- Feb 2, 2006
- Reaction score
Game plan and other information...
The Oakland Raiders' game plan under Art Shell goes something like this: The best way to keep an opponent off-balance is to plant him on his backside.
To heck with letting defenses dictate the next play. The Raiders are hoping to do the dictating.
"I think we're going to have our bread-and-butter plays, which I don't think we had in the past," left tackle Robert Gallery said. "We were so random as far as what we did. We really didn't have a go-to play.
"It's going to be hard-nosed and straight up, and that will open up the passing game. We'll see. I think everyone's excited about it. I know I am, that's for damn sure."
Of course, it's easy to talk a good game at a mid-May mini-camp with no shoulder pads and no real hitting. Some time between August and September it will become clear whether Shell's smash-mouth intentions can be transferred to the field.
Former coach Norv Turner came in with a reputation for riding running backs to big rushing stats and promised the Raiders would run.
The result was the two worst rushing seasons in club history. The 2004 Raiders averaged just 80.9 yards per game on the ground, finishing last in the league in rushing.
So Oakland went out and signed free agent LaMont Jordan, who had a respectable 1,025 yards in 14 games, but added only marginally to team rushing success. The Raiders averaged 85.6 yards per game on the ground, 29th in the NFL.
Promising to run the ball is easy. Delivering is something else. But the Raiders are encouraged by Shell's insistence on running and his involvement in that area.
"We're not going to trick a lot of people," center Jake Grove said. "We're going to come right at them and be better than they are, and a lot of that rests with the people up front."
Toward that end, Shell has been spending much of his time with the offensive line and co-coaches Irv Eatman and Jackie Slater, neither of whom has been the main line coach for an NFL team. Eatman was a line assistant to Mike Solari with Kansas City and Slater, a Hall of Fame left tackle, is a first-time NFL coach.
Given Shell's status as a Hall of Fame left tackle, his promises carry more weight both figuratively and literally with Jordan.
"The thing I like is it appears we're going to do what we do, and not what other people do," Jordan said. "Last year, I felt we did some things running-wise because other people were doing it. Art is about power football and that's pretty much what we're doing."
—O.J. Santiago, a tight end by trade who made his mark in 2003 with the unexpected role as a kick blocker, was signed to a free-agent contract.
Santiago started seven games for the Raiders in 2003, but made the team in part because of a willingness to play special teams — something he had done little of with the Atlanta Falcons.
Santiago responded with a pair of blocked punts. He also wound up starting seven games and caught five passes for 69 yards.
—Wide receivers coach Fred Biletnikoff, always pleasant with reporters but seldom quoted, gave Art Shell's return a thumbs-up at his golf tournament in Placer County.
"I'm having fun again," Biletnikoff told the Auburn Journal. "We needed somebody like Art back here."
Biletnikoff believes Shell's presence has made the Raiders sit up and take notice.
"When Art walks into a room, he can be intimidating," Biletnikoff said. "He believes the team wants discipline and they want structure. He can be very, very stern. He provides tough leadership. He believes in accountability. He tells the players, `This is your job and you are expected to do your job.'"
—After the Raiders ended their season on New Year's Eve, safety Jarrod Cooper and nickel back Renaldo Hill — both scheduled for free agency — professed their desire to return.
Cooper was brought back in the fold. Hill signed with Miami and coach Nick Saban, the man who recruited him out of high school to play at Michigan State.
While recognizing Hill's respect for Saban, Cooper thought there was something bigger at work.
"They wrote him a big, fat check," Cooper said. "It's still business. He couldn't turn down money."
—The annual rookie run, a favorite of the veterans at the close of the mandatory May mini-camp, was put in mothballs by Shell for the first time in recent memory.
At least two veteran players expressed mock indignation at being unable to line the field and ridicule first-year players as they struggled with a series of conditioning sprints.
When it was noted to Shell the Raiders had been doing the rookie run in past years, he said, "That was past years. Not when I was coaching. They'll have plenty of time to run."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When I got hired, people from Minnesota said, `Hey, you're going to love Randy Moss.' And I don't see anything that has changed that." — Raiders coach Art Shell on his most high-profile star.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: S Calvin Branch; RB Omar Easy; TE Zeron Flemister; LB/DE DeLawrence Grant; DT Kenny Smith; S Reggie Tongue.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: TE James Adkisson; DT Anttaj Hawthorne; DE Tommy Kelly.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: S Jarrod Cooper; FB John Paul Foschi; S Derrick Gibson; OG Corey Hulsey; DE/LB Grant Irons; OT Brad Lekkerkerker; DT Terdell Sands; OT Chad Slaughter; TE Randal Williams.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: QB Aaron Brooks; DE Lance Johnstone; CB Tyrone Poole; TE Marcellus Rivers; TE O.J. Santiago; RB Rod Smart; OG Cameron Spikes; CB Duane Starks; LB Robert Thomas.
PLAYERS LOST: QB Kerry Collins; DB Renaldo Hill; DT Ed Jasper; LB Tim Johnson; OG Ron Stone; CB Denard Walker; DT Ted Washington; CB Charles Woodson.