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Raiders coaches: The new blood

Scott Turner, Rob Leonard eager to join Las Vegas staff; help Silver & Black

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Washington Commanders
Former Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Scott Turner joined the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason and is the team’s new passing game coordinator.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Looking to shore up deficiencies on offense and defense, the Las Vegas Raiders added new blood to the coaching staff with Scott Turner and Rob Leonard this offseason.

Turner, who previously served as the Washington Commanders offensive coordinator, comes in as the pass game coordinator for head coach and offensive play caller Josh McDaniels. Leonard, who coached the outside linebackers with the Baltimore Ravens last season, is the Raiders new defensive line boss, replacing Frank Okam who was fired after one season.

Fortunately for both the Raiders’ new assistant coaches, Turner and Leonard have elite talent at their disposal in wide receiver Davante Adams and defensive end Maxx Crosby. Adams and Crosby are lead-by-example types who have uncanny dedication to the craft and work ethic that Turner and Leonard can point to in their respective roles and say “do it like they do”.

Of the two, Turner joins the Raiders’ side of the ball that enjoyed much more success in 2022 — although “success” can be viewed as a relative term. Unlike his three-year stint in Washington calling the plays, he’ll be a sounding board and contributor for Las Vegas as McDaniels calls the plays with Mick Lombardi holding title of offensive coordinator.

“What I’m really here to do is just help out however I can. In the meantime, I’m going to grow and learn myself,” Turner said of his role during the Raiders media scrum this past Tuesday. “However I can help Josh and Mick and the rest of the staff — that can be a variety of things on the offensive side of the ball.”

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Oklahoma State at Notre Dame
Las Vegas Raiders passing game coordinator Scott Turner can help make rookie tight end Michael Mayer a red zone weapon this coming season.
South Bend Tribune-USA TODAY Sports

The variety part is likely going to be multiple. As noted by our Marcus Johnson back in February, Turner can elevate the Raiders’ quick passing game.

“The short passing game is where the former Commanders’ offensive coordinator will make his mark,” Johnson wrote. “The designs attack defenses weakness while targeting his top playmakers. According to sports info solutions, the Commanders ranked second in passer rating and second in adjusted net yards per attempt at 8.1 targeting wide receivers. The silver and black ranked 21st and 18th in those same categories with Adams.”

Based on Turner’s comments during the media scrum, getting the most out of Raiders playmakers is what he’s keen to add to McDaniels’ and Lombardi’s offense.

“You have a variety of different things you can do, most important thing is to understand what do your players do well and kind of fit it to them to get the most out of their abilities,” Turner said. “Then maybe you know push them a little bit to get out of their comfort zone.”

In Turner’s reign as the play caller in Washington, however, the Commanders’ red zone performance wasn’t stellar as they ranked 20th (57.4 percent), 29th (51 percent), and 25th (51.1 percent) in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Overall, Turner’s offense ranked 25th, 23rd, and 24th in points scored those three years.

Perhaps Turner’s quick passing concepts and ideas can mesh with McDaniels’ and Lombardi’s scheme to add more variety in the red zone. Las Vegas wasn’t a paragon of red zone performance offensively — ranking 26th with a 47.9 percent touchdown rate — (or defensively ranked 29th allowing 64.8 percent touchdown rate) in 2022. And it’s a spot where touchdowns weren’t a common occurrence, instead, field goals were.

Flip it to Leonard, and he’s the new man in charge of the Raiders defensive line. It’s a group that showcased Crosby and little else. The defensive end paced the Raiders in sacks (12.5), total tackles (89), quarterback hits (36), and tackles for loss (22). To put it into perspective, fellow defensive end Chandler Jones was next in sacks with 4.5 and defensive tackle Bilal Nichols was the next defensive linemen in total tackles with 44 and tackles for loss with four.

Las Vegas Raiders v Pittsburgh Steelers
New defensive line coach Rob Leonard wants his players to take on the approach and attitude exhibited by Maxx Crosby (98).
Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

Leonard used relentless and leadership to describe Crosby. And the defensive line coach went into the mentality Crosby exhibits that’s impressed the defensive line boss.

“Today we were sitting there watching tape on Kobe Bryant,” Leonard said at the scrum of Crosby. “I’m talking about the obsession with chasing greatness and it’s real. It’s real to him the same mindset — very similar — so it’s just a lot of fun to be around it’s a contagious personality somebody you want to be around, not just the football player, but as a person.

“We just talked a lot about mindset mentality I mean it’s d-line it starts there it starts with our attitude.”

Installing an attitude and identity based off Crosby would be ideal. Especially for an anemic Raiders pass rush that must get better if Las Vegas wants to create more explosive plays and takeaways on defense.

One of the new elements Leonard has to work with is the No. 7 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Tyree Wilson. A long-limbed pass rusher in the mold of Jones, Wilson is known to have a solid work ethic and displayed the power and athleticism at Texas Tech NFL teams covet.

“It’s probably a pretty big benefit to have two guys going to the Hall of Fame on the edge to learn from,” Leonard said of Wilson learning from both Crosby and Jones. “What else could you ask for as a rookie in my opinion to learn from those two guys?”

Production will be the measuring stick. If Leonard can maximize the output of not only Crosby and Jones, but Wilson, too, Las Vegas will be headed in the path of improvement.

That was an “if” Okam couldn’t get and he was one-and-done as defensive line boss in Las Vegas.