In life, you mark your progress as you achieve your goals, setting milestones along the way. In that regard, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is no different as he caught up with J.T. “The Brick” on the Raiders’ flagship station 95.7 “The Game”; giving us an update on the state of the team.
Reggie McKenzie recently shared the state of the Raiders with J.T. The Brick
“Our goal is to get to the championship. We are going to do everything step by step to get that done. It starts right here with OTAs and the minicamps, training camps all through week to week getting better and better in all three phases of the game and that’s where our focus is and that’s what we’re about.”
-Raiders G.M. Reggie McKenzie on the importance of offseason workouts
After a long time since the Raiders and the word “championship” have been uttered in the same sentence, McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio feel their time is now. In retrospect, the pending road to a fourth Lombardi Trophy has been a long one for these two as the current team was built from the ground up.
Easing Carr’s frustration
Mike Silver of the NFL Network recently reported franchise quarterback Derek Carr is frustrated with the pace of his contract negotiations. What followed was a social media explosion as Raider Nation went into a frenzy. Yet, it’s important to realize that McKenzie isn’t handling Carr’s negotiations and said so himself, “I’m not the negotiator.” Just who exactly is doing the negotiation for the team remains a mystery; however, McKenzie will advise whomever to make sure it gets done.
“We love Derek and we want to keep him and we’re going to do everything to make sure this contract gets done.”
-McKenzie’s thoughts on Carr’s situation
Ironically enough, if neither Carr nor McKenzie are taking part in contract negotiations, it would be difficult to substantiate this assertion. Carr has been on record saying repeatedly his agent is the one handling negotiations, he has also informed McKenzie and the Raiders that he’s ready to be a “Raider for life.” McKenzie has made no bones about proclaiming his love for his quarterback as both he and the organization (along with Raider Nation) agree with his “for life” sentiment. With both Carr and McKenzie having a solid relationship, there seems to be no real reason for concern for these negotiations, for now.
The “defense heavy” draft
“We knew we needed some depth and we needed to be able to play matchup football. We made sure we were able to do that. You know this is a passing league, we have to be able to cover.”
-McKenzie on addressing the team’s defensive needs
After a sub-par year on defense, anyone who watched the Raiders last year knew that addressing that side of the ball would be the priority.
Offensively, the Raiders were a juggernaut and finding a seat in the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum was hard and expensive. On the other hand, and defensively, they were woefully unprepared for the passing league the NFL has evolved into.
As a team, they recorded 25 sacks, 18 of which came from Khalil Mack (11) and Bruce Irvin (7). Tight ends and smaller, slippery receivers with “elite” speed torched the defensive backfield constantly. It got so bad that if you had some smarts and played fantasy football, you would automatically select the tight end the Raiders were playing against.
After signing Perry Riley Jr. off the street, the Raiders had seemingly found a stop-gap at middle linebacker. During the offseason thus far, the coaching staff has elected to look for alternate options at linebacker.
“We weren’t going to go out of our way to just to get a linebacker when we have a better player on our board.”
-McKenzie on Marquel Lee and drafting linebacker late in the fifth round
At cornerback, rookie Gareon Conley’s the matchup player the Raiders lacked in 2016 as he should be able to stay out wide and/or slide into the slot. Likewise and despite not having set foot on the field, Conley is probably the most athletically gifted cornerback on the roster.
Obi Melifonwu, the 6’4″ and 217 pounder has the necessary size and speed to make him another matchup piece. Look for his designation to be covering tight ends and larger wide receivers.
Eddie Vanderdoes has been about the business of proving himself, as the former UCLA defensive product has gotten his weight down under 300 pounds and looks to be ready to recapture the magic leading to him being a five-star recruit.
Marquel Lee is a physical presence who was drafted in the fifth round; he’s raw but has the tools. Del Rio right now is looking for more of a finished product so this position is up for grabs which can go both ways for Lee.
“Beast Mode” has been great for the Raiders
“I’ll tell you what, he’s been great. He’s doing quite nicely. It’s going very well with him amongst the team. The fact that he wanted to be a Raider is just the icing on the cake.”
-McKenzie on Marshawn Lynch as a Raider
It wouldn’t be a Raiders interview without a question about Marshawn Lynch. McKenzie’s a fan as well as his general manager, so bringing in “Beast Mode” is as exciting for him as it’s for the rest of Raider Nation. All in all, McKenzie has his club in position to compete. Nearly all of their needs have been adequately addressed and the team seems poised for great things in 2017.