ALAMEDA – Jack Del Rio built a strong staff after being hired as Raiders head coach, and managed to keep it intact from one season to the next.
That’s no easy task. Coaching staffs shuffle almost every year, but Del Rio believed continuity was important between the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
It remains uncertain if that will happen again. Del Rio dodged a question asking if he anticipates making staff changes this offseason, when at least some turnover could occur.
“Well, we’ll see how it goes, you know?” Del Rio said Sunday in a press conference. “Opportunities come up for guys. We were able to get that done last year and we’ll just see how that breaks for us this year. We’ve got a good group of guys. They work hard, they care. We’ll see where that goes.”
The Raiders defense needs another talent infusion, but that unit underperformed at times when it needed to stand tall. The Raiders had an NFL low 25 sacks, and ranked No. 26 with 375.1 yards per game and 20th with 24.1 points allowed per game.
Might defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. be a fall guy for those shortcomings?
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and his assistants had greater success with the No. 6-ranked offense that improved in most categories over a year ago. That’s especially true in the run game, which blocking and back efficiency increased. The Raiders seem content with coaches on that side of the ball, including Musgrave, line coach Mike Tice and quarterbacks coach Todd Downing.
Some lower-level assistants may be in line for more prestigious jobs, and the Raiders may find someone on the market who might be an upgrade.
The coordinators, however, are always in focus when it comes to making changes, especially among the fans.
“People always want to get into play calling,” Del Rio said. “That’s the first area that everybody that plays Madden thinks they have it figured out, you know? I can’t worry too much about those types of things.”
Lee Smith closer to full health: Raiders blocking tight end Lee Smith said he’ll be running around shortly after the Super Bowl in early February, and expects to be fully healthy for the 2017 offseason program.
Smith has been on injured reserve since Week 4, when he suffered a broken ankle that required surgery.
Smith wishes he could’ve played a bigger role on the team during a season where they needed him.
“Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I feel personally like I could have helped this year beyond that fourth game,” Smith said. “So, it’s hard, man. It’s hard to sit back and watch all of the hard work you put in for months and months and months to not be able to put forth for an entire season.”
Inside linebacker Ben Heeney told the Bay Area News Group that he should be ready to participate in OTAs after having ankle surgery earlier this season.