Raiders Revival...

Angry Pope

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Feb 2, 2006
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Art of a Raiders Revival
After three bad years, Shell sees turnaround

By Jason Jones
Published 12:01 am PDT Monday, September 4, 2006

ALAMEDA -- If you want try something that's impossible, try to convince Art Shell the Raiders won't be good this season.

Yes, the Raiders who were 4-12 last season. Yes, the Raiders who are 13-35 since losing to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII. These same Raiders who didn't win a game in the AFC West last season and have only two division victories in the past three seasons.

Despite the question marks on offense and defense, Shell won't concede the Raiders are rebuilding.

A new quarterback, a reshuffled offensive line and three rookie starters haven't led Shell to waver. He expects the Raiders to compete -- and win -- in 2006.
"I expect to win," Shell said. "I always do. As I told the team, I have never, I can say this, I have never gone into any contest believing I couldn't win. That's always been my approach. We can find a way to get it done."

That Shell has such faith in a group that hasn't inspired much from the Raider Nation the last three seasons has boosted his players' morale.

"His approach has been great," defensive end Derrick Burgess said. "The attitude of the team is good. Everybody, I think they feel the way I feel, just ready to get into the season."

There is plenty to monitor to see if Shell's optimism will be rewarded with victories.

Quarterback Aaron Brooks now is in charge of the offense that was a major disappointment last season.

And after a 4-1 preseason, Brooks said he believes the improvement the offensive unit displayed at times means the Raiders have the potential to win.

"We took (the preseason) seriously, and we got something out of it, and we established somewhat of a winning attitude and positive outlook on things, and that's what we wanted to do," said Brooks, who spent the past six seasons in New Orleans, where he was benched at the end of 2005. "That's what we look forward to doing in the season."

The returning offensive players have expressed relief in knowing what the unit is trying to accomplish after some confusing moments under former coach Norv Turner last season.

"Last year I think we had an identity," tight end Courtney Anderson said. "I think we sort of went away from what we were doing at times. We pretty much know we're going to run these plays, and we're going to run them until they stop them."

Run is the optimal word. For much of what the Raiders want to accomplish, they have to be able to run the ball behind LaMont Jordan.

In 14 games last season, Jordan ran for a career-high 1,025 yards and nine touchdowns, but he had fewer than 20 carries in eight games. If the running game is consistent, it will create some space in the passing game for wide receivers Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry and Anderson to make plays downfield.

That means the offensive line, which starts converted tackle Paul McQuistan at guard, needs to perform well or the running game will suffer, meaning the Raiders will have to do more passing than running.

Defensively, the Raiders are confident they will improve in their third season under coordinator Rob Ryan, who will benefit from improved speed and versatility in his unit.

The Raiders replaced Danny Clark at middle linebacker with second-year pro Kirk Morrison and drafted Thomas Howard to play outside linebacker along with Sam Williams.

First-round draft pick Michael Huff is the starting strong safety and adds speed to a maturing secondary.

The Raiders signed Lance Johnstone to help Burgess, who led the NFL with 16 sacks last season, with the pass rush. But the key up front will be how fast Tommy Kelly can become a force at defensive tackle along with Terdell Sands.

The special teams haven't been special for the Raiders with the exception of punter Shane Lechler recently.

Kicker Sebastian Janikowski swore off late-night McDonald's runs and lost 16 pounds in an effort to regain his form. Last season, he made a career-low 66.7 percent of his field-goal attempts and didn't hit a 50-yarder for the first time in his career.

Kick and punt returner Chris Carr said he wants at least three returns for touchdowns this season. The Raiders haven't had a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown since 2003.

Optimism is abundant for the Raiders. With the preseason over, they can turn their attention to winning games that count.

"It's what we have all been working for," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "Then you will really get a chance to see what kind of ballclub we have for four quarters against a good San Diego squad, and maybe the best running back in the game (LaDainian Tomlinson) and maybe the best tight end in the game (Antonio Gates)."

Sounds daunting, but don't tell Shell the Raiders won't win that game.


Five keys

1.Blocking needed

The offensive line has to be better. Robert Gallery emerging as an elite left tackle is a must in his third year. The unit needs to be aggressive or the runinng game will suffer.

2. Take it away
The defense made strides forcing turnovers in the preseason, but it needs to sustain the momentum. Last season, the Raiders had only five interceptions, an NFL low for a 16-game season.

3. Cut the dumb stuff
The Raiders have led the NFL in penalties the past three seasons. Eliminating false starts and offsides would be a good start. The Raiders can't afford to give away yardage.

4.Through the uprights
Sebastian Janikowski needs to make his kicks while the offense finds its bearings. If he struggles, it will put more pressure on the offense to produce and put the defense in a bind.

5. Run when you have to
That doesn't just go for tailback LaMont Jordan. If quarterback Aaron Brooks uses his mobility, the offense has a chance for big plays. Look for Brooks to scramble and find receivers downfield.



Date, Opponent, Time/TV

Sept. 11, San Diego, 7:15 p.m. ESPN
Sept. 17, at Baltimore, 10 a.m. CBS Sept. 24, BYE WEEK
Oct. 1, Cleveland, 1:15 p.m. CBS
Oct. 8, at 49ers, 1:05 p.m. CBS
Oct. 15, at Denver, 5:15 p.m. NBC
Oct. 22, Arizona, 1:15 p.m. FOX
Oct. 29, Pittsburgh, 1:15 p.m. CBS
Nov. 6, at Seattle, 5:30 p.m. ESPN
Nov. 12, Denver, 1:05 p.m.* CBS
Nov. 19, at Kansas City, 10 a.m.* CBS
Nov. 26, at San Diego, 1:05 p.m.* CBS
Dec. 3, Houston, 1:05 p.m.* CBS
Dec. 10, at Cincinnati, 10 a.m.* CBS
Dec. 17, St. Louis, 1:15 p.m.* Fox
Dec. 23, Kansas City, 5 p.m. NFLN
Dec. 31, at N.Y. Jets, 10 a.m.* CBS *
-Times subject to change due to flex schedule


53-Man roster

Listed in alphabetical order:

No., Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Age, Year College

47 Adkisson, James TE 6-5 230 26 1 S. Carolina

83 Anderson, Courtney TE 6-6 270 25 3 San Jose St.

21 Asomugha, Nnamdi CB 6-2 210 25 4 Cal

70 Badger, Brad G 6-4 320 31 10 Stanford

67 Boothe, Kevin G 6-5 315 23 R Cornell

91 Brayton, Tyler DE 6-6 280 26 4 Colorado

2 Brooks, Aaron QB 6-4 220 30 8 Virginia

56 Burgess, Derrick DE 6-2 260 28 6 Mississippi

23 Carr, Chris CB 5-10 180 23 2 Boise State

40 Cooper, Jarrod S 6-1 215 28 6 Kansas State

32 Crockett, Zack RB 6-2 240 33 12 Florida State

89 Curry, Ronald WR 6-2 210 27 5 N. Carolina

50 Ekejiuba, Isaiah LB 6-4 240 24 2 Virginia

31 Eugene, Hiram DB 6-2 200 25 1 La. Tech

25 Fargas, Justin RB 6-1 220 26 4 USC

49 Foschi, John Paul RB 6-4 270 24 2 Georgia Tech

76 Gallery, Robert T 6-7 325 26 3 Iowa

36 Gibson, Derrick SS 6-2 215 27 6 Florida State

64 Grove, Jake C 6-4 300 26 3 Virginia Tech

77 Hawthorne, Anttaj DT 6-3 310 24 2 Wisconsin

53 Howard, Thomas LB 6-3 240 23 R UTEP

24 Huff, Michael S 6-1 205 23 R Texas

71 Hulsey, Corey G 6-4 325 29 5 Clemson

94 Huntley, Kevin DE 6-7 270 24 1 Kansas State

96 Irons, Grant LB 6-6 285 27 5 Notre Dame

11 Janikowski, Sebastian K 6-2 250 28 7 Florida State

51 Johnstone, Lance DE 6-5 250 33 11 Temple

34 Jordan, LaMont RB 5-10 230 27 6 Maryland

93 Kelly, Tommy DT 6-6 300 25 3 Mississippi St.

9 Lechler, Shane P 6-2 225 30 7 Texas A&M

42 Lee, ReShard RB 5-10 220 25 3 M. Tenn. St.

10 Madsen, John WR 6-5 220 23 R Utah

79 McQuistan, Paul T 6-6 315 23 R Weber State

19 Morant, Johnnie WR 6-4 220 24 3 Syracuse

52 Morrison, Kirk LB 6-2 240 24 2 San Diego St.

18 Moss, Randy WR 6-4 210 29 9 Marshall

38 Poole, Tyrone DB 5-8 190 34 12 Ft. Valley St.

84 Porter, Jerry WR 6-2 220 28 7 W. Virginia

26 Routt, Stanford CB 6-1 195 23 2 Houston

90 Sands, Terdell DT 6-7 335 26 4 Tenn.-Chatt.

99 Sapp, Warren DT 6-2 300 33 12 Miami (Fla.)

30 Schweigert, Stuart S 6-1 210 25 3 Purdue

65 Sims, Barry T 6-5 300 31 8 Utah

78 Slaughter, Chad T 6-8 340 28 6 Alcorn State

58 Thomas, Robert LB 6-0 235 26 5 UCLA

62 Treu, Adam C 6-5 300 32 10 Nebraska

8 Tuiasosopo, Marques QB 6-1 220 27 6 Washington

66 Walker, Langston T 6-8 345 26 5 Cal

16 Walter, Andrew QB 6-6 230 24 2 Arizona State

27 Washington, Fabian CB 5-11 185 23 2 Nebraska

87 Whitted, Alvis WR 6-0 185 31 9 N.C. State

86 Williams, Randal TE 6-3 235 28 6 New Hamp.

54 Williams, Sam LB 6-5 260 26 4 Fresno State Injured reserve

59 Bing, Darnell LB 6-2 230 21 R USC

82 Francis, Carlos WR 5-10 190 25 3 Texas Tech

28 Green, DeJuan RB 5-11 205 26 1 South Florida

73 Quarshie, Michael DT 6-2 295 26 1 Columbia

43 Santiago, O.J. TE 6-7 265 32 7 Kent State

43 Wusu, Timi LB 6-3 210 23 R Stanford


For starters...projected starting lineups


WR: Randy Moss

LT: Robert Gallery

LG: Barry Sims

C: Corey Hulsey*

RG: Paul McQuistan

RT: Langston Walker

TE: Courtney Anderson

WR: Jerry Porter or Ronald Curry

QB: Aaron Brooks

FB: Zack Crockett

RB: LaMont Jordan

*-in place of injured Jake Grove)


DE: Tyler Brayton

DT: Warren Sapp

DT: Tommy Kelly

DE: Derrick Burgess

OLB: Sam Williams

MLB: Kirk Morrison

OLB: Thomas Howard

CB: Fabian Washington

CB: Nnamdi Asomugha

SS: Michael Huff

FS: Stuart Schweigert


K: Sebastian Janikowski
P: Shane Lechler

PR: Chris Carr

KR: Chris Carr, ReShard Lee

Position-by-position breakdown


• The Raiders released Jeff George because they believe Andrew Walter's shoulder is fine. If Aaron Brooks struggles, that would give the Raiders the chance to see how ready Walter -- a third-round draft choice in 2005 -- is.

Running back

• LaMont Jordan is ready for the bulk of the carries, but can Justin Fargas stay healthy and provide depth? The Raiders need another ballcarrier besides fullback Zack Crockett to emerge. If not, Jordan could wear down.

Receivers/Tight ends

• Proven game-breaker Randy Moss (career 16 yards a catch) is the man, but he needs a consistent sidekick. That might be a healthy Ronald Curry. And Jerry Porter still can be a factor, provided he can get on the field.

Offensive line

• The group still needs time to grow. Rookie right guard Paul McQuistan has looked good and bad. Depth is being tested with center Jake Grove (strained shoulder) out. Tackles Robert Gallery and Langston Walker need to be solid.

Defensive line

• Pro Bowler Derrick Burgess is a beast at end. Warren Sapp is healthy after shoulder surgery. The key will be defensive tackles Tommy Kelly and Terdell Sands. If they aren't stout, look for teams to run up the middle.


• After having only two serviceable LBs last season, there now is speed and athleticism. Rookie Thomas Howard, Kirk Morrison and Sam Williams start. Grant Irons and Robert Thomas are alternatives.


• Cornerback Fabian Washington is poised to break out. Rookie safety Michael Huff has star potential. Safety Stuart Schweigert continues to emerge as a leader. Nnamdi Asomugha gives the Raiders a young, talented nucleus.
Special teams

• Shane Lechler already is the league's best punter. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski -- coming off a 20 for 30 season -- is slimmer and poised to be consistent from long range again. Return man Chris Carr is a true threat.

