System of a Downing: Raiders’ OC Must Adapt to Succeed

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Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing
Jul 29, 2017; Napa, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing reacts during training camp at the Napa Valley Marriott. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and the Oakland Raiders parted ways, a ripple of joy vibrated through RaiderNation. Naming Todd Downing as the successor appeared to be a natural progression for Jack del Rio. Considering the close working relationship between Derek Carr and Downing, the thought was this would only benefit the offense. Yet, after five games and an uneven 2-3 record, fans continue to sour on Downing. Ranking sixteenth in points (21.6) and thirtieth in yards per game (279.2) will not endear you to anyone.

Readiness

First, people look at the situation and question is Downing is prepared enough to master this job. While prolific, the Raiders offense consists of many moving parts. In addition, this is Downing’s first crack at running the entire offense. However, going outside of the team to pick an OC when in-house stability could be maintained would’ve been foolish. General Manager Reggie McKenzie likes to maintain a consistent environment.  In essence, the Raiders had little choice, if they wanted to keep a familiar offensive plan.

Personnel

To his credit, Musgrave did use Jamize Olawale correctly. Remember that 75 yard pass and catch versus Houston? Not many fullbacks possess the burst to outrun anyone at the second level. The Oakland Raiders continue to be blessed with athletic fullbacks that go underutilized. Before Olawale, Marcel Reece occupied that spot. Be that as it may, Olawale is a player that Downing needs to rely on.

Similarly, Clive Walford became a spectator in this offense. Jared Cook possesses greater speed and gamebreaking potential, but timely drops and failure to secure the ball hurts the offense. While Walford may not beat a linebacker deep, a twelve yard catch is better than a 23-yard drop.

Although Jalen Richard does not pack Marshawn Lynch’s power, he needs increased touches. Twenty-nine touches (24 rushes and 5 catches) suggest more work. Use Lynch as the hammer.  Allow Richard to dazzle between the twenties. Teams are sniffing out the draw play when Richard enters the game. Downing could scheme him to the outside and let him work more in space.

Creativity

To his credit, using Cordarrelle Patterson on inside runs is inventive. But, where’s the rest of the dynamic playcalling? In an offense that boasts two decent tight ends, four above average receivers and three competent running backs. Yes, Derek Carr sat for the Baltimore game, but use Manuel’s quickness to get him out of the pocket more to throw.

In reality, Jack del Rio is not replacing Todd Downing this year or probably next. So, Downing needs to alter his approach and realize that teams with worse personnel are succeeding. That says more about the assistant than it does the player. Eleven games left and the Raiders need Downing to scheme like every game is a playoff eliminator.


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  • Eric Kench

    Can’t say I agree. Downing had one year remaining on his contract when he was promoted. It’s a mistake to give a long extension to a first time coordinator. He must first prove himself. If he did not get an extension then they should let him go immediately after the season. Musgrave was a proven talent and far more experienced. The Raiders gave a five year contract to Rob Ryan, a first time DC, in the mid 2000s. What was the old man thinking of?