per game, but it could be consistently better and might need some tweaks. Offensive line coach Mike Tice will also have some input on that.

"I would like to continue our success in the run game by doing the things we did well and the things that we didn't do well, we evaluate how we can adjust those things," Downing said. "If we can't adjust them easily, then we move on to different schemes or run more of what we're efficient at. I'm as committed to the run game as I am to the pass game. I think my vision for this offense is right in line with how we see it as a staff and how Coach Del Rio sees it as the leader of our staff. I don't anticipate that being a rocky road to walk down."

Downing's transition from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator has been smooth thus far. The offensive staff remains intact save last year's coordinator Bill Musgrave – he's now Denver's quarterbacks coach – which has helped Downing hit the offseason evaluation hard.

"It's an incredible blessing to have my first opportunity come this way," Downing said. "I know everyone on the staff very well. I know how to communicate with them and what makes them tick, which gives me a great head start in that vein. We're going through offseason cut-ups from last year, and we'll able to have real and honest conversations about that without them feeling like I'm taking shots at their position. They know I was in the trenches with them."

Scott Linehan isn't in the trenches with Downing anymore, but his teachings certainly are. Dallas' offensive coordinator was Downing's mentor during stints in Minnesota and Detroit, and helped shape his philosophy in regard to game planning and play calling.

"He's really my mentor in this profession," Downing said. "He raised me, taught me how to coach quarterbacks. He taught me how to put together a game plan, so I certainly will use a lot of what he taught me.

"I think what's unique about the situation here is I'm not installing an offense from the ground up. There is already a system in place and there is a lot about this system, to use a phrase before, that's not broke. So, there will be things that we do a little differently than I did in my time with Scott, but he certainly is probably the biggest shaping influence in terms of how I will play out as an offensive coordinator."

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