Coaching staff

• Art Shell's discipline alone might mean another victory or two. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan needs to justify his return. Offensive coordinator Tom Walsh seeks to give his unit an identity.
It will be interesting to see how the calls go this season. Washington has been VERY close to some PI flags in pre-season and hasn't been flagged. If he keeps playing it that close, he could wind up with a load of laundry.
Kick and punt returner Chris Carr said he wants at least three returns for touchdowns this season. The Raiders haven't had a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown since 2003.

Wasn't this Timmy?
Finding swagger of old foremost of Raiders' goals

By Steve Corkran

It used to be that the Raiders stood for something that other teams envied. They lost that special something for a while but got it back under coach Jon Gruden in the late '90s and kept it through the 2002 season.

Teams dreaded playing the Raiders, especially at the Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders of old were a team of renegades, misfits and castoffs, players that managing general partner Al Davis saw the good in and ignored the bad.

The latter still holds true, to a certain extent -- think Randy Moss, Sebastian Janikowski and Aaron Brooks. It's the being feared by opponents part that's missing these days, as are the victories that once came in bunches.

Davis admitted as much during an offseason question-and-answer session with local media on the heels of a 4-12 season. New coach Art Shell confirmed the shift in mind-set around the league by virtue of his having coached in Kansas City and Atlanta between stints here. Nowhere is it more glaring than on the road, Davis said.

"I got the feeling, and it wasn't only a feeling, it was no joke anymore that the Raiders weren't ready to meet the challenge when they traveled to these other cities," Davis said. "Not only from a standpoint of total ability, but total desire and the will to win and to realize that what we're playing are people who dislike us intensely.

"It's a fact, and somehow or other we have to get this back in the Raiders organization, that when we go to Kansas City, when we go to Denver, when we go to San Diego, it's not just a game for a new coach, or for new players, but it's a game for the Raider organization. We will come back."

In a decisive manner, Shell says. No more West Coast offense. So long, bend-but-don't-break defense. It's back to power running, air-it-out passing, and a hit-'em-in-the-mouth approach on defense. Three straight losing seasons tends to bring about radical change.

Teams no longer are going to count the days until the Raiders game rolls around on the calendar, Shell says. It's going to be just like the good ol' days, when Shell and Co. owned the place, any place. Or at least they acted as if they did, be it Mile High Stadium, Arrowhead Stadium, Lambeau Field or the local tavern.

"When you walk out there, when you walk into that stadium, you walk out there with a presence," Shell said. "Mr. Davis called it a swagger. Yeah, a swagger. You walk out there with a presence. And I just want to get back to the point where when we walk into a stadium, they know the Raiders are in town.

"And when we walk into the Coliseum, the Raiders are here. ... That's our home field. That's our home. You can't come in our back yard and win. We've got to create that attitude, and that's what I expect to do."

The signs are omnipresent, players say. Shell and offensive line co-coaches Jackie Slater and Irv Eatman are teaching the offensive linemen how to be proactive and not reactive.

"We don't want to waste an opportunity to capture ground," Slater said. "We don't want to lose ground to gain position on a guy. We want to capture ground right away. We want the ground that the guy's standing on."

Doing so, we're told, will free up running back LaMont Jordan to improve upon his 3.8-yard average rushing from last season, keep defenders from getting a clean run at quarterback Brooks, and play to the strengths of an offensive line that underachieved last season.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn't speak with the media his first two seasons. Yet, even he is getting in on the act these days, promising a more physical and aggressive approach by his players.

"We're the Raider defense," Ryan said, "and we're going to get after peoples butts this year. That's what we're all about."

For a change, there's enough talent to make that happen, Ryan said. Oft-injured and overpaid cornerback Charles Woodson and aging defensive tackle Ted Washington are gone.

Rookies such as strong safety Michael Huff and outside linebacker Thomas Howard and fast-developing youngsters such as middle linebacker Kirk Morrison, cornerback Fabian Washington and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly have added speed, play-making and attitude to a defense that lacked just that in recent seasons.

Veteran defensive tackle Warren Sapp said Shell has everyone thinking big.

"He's talking about a championship and giving us the formula about how to go get it," Sapp said. "Right now, we're putting the pieces in place."

Past Raider coaches talked about "competing" and "playing hard" as if those were things in question going into each game. Shell expects that, and more, from his players, and he isn't afraid to tread where others dare not.

"I know how to win," Shell said. "I know how to lead. I expect that we will have the kind of success that this organization deserves. As I said, expectations are very high, and the standards are high, and we have to meet those standards. And we can't settle for anything less. And that's my job, to come in here and show the way."

Shell is getting back tobasics -- Raiders basics

NOT LONG AFTER Art Shell was hired this year for his second go-round as Raiders coach, Janice Shell offered her husband some football advice.

Specifically, she suggested a motto he could use this season.

"I told him, 'There is no "I" in team, but there is an "I" in win,'" she said earlier this summer. "I told him, 'I'm going to give you this motto. That's all this business is about.'

"He kind of looked at me and said, 'Yes, ma'am.' I don't know what that's supposed to mean. Sometimes I have to read Art myself. We've been married for 36 years."

If anyone understands the silver-and-black bottom line, it's Shell. As a Raiders offensive tackle, he won two Super Bowls and made the playoffs 11 times in 15 seasons during his Pro Football Hall of Fame career.

Shell's boss, Al Davis, is a man who considers "just win, baby" to be the three most important words of his football mission statement.

From 1989-94, Shell's Raiders went 54-38 and made the playoffs three times. But he was fired, in large part, because he didn't win often enough and didn't lead the Raiders to the Super Bowl.

Now a dozen years later, Davis rehired Shell to fix a Raiders team that has won a combined 13 games the past three seasons.

To some, the decision smacked of desperation. And in a sense, Davis did go all in, gambling that a return to traditional Raiders ways could resurrect his team.

To others, Davis' move made perfect sense. Bill Callahan and Norv Turner, a pair of new-age Raiders coaches, flopped. So it was logical to go old school.

Who's right? Who's wrong? Who knows? The answer will unfold one game at a time as the wins and losses are posted under Shell during a season in which he will remain the dominant, central figure.

"I just want to win," Shell said before training camp opened. "These players want to win. I want to put this organization back on the top where it belongs.

"It' s not going to be easy, and the players know that. If you work hard enough, good things will happen."

Some good things have happened already for the Raiders and Shell during a dominant exhibition campaign.

Sure, exhibition wins and around $3.50 will get you a venti latte at Starbucks. But for a Raiders team that has suffered so many defeats and incurred so much psychological damage, any win is important.

And for a coach who is trying to break a team of old habits, re-establish a winning culture and sell his old-school plan, wins of any kind are priceless. They stand as validation, as evidence that the old coach knows what he's talking about.

