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Old 08-27-2005, 01:07 AM  
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AFC West Preview--Oakland


Oakland Raid-ers 2005 Season Preview
By Tony Moss, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Raid-ers fans should keep two NFL records at the forefront of their minds as they watch their team in 2005:

-The league record for most points in a season is 556, set by a 1998 Minnesota Vikings team that was denied a trip to that year's Super Bowl by the Atlanta Falcons.

-The NFL mark for most points allowed in a season is 533 by the 1981 Baltimore Colts, a club that went 2-14, including 14 losses in a row, and gave up 31 or more points an incredible 10 times.

The record that the 2005 Oakland Raid-ers draw nearer to will likely determine their success level during the second season of Norv Turner's tenure. The Silver and Black added wideout Randy Moss in the offseason, and Moss will combine with three talented holdovers - Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry, and Doug Gabriel - to give the Raid-ers arguably the deepest and most talented receiving group in the league. In addition, the club's commitment to offensive excellence netted sturdy free agent running back LaMont Jordan, who will keep opposing defenses honest with a downhill running style that has seen him average nearly five yards per carry as a pro. At least 12 opposing defensive coordinators have bitten their fingernails down to the nub wondering how they're going to stop this team.

Their counterparts on the offensive side, however, aren't quite as worried.

The Raid-ers come off a season in which they gave up 27.6 points per game (only the 49ers were worse) and ranked 30th in the league against the pass. They switched part-time from a 3-4 defense to the more Warren Sapp-friendly 4-3 in the offseason, but did little in the way of acquiring first-rate talent to assist Sapp and other stars-when-they-feel-like-it like cornerback Charles Woodson on that side of the ball. Foes will face the Raid-ers knowing they'll need to rack up points to beat them, which means relentlessly exploiting the many defensive weaknesses.

At the very least, Oakland figures to be fun to watch in 2005. Whether the Raid-ers bring that entertainment within spitting distance of the postseason is the major question, and one that will become obvious with one look at the "points for" and "points against" columns of the end-of-season standings.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2005 edition of the Oakland Raid-ers, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2004 RECORD: 5-11 (4th, AFC West)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2002, lost to Tampa Bay, 48-21, in Super Bowl

COACH (RECORD): Norv Turner (5-11 in one season with Raid-ers, 54-70-1 overall)



OFFENSIVE STAR: Randy Moss, WR (49 receptions, 767 yards, 13 TD with Minnesota)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Warren Sapp, DT (42 tackles, 2.5 sacks)

OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 32nd rushing, 8th passing, 18th scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 22nd rushing, 30th passing, 31st scoring

FIVE KEY GAMES: at New England (9/8), Kansas City (9/18), San Diego (10/16), Denver (11/13), Miami (11/27)

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Andrew Walter (3rd Round, Arizona State), RB LaMont Jordan (from Jets), WR Randy Moss (Vikings), DE Derrick Burgess (Eagles), DT Ed Jasper (Falcons), DT Kenny Smith (Saints), DT Anttaj Hawthorne (6th Round, Wisconsin), LB Jay Foreman (Texans), CB Renaldo Hill (Cardinals), LB Kirk Morrison (4th Round, San Diego State), CB Fabian Washington (1st Round, Nebraska), CB Stanford Routt (2nd Round, Houston)

KEY DEPARTURES: QB Rich Gannon (retired), RB J.R. Redmond (not tendered), RB Amos Zereoue (not tendered), RB Tyrone Wheatley (released), TE Doug Jolley (to Jets), TE Roland Williams (released), OL Frank Middleton (released), DT John Parrella (released), LB Napoleon Harris (to Vikings), S David Terrell (not tendered), S Marques Anderson (released), CB Phillip Buchanon (to Texans), DB Ray Buchanan (released)

QB: Kerry Collins (3495 passing yards, 21 TD, 20 INT) started the final 13 games of the 2004 season following a season-ending neck injury to Rich Gannon (524 passing yards, 3 TD, 2 INT), and failed to endear himself to Raid-ers fans by going 3-10 over that stretch. Collins' 20 picks were tied for the most in the league, and were the highest total of his career. Collins has the arm to run Oakland's vertical-based offense, but must cut down on the mistakes. Marques Tuiasosopo has one start in four seasons with the Raid-ers, and will remain the backup, at least in the short-term. The Silver and Black used a third-round draft choice on strong-armed, 6-foot-6 Andrew Walter (Arizona State), and Walter is likely the team's quarterback of the future.

