INDIANAPOLIS – The Raiders personnel department has been studying this year’s draft class quite a while now. They have long-standing opinions on these kids, though those views were skewed some after Jon Gruden got hired.
The offensive specialist will install a new scheme this offseason, though his playbook was largely written over the last month. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s scheme will be a complete overhaul, with more of a standard 4-3 look than the Raiders had last year.
Scouts have to find players that work well within the scheme, one that’s still being refined in film rooms of the team’s Alameda training complex.
“Our scheme, especially on defense, is different,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “Offensively, it’s going to be a little different. We have to get the right players to fit what we’re doing. There are certain players who can fit any scheme, but there are positions where you need specific skills. That’s when you have to mix and match, and find guys who can fill roles on the team. We’re in the process of doing that.”
The Raiders need aggressive, physical cornerbacks. They’ll need versatile inside linebackers, guys who can cover and blitz through interior. They’ll need one-gap players up front, with defensive tackles who can rush the passer.
They need receivers with good hands. Gruden loves a good fullback, and solid blocking tight ends. The Raiders have significant holes to fill on this roster, either through free agency or the NFL Draft. Coaches really get into the scouting process at the NFL Scouting Combine, which wraps on Monday in Indianapolis. Gruden and Guenther especially will have say in who the Raiders add, looking for specific skill sets that can play important roles in these new schemes.
Adding the right talent is important. So is development. That’s something Jack Del Rio’s staff struggled with at times in recent years. Gruden assembled an all-star staff that should improve player development.
“We have great coaches here, and they’re going to put players in positions to succeed,” McKenzie said. “I’m not a fan of finding guys who can only do one thing. I wants guys that fit, guys that have range and versatility. I want guys with talent who can be developed.”
Additions will be made. Subtractions are coming, possibly to players you know well. The Raiders will try and trim salaries where possible – they’d like to restructure contracts for Marshawn Lynch, Michael Crabtree and Bruce Irvin, though that doesn’t mean those players will go for it – to make room for a Khalil Mack contract extension and better fits.
“We have to work within the cap and money situation,” McKenzie said. “If things work out where some players have to go, like with what happened with (recently release cornerback David) Amerson, those are things that happen. That’s down the line. We’ll see where we are when free agency starts, and we’ll see who we can sign and who we can’t. We’re not just looking to start with five players on the roster and build from scratch.
"We’ll get this thing…it’s going to be a process. We’re working with this staff, to make sure we have the best 53-man roster. Right now we’re trying to assemble a 90-man roster and let it play out.”