"You've got to believe in who you are, and you've got to believe in what you do," Shell said. "It doesn't matter what somebody else says. It's what you believe."

What does Shell believe in? For the answer, just dust off a Raiders blueprint from their glory days when he played for the team and from his first stint as their coach.

Shell wants his team to be tough, physical, fast and smart, on both sides of the ball.

On offense, he preaches power running and deep, play-action passing -- Davis' beloved vertical game.

"I think offensively we have an identity," Raiders running back LaMont Jordan said. "We're a power football team, and we're going to take shots downfield.

"And I hate to go back to last year, but I think that was the difference. We really didn't have an identity. This year we have an identity. We're not going to come into games wondering what's going to be called."

On defense, an old-school Raiders identity is starting to take shape, too. The Raiders are playing fast and furious, forcing turnovers and delivering punishing hits.

We're not talking Ted Hendricks and Jack Tatum tough, but it's a start.

"They're playing the kind of defense that we're looking for, which is a tenacious defense that flies around and gets to the ball, that attacks the line of scrimmage and makes receivers pay when they catch the ball," Shell said. "I think it's much improved from the previous two years, that the defense has been put together."

Shell will put his plan to its first true test Sept. 11 with a Monday night home game against the San Diego Chargers.

"You have to visualize success and understand there are times it's not going to be easy and stay the course," Shell said. "If you believe in your way of doing it, you can make it happen."

Sounds like a good motto.
Going deep in the past
These aren't your father's Raiders -- oh wait, they are, if Art Shell and Al Davis have their way

David White

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Quick, activate the time machine. Al Davis wants his 1970s back. He started by digging into the archives and dusting off Art Shell, a throwback coach whose allegiance remains true to the way things were despite a 12-year absence from the Raider Nation. That means reviving an offense that runs hard in the tackle box and throws far down the sideline and a defense that exists to rip the football out of someone's hands. Just like the boss wants.

"It's another reaffirmation of the Raiders, of everything we ever stood for," Davis said. "He knows what he wants to do. ... He knows the right way to do things."

Davis isn't as interested in forging a new era in Raiders history as much as resurrecting the golden days of three decades ago, when the Raiders won their first Super Bowl, reached six AFC title games and captured seven division titles between 1970 and 1979.

Of course, those teams boasted 10 future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This year's team is frontloaded with carryover players from a team that went 4-12 last season and has 15 wins in three years.

No matter. Davis expects Shell to yield superior results with mostly the same parts, because he hasn't the patience for rebuilding.

"The idea is not to be in the playoffs," Davis said. "The idea is to be in the Super Bowl. Maybe you can't get there nine out of 10, but you can get there. ... We got to get him the players. We have to do that."

Davis wanted a strong-armed quarterback in the mold of Daryle Lamonica, so he signed Aaron Brooks. Then, Davis removed the moth balls from Jeff George (last NFL game: Sept. 24, 2001) for the final week of the exhibition season, just in case. He didn't make the final roster.

To run a vertical offense, you need a go-to receiver like Cliff Branch or Fred Biletnikoff. Today, that would be Randy Moss, who is healthy and back to his bullish ways.

In the spirit of Dave Casper, the Raiders are recreating the tight end route, starring Courtney Anderson as the 6-foot-6, 270-pound mismatch who is bigger than any defensive back and quicker than your average linebacker.

For the passing game to work, the offensive line has to give Brooks time for Moss to run 30 yards.

The '70s boasted Canton-bound Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw, Bob Brown and Shell. This team starts rookie guard Paul McQuistan from Weber State and, until center Jake Grove gets healthy, journeyman Corey Hulsey.

Barry Sims was moved from left tackle, his home for three seasons, to left guard to make way for Robert Gallery, who has yet to live up to his billing.

This unit offered little resistance last year, and that's a huge reason the Raiders stunk in scoring (23rd), gaining yards (21st) and running the ball (29th).

To improve the run offense, they'll be more aggressive in their blocking schemes. LaMont Jordan ran for 1,025 yards in his first season as a starter.

Shell's power-running offense is a better fit for Jordan, a pads-down kind of back. You won't see Jordan taking many pitch sweeps this season.

"It's all about downhill," Jordan said. "We're going to play attack-the-defense style of offense. If we do that, I think we'll be successful."

To play the defensive role of Ted Hendricks, a turnover-making linebacker in the Hall of Fame, the Raiders moved Kirk Morrison to middle linebacker. He hit hard with 11 tackles in three exhibition games, and dropped into pass coverage with one leaping interception and three passes defended.

The Raiders in the preseason intercepted seven passes and picked up five of eight forced fumbles. Last year's team had five interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries in 16 regular-season games.

That's not the product of a new defense, because the Raiders are running the same 4-3 scheme. That's all about Shell insisting on employing turnover drills all of training camp, whether they liked it or not.

He wants the defense to lose its timidity and take a shot at the ball, much like the Raiders did when Willie Brown, George Atkinson and Jack Tatum roamed the secondary.

Cornerback Fabian Washington gets it. So does top-draft pick Michael Huff, who starts at strong safety but will cameo all over the secondary as a hit-man who can catch.

"Last year, they were in a position to make the plays but didn't make them," Shell said. "You have to put yourself in position, then you have to make the plays by catching the ball."

It's worked in the exhibition season. The Raiders started 4-0, just like they did in 1976 when the Raiders won Super Bowl XI.

It's hard for anyone to imagine today's Raiders making that flying leap in the next five months. Winning their first AFC West game in 21 months would be a better place to start, maybe even a .500 record.

This much is sure: Shell and Davis are going to run things the once-upon-a-time way, no matter what millennium they're in.

"I do things the way I know how," Shell said. "Now, how many games we win, I don't know. But if we do what I think we're capable of doing, we'll have a chance to have the success that I believe, deep down, we can do. I really do."

Five keys for the Raiders

1. Block somebody. LaMont Jordan and Randy Moss won't mean a thing if the offensive line doesn't vastly improve, especially the pivotal left-side combo of tackle Robert Gallery and Barry Sims.

2. Let Moss be Moss. Aaron Brooks just has throw the ball in the general direction of Moss, and let him do the rest.

3. Stop the run. Tommy Kelly and Terdell Sands better get stout in the middle, or teams will eat up yards and precious minutes.

4. Keep grabbing and running. The defense has been a turnover-making machine in the preseason, a new concept in these parts.

5. Stop cheating. The most penalized team in the NFL can't let 3rd-and-longs become 1st-and-10s.

-- David White
It's all up to the 53 players now
After several changes from last season, Shell believes in the current Raiders roster

By Steve Corkran

It took almost seven months, five exhibition games, two minicamps, one training camp, numerous offseason workouts and countless hours watching videotape and meeting with assistant coaches.

