Jack Del Rio: Raiders learned to compete and changed the culture last year

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Well, this was new.

A year ago, a skeptical NFL press corps wondered how and why Jack Del Rio would help transform the Oakland Raiders in his first year as their head coach.

Tuesday, many of those same reporters wanted to know how Del Rio and the Raiders had somehow become a destination for sought-after and highly-rated free agents after the early signings of guard Kelechi Osemele, outside linebacker Bruce Irvin and cornerback Sean Smith.

Being seen as a team on the rise after more than doubling their victories from three to seven had something to do with it.

"We learned how to compete and changed the culture last year and that was a good start," Del Rio said at the AFC coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meetings.

"This year is just the natural progression of us continuing to do the work that's necessary. We've accomplished some things; we have a lot of work to do yet. That's how I'm looking at it."

Osemele, Irvin and Smith all figure to start for the Raiders, joining a young core of quarterback Derek Carr, receiver Amari Cooper and All-Pro outside linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack that hopes to garner more than the team's first winning season since 2002.

"The three guys that we acquired are big, strong, aggressive athletes with attitude," Del Rio said. "They've been good players, they fit needs and we have more, We need more. It's the beginning of a nice start to the offseason. It's just the beginning."