After the formalities and the “Greatness of the Raiders” intros were out of the way, it was time to get down the proverbial brass tacks. Namely, how close is this Raider team to being a contender, and what needs to be done to make that happen? The Raiders looked to be on their way two seasons ago but fell flat last season. Dennis Allen believes they are on the cusp… with a couple tweaks.
“I do think we have playoff level talent,” said Allen. “And again, just like any other year, there’s always a couple of critical pieces that you gotta make sure that you add to that team to give your team a chance to be successful. No different than any other situation. I do feel like we have a nucleus of talent and we’ve got some places that we’ve got to get better at. We’ve got some holes that we’ve gotta make sure that we fill and that’s what Reggie and I are going to be working throughout this offseason to make sure that we bring in the best people and the best players to give us a chance to do that.
“I think specifically from a defensive standpoint I think we’ve obviously got to look at some things in the secondary and make sure we have the right things in place there. But again, I think that we have the nucleus of a solid football team. And with Reggie and I working together and seeing things eye to eye, we’re going to make sure that we get the right people in here and we got the right people to get the job done.”
But even with all the talk of bringing in new players at key positions, Allen re-emphasized that he thought this team does not need a major overhaul.
“I don’t think radical changes are what need to be made,” said Allen. “I do think that there are, obviously, with all aspects of the game, I mean you’re always going to try and upgrade your team in any way that you can. But I do think that there’s a talented defense and I feel like that we’ve got enough players both on offense and defense that we can win a championship with.”
It is undeniable that, aside from a couple of key upgrades at certain positions, the first major upgrade needs to happen in-house. That upgrade is in the mindset of this team. And for a team that set new league records for penalties last season, it starts with discipline.
“We’re gonna preach discipline, and discipline is going to be a fundamental factor in what we do every day,” said Allen. “And if we preach fundamentals and if we preach discipline day in and day out and we’re consistent with it as a coaching staff, the players are going to fall right in line.
“If you want people to believe in what you’re selling, you gotta believe in it yourself. And I think that’s the first and foremost thing that we’re going to make sure that we do. We’re going to preach the message that we believe in. And if you’re passionate about the message that you believe in, I firmly believe that you can get people to follow you.
“Our message to these players is that we’re going to look for tough, smart, hard working, committed football players that want to be the best. And we’re not going to settle for anything less than that.”
That means if Allen feels he can bring those qualities out in the players that are here now, great. If he feels there are players who are not capable of embodying those qualities, they will be replaced by someone who is. With that said, I expect to see just as he described: “A couple of critical pieces” added to this team this offseason.
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