Finally, coach Art Shell has the pieces in place, the players in defined roles, and the systems up to speed. There isn't any more guesswork or waiting to see how things play out because of injuries, trades or other unforeseen factors.

"We have good players now," Raiders managing general partner Al Davis said, and that was in the midst of the process. "We have a lot of great players now. We really do. And we'll see if we can make them perform."

Shell now has the 53 players he intends to open the season with, barring any more last-second trades or injuries.

"I like this team," Shell said. "I said that before; I like our players."

He had better because there isn't much he can do about it now. The Raiders open the regular season Monday night against the San Diego Chargers.

It's obvious that Shell wasn't real thrilled by many of the players from last year's 4-12 team. This year's team features 22 players who weren't on the opening-day roster in 2005.

Of those 22, eight are new starters. Quarterback Aaron Brooks and right guard Paul McQuistan are the only new faces on offense, though left tackle Robert Gallery, left guard Barry Sims and right tackle Langston Walker are at new positions.

Defensively, strong safety Michael Huff, outside linebacker Thomas Howard and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly are first-time starters. Second-year cornerback Fabian Washington is in his first season as a full-time starter. Defensive end Tyler Brayton converted from outside linebacker. Outside linebacker Sam Williams is back from a season-ending knee injury.

Several other starters are in their second or third seasons. That doesn't mean anything to Shell, he said, as long as they can make the Raiders better.

"I want the best football players out there," Shell said. "If it's a rookie that's going to play, look, in this league you can play with young guys, if the guy has the talent. They're going to make some mistakes, but you can live with them if they make them aggressively."

Five of Oakland's 53 players are rookies. Several others are on an opening-day roster for the first time after failed attempts elsewhere or with the Raiders last season.

Players such as defensive tackle Anttaj Hawthorne, cornerback Hiram Eugene and tight end James Adkisson spent time on Oakland's practice squad last season in an attempt to show that they belong on the 53-man roster.

"Our job as coaches is to try to find a way to develop our players," Shell said. "And that's what I'm about. I'm going to figure out, 'How can I get that guy to be a player?'"

Shell said the makeup of his team is an "ongoing process," one that doesn't stop just because the season starts. He said he and the Raiders personnel department are evaluating players released by other teams within the past week to see if any of them can provide an upgrade in a particular area.

For, without the proper players, the offensive and defensive systems aren't enough to bridge the talent gap, he said.

"It's not the system," Shell said. "Systems are good, but players win games. You got to have football players to win. You can come up with any kind of system you want, and great players will make any system work.

"So you got to develop players. You got to develop your young players, you got to make your old players better. And you've got to have an attitude about how you're going to win, and you're going to go out and win."

It's all up to the players now, these 53 players.
Crystal ball shows some ugly ball for 17 weeks

Ray Ratto

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

We already know that this is going to be another one of those years for the Hyperactive Prospector and the Guy With the Swords Through His Head. We also know that life's too short to wallow through another season of 4-12 and 5-11. I mean, how much fun can people stand?

Thus, we will walk you through the Raiders' and 49ers' schedules, tell you how they will unfold (very helpful for betting purposes), and then you can get ahead of your Christmas shopping (little Tad needs a Madden, after all, and overtime doesn't grow on trees).

So with no further adieu, let alone sensible analysis, we give you NFL 2006: The Even Blacker Hole.


49ERS at ARIZONA: Alex Smith discovers how easy 2005 turns into 2006 when he gets caught in a Bertrand Berry-Chike Okeafor sandwich and gets his bell rung for the first of what will end up being a veritable symphony inside his head. The defense gives Kurt Warner a pleasant afternoon before an ultra-rare sellout at the Cardinals' new stadium, and muttering for Trent Dilfer begins.

CHARGERS at RAIDERS: Monday night's all right for something, but not for stopping LaDainian Tomlinson, which the Raiders don't do in daylight, either. Aaron Brooks hits Randy Moss for a score, Jerry Porter catches one ball for 11 yards, and Jeff George is home watching and warming up.


RAIDERS at BALTIMORE: If the weather's good, it's Ravens, 17-10. If not, it's Ravens, 17-9. Brooks will struggle to keep the ball from Ed Reed, and Robert Gallery will discover that Ray Lewis still has some game left. On the other hand, the Raiders' defense will get in its shots at Steve McNair, and it will occur to both sets of fans that these two teams are pretty old.

ST. LOUIS at 49ERS: The Rams are exposed as pretenders, despite Steven Jackson, and Smith has a decent game against the ever-gallant Rams defense. Antonio Bryant and Vernon Davis both get scores off the hideous St. Louis secondary, and Joe Nedney clinches the game with a 42-yard field goal while fans forget how much they hate Smith while they're busy loving him.


PHILADELPHIA at 49ERS: Donovan McNabb bestows upon Donte' Stallworth his first big game as an Eagle, though you won't know it because there are too many unsold tickets for even the Yorks to buy up the inventory. The no-blackout streak is over, and you've got gutters to wash out.

RAIDERS at BYE: And not a moment too soon.


CLEVELAND at RAIDERS: LaMont Jordan shreds the Browns, and Charlie Frye's windpipe ends up on Derrick Burgess' cleats. The Raiders go ahead early and cruise, so much so that Art Shell finally has time to get a hat that fits. Everything is happy in the Hole.

49ERS at KANSAS CITY: On the other hand, Larry Johnson treats the Niners in ways that Jordan can only fantasize, and the Chiefs win easily after losing to Cincinnati and Denver. People start to realize that the bloom is off the poison sumac.


RAIDERS at 49ERS: Before a full house at Monstrosity Park, Brooks and Moss reacquaint at the expense of Shawntae Spencer, and several fans are found to be inebriated and sleeping in the parking lot the following Tuesday. All the cops get double time and a half.


SAN DIEGO at 49ERS: Tomlinson does to the 49ers what he did to the Raiders (if you'd checked your schedule a little closer, you'd have taken him instead of Shaun Alexander), and Dilfer gets enough time to encourage a faux quarterback controversy. The 49ers are not only 1-5, they've covered only once, and you know how that irritates dad as much as discovering the game has been blacked out and he will have to finish that driving lesson with the boy.

RAIDERS at DENVER: For some reason, the Raiders play tougher at Invesco Field at Mile High than they have a good reason to, and the Broncos are coming off a Monday night home win over Baltimore and are likely to be a little draggy. But Mike Shanahan always convinces the employees to try a little harder, and they will win a close one.


