Say it with me, “Development.”
That’s the keyword headed into the Raiders offseason.
Many of us wish Oakland was playing in the upcoming Super Bowl, but they are not. A lot of that blame falls on the Raiders depth.
At the end of the season, they cycled through three quarterbacks. The left tackle and tight end positions saw multiple starters in 2016. The receiver and running back packages rotated at various times, due to minor inconsistencies and injuries.
On defense, the Raiders cycled through three starting middle linebackers, three starting strong safeties, two nickel backs and multiple defensive linemen.
This is not a bad thing. Good teams use a variety of players for any given situation. They also rely on depth when injuries happen.
Not to mention, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio has preached competition at every level since he took over. He is also a proponent of the next man up theory, as are most coaches.
Hence, many of us will spend time addressing position upgrades via the draft and free agency. There is nothing wrong with that, because it is better to have one dominate starter than a few solid role players at any position.
Still, the Raiders need development from their recent draft picks. Players like Justin Ellis, Menelik Watson, and Denico Autry need to make up for the steps back that they took in 2016. Meanwhile, younger players like Vanai Alexander, Karl Joseph, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington and Cory James need to keep building towards their potential.
Even young stars like Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Gabe Jackson and Amari Cooper have room for development into superstars.
Oakland has no room for steps back in 2017. In order for the Raiders to keep ascending, they must maximize the experience of players already on the roster. That’s how you build a perennial Super Bowl contender.
Everyone who watched NFL football this season can tell you that the Raiders were close to being the best team in the league. Now, they must prove it by continuing to develop the talent already on the roster.
Forget adding any one free agent or top draft pick. Sure, the Raiders could use an infusion of playmakers all over the roster. However, they’ve also accumulated enough talent and experience to have one of the deepest rosters in the league.
The Raiders have already built a foundation for continued success via their farm system of finding bargain free agents and solid late round draft picks.
Therefore, capitalizing on the development of Oakland’s young players is the key to this upcoming offseason. As these young players get better, they will perform better when they step in for injured starters. They will also force older players to improve or lose their jobs.
This how the Raiders can continue developing the competitive culture that will make them into one of the best teams in the entire NFL.
Simply put, the Raiders need their young players to get better after making the playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons.
Oakland acquired the winning experience in 2016. In 2017, he Raiders’ next step requires development of young players across their roster.
Just Develop Baby!