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ALAMEDA, Calif. — Does Todd Downing have only one game remaining as the Oakland Raiders’ offensive coordinator?

Coach Jack Del Rio on Wednesday came close to giving Downing, who was elevated from quarterbacks coach last offseason to replace the departed Bill Musgrave, a vote of confidence. Though, it could also be seen as a parting gift.
“Obviously, a lot of things have gone in a negative direction,” Del Rio said. “But I do know the guy is super bright. He’s going to be a real good coach in this league and I believe in him. So those are not things that people want to hear right now because the reality is we’ve underperformed offensively this year and so there’s going to be, naturally, there are going to be these kinds of questions and I think we all understand it. I understand it, he understands it.
“But it doesn’t change my belief. It’s what I know. But there have been a tough set of circumstances and things have not gone real smooth. And it’s not what we’re looking for. But this is really about the Chargers. … We can get into season-ending talk when it’s appropriate next week.”

Under Downing, the Raiders have regressed from the No. 6 total offense in the NFL in 2016 — they averaged 373.3 yards per game and scored 416 points, the seventh most in the league — to the No. 19 total offense, averaging 323.3 yards per game and scoring 291 points, 23rd most in the NFL.

Derek Carr's regression under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing has been a primary concern for the Raiders this season.

Derek Carr’s regression under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing has been a primary concern for the Raiders this season.

Perhaps most glaring has been the regression of quarterback Derek Carr, who signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension this past summer after finishing tied for third in NFL MVP voting.

But many observers have claimed Downing’s offense and route trees for receivers became too simplistic and the addition of running back Marshawn Lynch and stretch-zone runs negatively affected the once-dominant offensive line.

And the Raiders fell from a 12-4 record last season to a 6-9 mark heading into this Sunday’s finale at the Los Angeles Chargers (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).

Turnover differential is a major reason as well. Oakland tied for the league lead last season at plus-16, but it enters Week 17 29th in the NFL at minus-12.

“Basic execution,” Del Rio said, “is the difference between being happy and not.”
Del Rio essentially chose the potential of Downing, 37, over the résumé of Musgrave, and Downing said after his hiring that any changes to the offense would be “subtle” going forward.

“We’re going to keep the same system terminology,” he said at the time. “There’s no reason to change any of that stuff. All we’re doing right now is finding the ways that we can all individually do our jobs better, prepare our positions better and how we can just quarter-turn a couple things to make the offense as efficient as possible.”

Downing was also asked if he considered himself an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it type of coach.

“Yeah, I definitely think that that’s a phrase you can tag to me,” he said. “I believe … in efficiency. And if we’re efficient in a concept, I am not going to go changing it just for change sake. If we’re inefficient or we failed to live up to expectations in a certain concept, then I am going to figure out a way to tinker with it and make it work. If I can’t make it work, we simply won’t do it anymore.”

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Oakland native Marshawn Lynch will play his first home game as a Raider on Sunday when the Jets visit.

Oakland native Marshawn Lynch will play his first home game as a Raider on Sunday when the Jets visit.

Returning from an abbreviated retirement, Marshawn Lynch was in vintage “Beast Mode” form last week in the Oakland Raiders’ opener, making the highlight shows by trucking 300-pound defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. Lynch didn’t resemble a 31-year-old running back who spent a year traveling the world and popping up in an occasional TV commercial.

“What’s funny is, I was just thinking that same thing,” New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams said Monday, laughing. “I was like, this is a guy who just retired and re-entered the league and he’s still one of the top running backs. It’s pretty amazing to see that. He’s a great running back.”

One week after getting slashed by Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy, the Jets must prepare for another formidable challenge. This will test them in a different way. Unlike McCoy, an elusive, east-west runner, Lynch is a downhill nightmare. For the Jets, it’s like going from a boxer to a brawler.

Lynch rushed for 76 yards in his Raiders debut, with 10 of his 18 carries coming in the fourth quarter of their 26-16 win over the Tennessee Titans. Sunday is the home opener, Lynch’s first game as a Raider in his hometown of Oakland. The Black Hole will be crazy — or, shall we say, crazier than usual.

A closer look at the Raiders:


QB Derek Carr. Memo to the Jets: This is the kind of player you need to find. Carr is a 26-year-old franchise quarterback who hasn’t reached his ceiling. He threw 81 touchdowns in his first three seasons, the fourth-most in history (behind Dan Marino, Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning). One of his best attributes is his ability to rally his team from behind. In 2016, he posted 15 touchdown passes and only one interception while trailing. He was rewarded with a five-year, $125 million contract extension.

WR Amari Cooper. The Jets didn’t face any big-time receivers last week; that changes in Oakland. Cooper is one of the top young wideouts in the sport, the first Raider since Jerry Rice (2001-2002) to reach 1,000 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons. He runs terrific routes and makes a lot of yards after the catch. He’s coming off a subpar opener — only five catches on 12 targets.

WR Michael Crabtree. The Jets loved him in the 2009 draft. In fact, they were accused of tampering during his prolonged rookie holdout with the San Francisco 49ers, who apparently thought the Jets were trying to convince him to ask for a trade. The Niners eventually dropped the charges. Crabtree, who signed with the Raiders in 2015, is dangerous on third down. He and Cooper each reached the 1,000-yard mark in 2016, becoming only the third tandem in team history to accomplish that.

DE Khalil Mack. Two words: Game. Wrecker. The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year might be best edge rusher in the game, having recorded a league-high 26 sacks over the last two years. Mack, who registered five quarterback pressures and two tackles for loss in the opener, will be a free agent in 2018. Relax, Jets fans, he’s not going anywhere. Another two words: Franchise. Tag.


PK Giorgio Tavecchio. He was one of the best stories of Week 1. Previously cut three times by the Raiders, Tavecchio was promoted from the practice squad last week when Sebastian Janikowski was placed on injured reserve. Tavecchio became the first player in NFL history to make two 50-yard field goals in his debut — a couple of 52-yarders, to be exact.

Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley won’t face discipline from NFL

Gareon Conley, the Oakland Raiders’ first-round draft pick who is accused of sexual assault, will not face discipline from the NFL.

That’s because the alleged incident occurred before the NFL draft. The news was confirmed Tuesday by league spokesman Brian McCarthy.

Two days before the NFL draft, which began Thursday, it was reported that a 23-year-old woman had accused Conley of sexually assaulting her on April 9 in a Cleveland hotel. No charges have been filed in the case, and police are continuing to investigate.

Conley, who has denied the allegations, calling them “completely false,” met voluntarily Monday with Cleveland police to submit a statement and a DNA sample.

Conley also took a polygraph test before the draft, at the request of the Baltimore Ravens, which his lawyer said he passed.

Under the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the woman’s allegation could still come into play if Conley is ever involved in another incident after his NFL career begins. Under the policy, “conduct occurring prior to the players’ association with the NFL” will be considered when weighing discipline. The policy also provides for “enhanced and/or expedited discipline, including banishment from the league with the opportunity to reapply” for repeat offenders.

Conley is a former Ohio State cornerback. He was drafted with the No. 24 overall pick.