ARIZONA at RAIDERS: Unless you believe the Cardinals aren't the Cardinals, this is one Team Al ought to win. Edgerrin James is starting to show some signs of wear trying to run behind that line, and a one-dimensional game, no matter how good, defines a 5-11 team.

BYE at 49ERS: An overtime loss.


49ERS at CHICAGO: That big exhibition-game win seems so much less important now that the boys fall to 1-6. The Bears aren't nearly the team they were a year ago, but they sneak one out here on a Nathan Vasher 113-yard field-goal return. Or something like that.

PITTSBURGH at RAIDERS: Ring out the old ghosts, and blah blah blah, but it is hard to see how the Raiders move the ball against this defense. It's a low-scoring game because the Steelers aren't as good as they were a year ago, but a loss is a loss, and people are starting to murmur Jeff George's name.


MINNESOTA at 49ERS: The upset special. Everyone gets a free one in the NFL, and the Vikings are less than they seem. Of course, the 49ers can't possibly be less than they seem, but this time they are actually more.

RAIDERS at SEATTLE: The back end of the Raiders' Super Bowl tour, and it goes way worse than the Steelers game. This Monday nighter is the first really lopsided beating, and worse, it is performed for Tony Kornheiser's benefit, and Shell is seeing the back side of the new Raiders. Those three wins in four games are old news, and now the story is the law of averages.


49ERS at DETROIT: Possibly the worst game of the year, as the 2-6 49ers face the 2-6 Lions in a game that tests the existence of God. If this isn't a 10-10 tie with nine turnovers, the agnostics might be on to something.

DENVER at RAIDERS: The upset special, if you're getting enough points. If you're betting straight up, a late defensive touchdown (a Darrent Williams interception return) kills you. The Broncos are coming from Pittsburgh, and frankly, Denver isn't that magical. Besides, watching Shanahan eat his own face the way Darryl Sutter does in Calgary is something everyone should see at least once. But not this time.


RAIDERS at KANSAS CITY: Nope. Never. Doesn't happen. This is bigger than all of us. Now it's 3-7, and some of the players are grousing quietly among themselves in true Oakland fashion. Internet voting shows Walter with 30 percent, Tuiasosopo with 12 percent, Brooks with 8 percent, and Daryle Lamonica with 50 percent.

SEATTLE at 49ERS: Closer than it ought to be for no apparent reason, but this is too big a nut to make. Mike Nolan is confronting the possibility that his team was two years away when the season started, two years away now and two years away next summer.


49ERS at ST. LOUIS: Having won at home, the 49ers lose on the road by enough points to make your drunken flyer in the bar the night before on your boys at plus-9 look even stupider than it seemed to your sober friends at the time.

RAIDERS at SAN DIEGO: Tomlinson again. Bank on the hunch rout, and yes, that is Jeff George warming up at home and still waiting by the phone.

A little on Burgess...

Oakland Raiders defensive end Derrick Burgess, who led all NFL players with 16.0 sacks last year, credits his father for the motivation he needed to excel in athletics.

“My dad pushed me a lot,” said Burgess. “Once I got into a sport, he would always let me know that if I wanted to do it, to do it all the way. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. You have to give it your all.”

Burgess’ total effort was more than some opposing offensive lines could handle last season, as he nearly doubled his career sack total (8.5) from 2001-2004.

Having played in only one game from 2002-03 due to injury, the Philadelphia Eagles’ third-round pick of 2001 joined Oakland as a free agent in 2005 and proved worthy of the Raiders’ pursuit.

The Raiders kick off the NFL’s regular season schedule when they host San Diego in an ESPN Monday Night Football game on Sept. 11 at 7:15 p.m. at McAfee Coliseum. The game between these long-time AFC rivals caps off the NFL’s “Kickoff Weekend.”
I will put this one here...

Former 49ers player, local broadcaster Stickles dies

The tight end was notorious in the NFL but also was a man of many interests and talents

By Dave Newhouse

Monty Stickles, former 49ers tight end and Raiders and Cal broadcaster, died Sunday at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center-Oakland.

Stickles, 68, passed away after a brief illness, his daughter, Jessica Mattos, said Tuesday.

"He was my hero," she said. "He was a gourmet cook, very witty, a great dancer. He restored Victorian houses, collected modern art and was interested in wine. He owned a Chateau Laffite 1966."

Stickles had many sides. He had one of the earliest sports talk shows in San Francisco. And besides his radio analyst jobs with the Raiders and Cal, which he did in the same year, he was a color man on regional college football telecasts and NFL playoff games on radio.

He also was known as "The NFL's Dirtiest Player" while playing for the 49ers from 1960 to 1967 and the New Orleans Saints in 1968. Wayne Walker was thrown out of a game once for retaliating against Stickles.

"He gave himself that reputation," said Walker, former Detroit Lions linebacker who later was a San Francisco sportscaster and 49ers analyst. "He took some cheap shots, but you could get away with more in those days.

"For a long time, grabbing a face mask was legal. I'd lead Monty around like a puppy. He was a Renaissance guy later in life, and we became very close. Football's really a fraternity, and I got to like the guy."

Stickles, from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., was an All-American at Notre Dame, where he kicked a game-winning field goal against Army. The 49ers made him their No. 1 draft pick in 1960.

"He could get the job done," said former 49ers teammate R.C. Owens. "His range was square-ins and short passes. He was a good blocker, and he was on the Ten Most Wanted list, and he knew it. He did have a style."

Stickles is survived by daughter Jessica (Paul), his mother, Fay Stickles of Poughkeepsie, a sister, Adelaide Contelmo, and longtime companion Karen Smith. Funeral services are pending.
Shell brings discipline to Oakland

Posted Sep 6, 2006

In bringing back Art Shell as head coach and making little effort to re-make the roster other than the draft, the Oakland Raiders made it clear who was accountable for the debacles of the last two seasons.

It was Norv Turner and Kerry Collins, and with the beleaguered coach and quarterback out of the picture, the Raiders could get back to being the Raiders.
Of course, Oakland's struggles pre-dated Turner and Collins by a year -- the Raiders are 13-35 over the past three years. but it's hard to call the early days of the Shell regime anything but an unqualified success.

Oakland won its first four preseason games, the last two impressively. The Raiders built on an existing defense that was better than its statistical standing last season, and began to reap dividends with a retro offense featuring heavy-legged running and vertical passing.

Most important, Shell made it clear who was in charge. Not since Jon Gruden arrived in 1998 has the Raiders' head coach been so, well, coach-like.

"It starts with respect," Shell said. "You have to respect someone in order to gain respect. You've got to earn that. I'm the head coach, and they're the players, but still there has to be a mutual respect among us. And that's being done."

