Inside Slant...

Angry Pope

All Raider
Feb 2, 2006
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Inside Slant

The Raiders' offensive outlook entering training camp:

Although many of the same faces return, the biggest mystery surrounding the Oakland Raiders has to do with their offense.

With Randy Moss, Jerry Porter and Doug Gabriel around, the Raiders will attempt to strike deep. With LaMont Jordan in his second season as a featured runner, they will try and improve on the NFL's 29th ranked rushing attack.

Coach Art Shell has reshuffled the offensive line. Robert Gallery, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 draft, was installed at left tackle and Barry Sims moved inside to left guard. Jake Grove, health permitting, will be the center after two years of shuttling between center and guard.

The other two spots are more uncertain. Langston Walker, who played guard for the first time last season before suffering an intra-abdominal hemorrhage, was moved back to right tackle. Paul McQuistan, a third-round pick out of Weber State, will be given every opportunity to seize the job at right guard.

If McQuistan isn't ready, veteran Brad Badger will start.

Shell said upon his hiring he hadn't decided on a starting quarterback — even when it became obvious who that quarterback was when the Raiders signed free agent Aaron Brooks of New Orleans.

So where's the mystery?

It has to do with Shell's choice of Tom Walsh as offensive coordinator. Walsh hasn't coached since 1999. He hasn't been an NFL coach since 1994, when he was ushered out along with Shell on the Raiders staff.

Walsh, whose most recent gig was running a bed and breakfast and serving as the mayor of Swan Valley, Idaho, has not been allowed to speak to the media. Shell has kept the Raiders' plans tightly under wraps, opening only the mandatory mini-camp to the press and closing all others.

To hear the players tell it, Oakland's new offense will be heavy on inside running and play-action passing, hammering Jordan inside to set up Moss and Co. deep.

Running has been a big problem of late, with the Raiders finishing 32nd two years ago and moving up only three spots after signing Jordan. Shell promises better.

The offensive linemen are delighted, and tell of an offense which will have fewer bells and whistles but more opportunities for brute force.

In the first open mini-camp, the constant motion and shifting which were a staple of the Jon Gruden-designed offense and used less frequently by Norv Turner were almost non-existent.

It had the look of the days when the Raiders lined up like track athletes and burst from the starting blocks.

Tight ends were suddenly breaking free and catching passes, something which happened frequently with players like Ethan Horton and Todd Christensen during Walsh's first tenure but who have been primarily block-and-release players for the Raiders for the better part of the last decade.

The simplicity sounds good on its face. In the last two years, particularly, the Raiders didn't seem to have go-to plays to execute during times of crisis, relying on position groupings and matchups to determine their fate.

The big problems arise if the Raiders' personnel, particularly up front, aren't up to being the enforcers for this new personality. Then Jordan is stopped in his tracks, Brooks runs for his life, Andrew Walter is prematurely thrust into the lineup and Moss and Porter begin grumbling about their catches.

Either way, it should be entertaining.


—Quarterback Aaron Brooks professes no worries regarding his ability to satisfy three ultra-talented but moody receivers in Randy Moss, Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry.

"My relationship with my receivers has always been a very tight, close-knit relationship," Brooks said. "I've never had problems with my receivers. They do what they're supposed to do and I try and get them the ball. I'm pretty good with players and wonderful with coaches."

—There has long been talk that Art Shell's first tenure as Raiders head coach was undermined by some assistants who had designs on getting him fired.

When Shell was let go, assistant Mike White took over. At a recent Raiders' charity event, Raiders defensive backs coach Willie Brown hinted Shell didn't get what he deserved the first time around.

"Art is coming back with a different attitude than he had," Brown said. "That was his first coaching job. I am not sure all the people around him worked hard enough for him."

—Kevin McMahan thoroughly enjoyed the festivities in his honor as the "Mr. Irrelevant" of the 2006 NFL Draft, earning gifts such as a $1,500 watch, a PlayStation portable and a laptop computer. His mother and grandmother also received gifts simply because McMahan was the final pick of the draft.

In complimenting Newport Beach, McMahan, a wide receiver from Maine and a native of Rochester, N.Y., also inadvertently took a shot at the home of his new team.

"Everybody is so nice," McMahan said. "It's almost weird being around so many nice people. California is a lot different than what I thought. All I had experienced of California was Oakland. That's not what California is like."

—Randy Moss has a new clothing line, and now Warren Sapp is hoping to set himself up for the future if his surgically repaired shoulder does not respond. It also appears Sapp has hired a P.R. form which can match him bluster for bluster.

Referring to a string of "HipHopSoda Shops" in Central Florida and Jacksonville, the H3 Enterprises release stated the shops would "combine the urban swell of the hip-hop music, Pro-Ball, healthy fast food, CyberSports, merchandising and pre-downloadable cash-cards into the hottest phenomena since the cultural revolution of Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe and Starbucks."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know if people realize what it is like for a player to come in from another organization and be part of the Raider Nation. I'm just soaking it all in." — QB Aaron Brooks.
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