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Jan 22, 2006
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Jul 21, 2006, 4:04:04 AM by Bob Gretz - FAQ

(This week, we are taking a look at the rest of the AFC West as all four teams get ready to start training camp next week. Last and least are the Raiders. The Broncos were previewed on Monday, the Chargers on Wednesday.)

Of the 10 men who have taken head coaching jobs for the 2006 season, Art Shell may have the toughest task of all. The Hall of Fame tackle has returned to the Raiders and he’s the latest hope in Al Davis’ eyes of returning the silver and black to respectability.

Since getting smoked by Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl after the 2002 season, there’s been little pride and no poise in Oakland. The Raiders have finished 4-12, 5-11 and 4-12. That 13-35 record is tied with San Francisco as the worst in the league over the last three seasons. It’s significantly behind the rest of the division as Denver is 33-15, the Chiefs 30-18 and San Diego is 25-23.

Shell was one of the greatest players in franchise history and spent six years as head coach (1989-94) before Davis dumped him in favor of Mike White. Now, he’s back and he will try to stop the undercurrent of bad attitude, poor work ethic and stabbing the coach in the back that’s been prevalent for the last four seasons when Bill Callahan and Norv Turner were in charge.

He’s trying to change the culture back to what it was when the Raiders were actually feared and not ridiculed. Shell has some talent to work with in players like WR Randy Moss, RB LaMont Jordan and DE Derrick Burgess. But the Raiders have struggled in the last few years because of inconsistent play at quarterback and a defense that’s struggled to find itself.

Strength: For yet another year, the Raiders have one of the league’s best collections of talent at the wide receiver position. When it comes to physical ability, few players in NFL history have been blessed with the gifts that have been given Randy Moss. Last year, despite injuries, Moss caught 60 passes for 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns. If his attitude can be contained and harnessed by Shell and his coaching staff, he may return to his elite status. Jerry Porter led the Raiders with 76 catches for 942 yards and five touchdowns. But he’s unhappy with his contract, which seems to be a permanent affliction for him. Ronald Curry has lost the bulk of the last two seasons due to a pair of Achilles tendon tears. Last year, Doug Gabriel grabbed 37 passes for 554 yards.

Weakness: Kerry Collins is gone and Aaron Brooks has replaced him. What did the Raiders gain? Well, Brooks is more mobile, as Collins was largely stationary in the pocket. And Brooks is 15 months younger. Over his career in New Orleans, Brooks had a 120/84 ratio on TD passes to INTs. But in the last two seasons, he was 34/33 and the other important numbers pretty much matched those of Collins with the Raiders.

Questions: The right side of the offensive line remains questionable and the Raiders may have a rookie starting at right guard. Robert Gallery moves from the right tackle to left tackle, with Barry Sims who played left tackle last year, moving inside to left guard. Jake Grove will handle the snapping. What happens on the other side is unknown. Langston Walker should move back into right tackle, but there’s a chance that draft choice Paul McQuistan may step in front of Brad Badger for the starting spot at right guard.

Strength: Derrick Burgess proved to be one of the most productive free agent signings last year, as he came over from the Eagles and ended up leading the NFL in sacks with 16. It was the only highlight the Raiders had on the defensive side of the football, as they finished 27th in yards allowed in the league, placing them behind the Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs. Although Burgess had 16, the rest of the team added just 20 sacks.

Weakness: Last year, the Raiders set an NFL record for fewest interceptions in a non-strike season, as they finished with just five. Considering the number of early draft choices the club has spent in the secondary in recent years and that’s hard to believe. Oakland again drafted secondary, using their No. 1 pick back in April to take safety Michael Huff, who will play a number of roles in the Raiders defensive game plan.

Questions: Will it be 3-4 or 4-3 and how often will it change? That’s a question the always-secretive Raiders have been unwilling to answer in this off-season. Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan had his contract extended even before Shell was hired as head coach. Tyler Brayton has been moved from outside linebacker back to defensive end. Warren Sapp is coming off rotator cuff surgery and Ted Washington was lost in free agency. Figure the Raiders to keep a changing face on the defensive front throughout the season. Remember last year, they came out in game No. 2 and played the Chiefs with a 4-2-5 defense the whole game.

When it comes to punting, it doesn’t get much better than Shane Lechler. He tied for the NFL lead with a 45.7-yard gross average, with a net average of 37.9 yards. Lechler was also one of the best punters in the league at knocking the ball out of bounds inside the 20-yard line. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski had the worst field goal percentage in the NFL last year, making 20 of 30 field goals. Outside of 40 yards, he made 7 of 15 attempts. Inside the 40-yard line, he missed twice. Last year, rookie Chris Carr handled the returns and showed some promise on kickoffs, averaging 24 yards a return. On punt returns, he struggled, with just a 5.5-yard average. On coverage, the Raiders were last in the NFL in covering punts (11.8-yard average) and 27th in kickoff coverage (24.4-yard average.)

ADDITIONS OF NOTE: QB Aaron Brooks (signed as free agent from New Orleans/started 13 games for the Saints, with a 70 passer rating with 13 TD passes/17 INTs), DE Lance Johnston (signed as free agent from Minnesota/15 games, 1 start, 30 tackles, 7.5 sacks), CB Tyrone Poole (signed as free agent from New England/started opener before suffering knee injury that ended his season), TE O.J. Santiago (has not played since 2003), RB Rod Smart (signed as free agent from Carolina/played in 12 games for Panthers, averaged 21.2 yards on 29 kickoff returns), CB Duane Starks (signed as free agent from New England/played in 7 games, started 6 for Patriots before landing on injured reserve list, 26 tackles), LB Robert Thomas (signed as free agent from Green Bay/played in 10 games, started nine before going to injured reserve list with a quadriceps injury, 51 tackles, 1 interception), TE Marcellus Rivers (signed as free agent from Houston/played in 16 games, started five for Texans with 24 catches for 168 yards), DT Donnell Washington (spent two seasons with Green Bay but did not play in a regular season game.)
Angel said:
Not yet you aren''s our turn first :p
Hahahaha. Whadda 'ya mean? haven't been to the SB in like 35 years! :p
CrossBones said:
Hahahaha. Whadda 'ya mean? haven't been to the SB in like 35 years! :p
36....and that's why it's our turn!! ;)
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