Shell wasted no time in getting the team's most influential veterans on board -- wide receiver Randy Moss and defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

Moss has praised Shell's sense of discipline and likened him to Dennis Green, with whom Moss had his best years in Minnesota.

Whether it was merely a symbolic coincidence or something more, the Raiders became a better team the day Shell threw them off the field in the second practice on the last day of double sessions.

"That was something that hadn't happened to too many of us," Sapp said. "We took notice. We don't want to be put in a position where he's not pleased with us. And we've started playing really well."

The only Raider out of step with Shell was wide receiver Jerry Porter, who had an office blowup with the new coach in February and said he wanted to be traded. Porter has thus far stood as a man alone -- one who no longer has a starting job.

Shell has acted decisively since Day 1, remaking the offensive line by shifting Robert Gallery from right tackle to left tackle, Barry Sims from left tackle to left guard and Langston Walker from left guard to right tackle. Rookie third-round pick Paul McQuistan was anointed the starting right guard.

Aaron Brooks began training camp as the No. 1 quarterback, held his position through a shaky start and improved dramatically to remove all doubt that he would be the starter over second-year man Andrew Walter. Shell never wavered even though Brooks was horrendous in the first two-preseason games.

Tyler Brayton, miscast as a linebacker, was made a starting defensive end. Kirk Morrison, a rookie starter at outside linebacker, moved to the middle to make room for second-round pick Thomas Howard. First-round pick Michael Huff moved in as the starting strong safety.

New special teams coach Ted Daisher has cracked the whip on those units and is getting the usual high-standard from punter Shane Lechler and much improved performance from Sebastian Janikowski, who went 3-for-3 from 50 yards and beyond through four preseason games.

Although owner Al Davis first offered the job to Louisville's Bobby Petrino, who turned it down, he is clearly more comfortable with Shell in charge. He has often said firing Shell before the club moved to Oakland in 1995 was one of his biggest regrets.

"I know who he is. I know what he wants. I know his drive and determination," Davis said. "The only thing I said about (Turner) when we made the change was I never did see the running game nor did I see the deep passing game. I wasn't being negative. It just didn't happen.

"I just know (Shell). It's a lot different. I know the guy. I have a good feeling about him and I respect what he has done, and I am a little mad at myself because I let him down back in '94."

That's not to say the Raiders aren't looking at some rough times. Their commitments to running the ball and stopping the run will meet the acid test in the AFC West, where Oakland is 2-16 over the past three years and was 0-6 last season.

More than scheme, both those areas require a group effort and a mindset Shell has been trying to establish since the day he was hired. Although he has said he expects the Raiders to compete for a championship every year, and has cited examples of teams which have reversed their fortunes in a year, Shell seems to understand that winning seven games or even reaching .500 would be a considerable upgrade.

"We've made some strides as a team," Shell said. "We're getting close, but we're not there. And we probably won't get there until the middle of the season. We're still a work in progress, there's still a lot of work to be done. You have to get better each week in this league."
Kind of interesting...Gale Sayers...

Sayers wrote all 28 NFL teams expressing his interest in serving as a general manager or player personnel director. Only Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis answered: The Raiders had no openings.
He shouldn't feel bad, that's exactly what they told me in the 90's and I wanted an intern position.
I am sure that Bones knows this but Monty Stickles was Bill King's broadcast partner during the "Holy Roller Game".
Raiders 2006: Art Shell Changes Attitude


OAKLAND, Calif. - In case the Hall of Fame bust, Super Bowl rings and winning record as a coach weren't enough to earn Art Shell the respect from his Oakland Raiders players, he got their attention another way.

Unhappy with an afternoon practice during two-a-days at training camp last month, Shell called the Raiders to the center of the field, chewed them out and sent them home early.

"That was something that hadn't happened to too many of us," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "It's something we all took note of. Because if it's not pleasing to his eyes, it's definitely not what we want to do. We put it on ourselves that we weren't going to put him in that position again when he was unpleased with what we were doing."

Shell's commanding presence is the biggest difference around the Raiders this season. The deep respect the players talk about having for Shell is in contrast to the way they spoke about the previous two coaches, Norv Turner and Bill Callahan. That respect is what owner Al Davis believes the team needs to end a string of three losing seasons.

The Raiders have made the playoffs just three times in 11 seasons since Davis fired Shell as head coach in a move the owner says he now regrets. Shell earned five playoff berths in his five full seasons as coach.

"When he walks in he can dominate a room if he wants to," Davis said. "He has an attitude about him. He was a truly great player. He knows the right way to do things. ... It's another reaffirmation of the Raiders. It's a reaffirmation of everything we've ever stood for, everything we ever wanted."

Shell has vowed to return the Raiders to the power-running, deep-strike passing style the team featured during its heyday in the 1970s with Shell as a dominating offensive tackle.

But more than tactics, Shell has brought an attitude change he hopes instills toughness in his team. He held a training camp with more two-a-days, ordered players to run sprints for jumping offside, and didn't back down in a confrontation with disgruntled receiver Jerry Porter.

The old-school tactics that are sometimes rejected by new-age players were welcomed on this team.

"Guys are more tuned-in and more disciplined, on and off the field," receiver Randy Moss said. "I've been saying time and time again in the offseason, the addition of a guy like Art Shell coming to our team, he's very soft spoken but he demands a lot. That's one thing you can appreciate in a man, if he doesn't really have to be too verbal. Just his presence alone, he got our attention."

The Raiders also entered last season with optimism, hoping the addition of Moss would rejuvenate an offense that struggled since Rich Gannon, Tim Brown and Jerry Rice led them to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season.

But Moss was slowed by injuries, appeared to lose focus at times and never clicked with Kerry Collins. The Raiders got off to a slow start and then collapsed at the finish, losing the final six games of a 4-12 season.

"Last year we weren't a very disciplined team, and it hurt us," running back LaMont Jordan said. "Whether it was coming to meetings late, guys coming out to practice late, it hurt us on the field. We weren't a disciplined team. We led the NFL in penalties. This year, guys are getting there early."

Last year's struggles led to many offseason changes.

Rookies Michael Huff and Thomas Howard add speed to a defensive unit that was too slow and forced too few turnovers. In five preseason games, the Raiders intercepted seven passes - two more than their record low for the entire 2005 season.

None of the projected offensive line starters on opening night against San Diego will be at the same positions they played last year, with a third rookie, Paul McQuistan, slated to start at right guard.

The ability of the line to come together quickly will be crucial to revive a running game that struggled at times last season and to give new quarterback Aaron Brooks enough time to find Moss down the field.