RB: The Raid-ers finished dead last in the league in rushing a year ago, and brought in LaMont Jordan (479 rushing yards, 15 receptions, 2 TD with the Jets) to rectify that situation. Jordan was the backup behind Curtis Martin for four years in New York, but was productive when called upon. Justin Fargas (126 rushing yards, 11 receptions, 1 TD) was a disappointment last season, but with Tyrone Wheatley (327 rushing yards, 4 TD) and Amos Zereoue (425 rushing yards, 39 receptions, 3 TD) both gone, Fargas will have the backup job to himself. Fullback Zack Crockett (232 rushing yards, 16 receptions, 2 TD), who can also play tailback in a pinch, will begin his seventh season as a Raider. Chris Hetherington (3 receptions) started two games last season, and will likely back Crockett. Omar Easy, who played 15 games with the Chiefs last season, could stick as a third fullback and practice squad player.

WR/TE: Randy Moss (49 receptions, 13 TD with the Vikings), who has 91 touchdowns in seven NFL seasons, remains one of the league's most potent offensive weapons. Moss is expected to thrive in a lineup that already included Jerry Porter (64 receptions, 9 TD), who was just two yards short of his first 1,000-yard season a year ago. Ronald Curry (50 receptions, 6 TD) had a breakout season despite missing the final four games with a torn Achilles, and will be the third receiver if he can bounce back from that injury. Doug Gabriel (33 receptions, 2 TD), who started five games last season, will take over the No. 3 role if Curry falters. Three more holdovers - Alvis Whitted (9 receptions, 2 TD), Carlos Francis, and Johnnie Morant (1 reception) could be contending for just two roster spots. At tight end, the team parted with Doug Jolley (27 receptions, 2 TD) on draft day, meaning Courtney Anderson (13 receptions, 1 TD) and Teyo Johnson (9 receptions, 2 TD) should be the main men there. Zeron Flemister, who was a part-time starter with the Redskins for four years but sat out last season with a torn ACL, could stick as a third tight end.

OL: The Raid-ers were happy with the play of a pair of rookies - center/guard Jake Grove and tackle Robert Gallery - a year ago, and are hoping to make the duo a staple of their offensive line for years to come. Grove is slated to play center on this year's club, and Gallery will man the right tackle slot. Left tackle Barry Sims and right guard Brad Badger are the other holdovers from last year's starting unit, and both are solid. At left guard, Langston Walker will look to solidify himself into a full-time starting role after opening a total of nine games in his first three seasons with Oakland. Adam Treu was a 16-game starter at center last season, but should be resigned to a backup role in 2005. Former Pro Bowler Ron Stone missed 11 games due to injury a year ago, and factors in as a backup as well. Holdover reserve Chad Slaughter should beat out former Bills starter Robert Hicks, who hasn't played in an NFL game since 2000, for a spot as a backup at tackle. Seventh-round draft choice and tackle Pete McMahon (Iowa) appears headed to the practice squad.

DL: The addition of massive tackles Warren Sapp (42 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and Ted Washington (41 tackles, 3 sacks) along the defensive front was supposed to be a boon to the Raider defense last season, but it never quite panned out that way. Sapp was out of place in the 3-4 front, which prompted the team to put in some 4-3 fronts in the offseason, in which Sapp can simply bull-rush overmatched guards. Sapp and Washington are expected to start on the interior, and prototype 3-4 end Bobby Hamilton (57 tackles, 1 sack) will be brought in when the club needs to stop the run. When the Raid-ers go to a 4-3 look, they'll use 'tweener ends Tyler Brayton (45 tackles, 2.5 sacks), Akbar Gbaja- Biamila (14 tackles, 1 sack) and offseason acquisition Derrick Burgess (24 tackles, 2.5 sacks with the Eagles) to come off the edge. That group, which will also be a part of the outside linebacker picture in the 3-4, will have to bolster a unit that generated just 25 sacks a year ago, the second-lowest figure in the league. Backups on the interior should include Tommy Kelly (20 tackles, 4 sacks), Terdell Sands (22 tackles), and sixth-round draft choice Anttaj Hawthorne (Wisconsin). Former Falcon Ed Jasper (34 tackles, 2 sacks with the Falcons), and one-time Saints starter Kenny Smith, who missed all of last year with a torn rotator cuff, could be subject to the final cut due to a crowded line picture.

