- Feb 2, 2006
- Reaction score
Raiders insider: It's Shell game on O-line
In his second tour of duty, Oakland's coach trains his focus on the trenches.
By Jason Jones -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:01 am PDT Saturday, May 20, 2006
ALAMEDA -- Was there really any question where Art Shell would focus his attention? The Hall of Fame tackle wasn't going to take over the Raiders as head coach for a second time without devoting a lot of time to the offensive line.
And for good reason. The Raiders allowed 45 sacks last season. That wasn't as bad woeful Houston (68) but ranked among the worst in the league with the 49ers (48) and Arizona (45).
Injuries to Jake Grove and Langston Walker forced some position moves during the season, but the fact is the line didn't get the job done.
In the offseason, Shell added Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater and former pro Irv Eatman as co-offensive line coaches to turn around a unit that has underachieved since Oakland went to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season.
"The way I look at it, we've got three O-line coaches with 50 years' experience and two Hall of Famers, so there's really not a whole lot of back-talk and excuses that will really work," guard Barry Sims said.
Shell cautioned Slater that he can't coach players as if they are at Hall of Fame levels. But he isn't setting low expectations, either.
The coaching trio has emphasized footwork and technique to get the best out of the linemen, who will key a potentially high-scoring offense.
"They keep us busy, they keep us working," Sims said. "And I think the offensive line will be much improved from the previous few years, and any time you have an offensive line that can be productive, your team's going to be more productive."
Besides adding coaches, Shell also shuffled players along the line. Not all moves were met with enthusiasm.
When Shell told Sims he would move to left guard from left tackle, Sims wasn't happy.
"Barry, to his credit, said, 'Look, coach, I think I'm a left tackle. I can play the position,' " Shell said. " 'But if you (think it's best) for the team and want me to move to guard, I'll do that.' So that's a credit to him. If he didn't push back I would be disappointed."
Grove, however, was happy to be back at center after finishing 2005 at guard. Walker is pleased to be playing right tackle after six games at guard before abdominal hemorrhaging ended his season.
The biggest change was moving Robert Gallery to left tackle from right tackle.
It only made sense to move Gallery, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2004, to the spot where he earned All-America honors at Iowa.
"I'm comfortable already," Gallery said. "I'll get the little (stuff) down and move on."
The Raiders haven't had an offensive lineman in the Pro Bowl since Lincoln Kennedy and Barret Robbins were selected in 2002. Shell, when hired in February, said Gallery needed to become a Pro Bowl-caliber tackle.
"We are trying to find a home for him, and left tackle seems to be the home," Shell said. "We're trying to find a home for everybody."
All the linemen are likely to improve simply because the coaches have paid them so much attention in the offseason.
Grove said the extra attention isn't a bad thing.
"I think that's what we need," Grove said. "We've lacked that some in the past. It's something I'm really excited about."