Brooks is coming off the worst year of his career, having struggled with the Saints in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He threw 17 interceptions and 13 touchdowns last season before being benched for the final three games.

"It's all about winning," Brooks said. "If we win, the quarterback will come out as a hero. If we lose, I'll be the first one probably to blame. I'm not really concerned about numbers. I'm just concerned about getting these wins whether they look pretty or whether they look ugly."

Brooks had mixed results in the preseason and the Raiders even brought in Jeff George in for a look last week.

Brooks now has the chance to prove last season was an aberration and says he's never had as much talent around him as he does now with players like Moss, Jordan and Porter.

"He realizes it's not all on his shoulders," Sapp said. "When you're playing on a franchise where the fans used to wear bags on their head it kinds of falls on your shoulders that you have to be the guy who leads them to victory every week. We're not going to put that load on his shoulders. We're going to play good defense, excellent special teams and we have some weapons on offense that all he has to do is put it in their hands and something good will happen."

And if it doesn't, Shell will surely let his players know it.
Shell happy as clam back doing it Raiders way

By Bill Soliday

ALAMEDA — One thing that can be said for the Oakland Raiders is that they never forget. Just about anyone who ever wore the Silver and Black will always have a home.
And if you are a bona fide Raiders legend, a Hall of Famer like Art Shell, it feels like a castle.

"Art is really happy being back here," Shell's agent Danny More said. "It is just so special. So perfect."

Judging by the fans' open-arms reaction to his return as head coach, Shell is already the Raiders' story of the year. A precious few have dared say "been there/done that." There have been very few cries of "retread."

Instead, Shell's return has a scent of hope. Big Art is back, and something about it just feels right.

And why not, after the last three seasons when the Raiders went 13-35, disappearing from the rolls of the elite and falling into cream puff status? No one is heard complaining about the 54-38 record Shell compiled from 1989-94.

Nor about the three playoff berths in five full seasons as head coach and the NFL coach of the year honor he won in 1990 when the Raiders went 12-4.

Shell sees better days ahead.

"I'm a much better coach than I was before," Shell said. "For one thing, I'm more mature. I'm excited about another opportunity."

He's 59, and he's committed to ... guess what? All things Raider, including excellence. Not just Raider football but Raider style of football. Tough, hard-nosed, combative, take-no-prisoners football.

Monday, Art Shell Part II debuts against Marty Schottenheimer's San Diego Chargers. Shell coached under Schottenheimer in, of all places, Kansas City in 1995-96. "The thing I admire about Art is, while on the surface it may appear that there's not a flame burning down there, deep inside we all know that there's a volcano he just kind of keeps a lid on most of the time," Schottenheimer said.

But Shell is the first one who will tell you that all the flattery and good feelings will last only so long as the results on the field are commensurate with all those lofty expectations.

Shell walked into a room full of athletes coming off a 4-12 season and did something bold. He didn't go bananas shopping for outside help.

"I like this team," he vowed.

Pretty much as is. And so the question becomes this: Can playing Raiders-style football under the ultimate Raiders transform an underachieving 4-12 team into contenders overnight?

Seventeen weeks will tell the tale. As of Week 1, here's how it looks:

QUARTERBACK: One of the rare newbies, Aaron Brooks showed he belonged during the preseason by playing better against opposing starters than Andrew Walter or Marques Tuiasosopo did against reserves. He had four touchdown passes with two interceptions. If he can maintain that 2-to-1 ratio, the Raiders will be delighted. If he repeats his 90.8 pass rating, the Raiders are set.

RUNNING BACK: LaMont Jordan was unimpressed with the 1,025 yards he rushed for last year. He knows 1,400 is more like it. He'll get the chance under Shell's power attack. However, he must stay healthy. There's not a lot of proven depth behind him. Jordan also needs to do better hanging onto the short passes Brooks will throw him.

WIDE RECEIVERS: After 2005, Randy Moss was labeled a bust or "on the way down" at age 29. Fact is, he was playing hurt all last year, and the fact he had 60 catches for 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns was a tribute to his toughness and willingness to contribute. The Jerry Porter vs. Shell issue remains the one blemish on the Shell era. Will Porter be in the deep freeze all year or accept what is happening as a challenge? Will Ronald Curry's Achilles' tendons stay in one piece? Johnnie Morant has a future in the league, but probably not now. And Alvis Whitted is starting. Who'd a thunk it?

TIGHT ENDS: Lots of pass catchers, not a surplus of blockers. Then again, Todd Christensen wasn't exactly Dave Casper when it came to knocking people down. Courtney Anderson starts after scant improvement in his second year a season ago.

OFFENSIVE LINE: There's a new look with Robert Gallery making the shift to LT, Barry Sims to LG, Langston Walker to RT. Results have been spotty to date, but if anybody can get this unit in synch, it's Shell and line coaches Jackie Slater and Irv Eatman.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Pressure on the quarterback returned last year in the form of Derrick Burgess (NFL sack leader with 16). Adding Lance Johnstone to the mix along with a happier ex-LB Tyler Brayton gives the Raiders an outside presence. Warren Sapp is also happier back at tackle and will draw whatever favorable matchup coordinator Rob Ryan thinks will make things work.

LINEBACKERS: Sapp is fond of saying, "Speed kills." That's what has been missing in Oakland. Therefore Thomas Howard (No. 2 draft choice) is the new weak-side LB, Kirk Morrison now occupies the middle and Sam Williams the strong side.

SECONDARY: FS Stuart Schweigert (D-3) is the only starter who wasn't drafted in the first round. CBs Fabian Washington and Nnamdi Asomugha and SS Michael Huff were all can't-miss picks — which doesn't always guarantee success. However, it's a start.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking game is in good hands with Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski, and the return game is explosive with Chris Carr. New coach Ted Daisher got in a few faces when he arrived. He demands players must want to play teams. Now if the blockers and coverage guys rise to the occasion and Daisher's expectations, the Raiders could finally be special.
The Art Shell timeline


Third-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders from Maryland State-Eastern Shore (now University of Maryland Eastern Shore).


Played offensive tackle for Oakland Raiders (1982 with Los Angeles Raiders). Played in eight Pro Bowls and played in Raiders' victories in Super Bowls XI and XV.


A first or second-team All-Pro choice for six consecutive years.


Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Head coach of Oakland Raiders.


First African American head coach in modern NFL.


Named Coach of the Year.


Fired as head coach of Raiders.


Offensive line coach with the Kansas City Chiefs.


Offensive line coach with Atlanta Falcons.


Hired by NFL to handle appeals of on-field disciplinary action.


Named NFL senior vice president for football operations and development.


Rehired as head coach of Oakland Raiders.
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