LB: Oakland plans on beginning the season with converted ends like Brayton and Grant Irons (12 tackles, 1 sack) playing outside linebacker in 3-4 sets, which could spell disaster when it comes time for those players to cover running backs and tight ends out of the backfield. A season-ending knee injury to Sam Williams (27 tackles), the projected starter at one OLB slot, could hasten the team's more permanent move to a 4-3. Until that time, both inside linebackers Danny Clark (129 tackles, 2 sacks) and Tim Johnson (41 tackles, 1 INT) will be on the field at the same time, with former Texan Jay Foreman (70 tackles with Houston) and third-round draft choice Kirk Morrison (San Diego State) vying to crack the rotation there as well. On the outside, Brayton, Irons, Foreman, Gbaja-Biamila, Burgess, and even oft-injured DeLawrence Grant (20 tackles, 2 sacks) could appear.

DB: There will be major changes in the secondary, as cornerback Phillip Buchanon (59 tackles, 3 INT) and safeties Marques Anderson (72 tackles, 1 INT) and Ray Buchanan (91 tackles, 1 INT) each of whom started at least 10 games a year ago, have all been shipped out. The one holdover is cornerback Charles Woodson (73 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT), whose skills are still terrific but whose desire has been called into question. The Raid-ers are counting on Woodson having a bounce-back year, and on either third-year man Nnamdi Asomugha (45 tackles, 1 sack) or rookies Fabian Washington (1st Round, Nebraska) and Stanford Routt (2nd Round, Houston) stepping up to play opposite Woodson. Asomugha, who had seven starts last season, was slightly ahead of Routt at the midway point in the preseason, with Washington a distant third in the battle. Also in to lend a hand at corner will be former Cardinal Renaldo Hill (45 tackles, 1 INT, 1 sack with Arizona) and holdover Denard Walker (45 tackles, 1 INT). The safety picture is no clearer. Derrick Gibson, who missed all of 2004 with a shoulder injury, is being tabbed to start on the strong side, with second-year man Stuart Schweigert (52 tackles) counted on to step up at free safety. Schweigert made just three starts last season. Special teamer Jarrod Cooper (16 tackles, 1 sack) and Keyon Nash, who has appeared in two NFL games since being selected in the sixth round of the 2002 draft, have the most experience of any of the backup safety candidates. At least one of the backup cornerback candidates is likely to be moved to safety.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Punter Shane Lechler (46.7 avg.) has led the NFL in average for the past two seasons, but was expected to miss most of the preseason after sustaining a hamstring injury in the team's first warm-up contest. Lechler should be back in time for the regular season. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski (25-28 FG, 31-32 XP) comes off perhaps the most consistent season of his five- year career. Doug Gabriel (21.5 avg.) is back to handle kickoff returns, and will be in the mix to take over for the departed Buchanon on punt returns. Rookie speedster Fabian Washington is also being considered as a punt returner.

PROGNOSIS: The Raider offense has the potential to be the most potent in the NFL, without question. Opposing defenses will have to pick their poison in figuring out whom to stop, and Collins and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye must learn how to properly exploit the defensive holes that will undoubtedly be present. The trick will be keeping everyone happy, as Moss, Porter, Curry, Gabriel, and Jordan are all going to want touches. Providing the team is winning, things should go smoothly in that regard. Unfortunately, the defense is such a mess that an increased number of victories are far from a foregone conclusion. Not only is the talent spotty at end, linebacker, and particularly in the secondary, but there is nothing resembling a clear vision on what scheme the unit will even play. It won't be hard to score on Oakland, which will drive down the margin of error for Collins and the offense every week. Collins has never been known for his outstanding decision-making ability, which spells trouble. The Raid-ers have enough offensive talent to creep toward .500, but they also have enough defensive problems to allow at least the Chargers and Chiefs to pass them by in the AFC West. Defense wins championships, and the Raid-ers could be about to find that out the hard way.

Last edited by Fire Me Boy!; 08-27-2005 at 01:16 AM..
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Old 08-27-2005, 10:05 AM   #2
whoman69 whoman69 is offline
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I guess I didn't know that Jimmy Raye was the OC in Oakland. That alone means they will not be as good as everyone thinks. He does not know how to tie in the running game and passing game together. Look no further than Gunther's two years as HC to see we couldn't pass to save our lives his first year and the 2nd year we were one of the worst running teams in the league. Jimmy Raye offenses always have a big hole. My prediction is they may score alot of points but it will be meaningless because they will have so many drives that are unproductive 3 and outs, the defense will be pushed to the limits.
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