QUOTE TO NOTE: "Jackie and I were talking last night about how tough it is, because we take a lot of pride in these guys. They want to do well, but we're just not getting it done." -- Raiders coach Art Shell on how he and fellow Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jackie Slater are coping with a line that has surrendered 44 sacks halfway through the season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Pass protection issues have the Raiders continuing to utilize additional tight ends more often than additional receivers, which hasn't helped the protection much -- given the 44 sacks surrendered -- and has hurt in the passing game.
The Raiders promised in training camp more receiving production out of the position, but starter Courtney Anderson (11 catches) and reserves Randal Williams, John Madsen and James Adkisson have combined for only 19 receptions through eight games.
Ronald Curry, the No. 3 receiver, meanwhile, has 16 catches in fairly limited playing time as a slot receiver.
--WR Jerry Porter missed practice for personal reasons and is expected back Thursday.
--LG Barry Sims did not practice be cause of an abdominal strain and is not expected to face Denver.
--QB Aaron Brooks (pectoral strain) was elevated from doubtful to questionable this week but is not expected to face Denver.
--RB LaMont Jordan, who had 70 receptions in 14 games last season, reached the midway point of the season with 8 catches for 49 yards in seven games.
--WR Randy Moss, with 32 receptions, has been the target of 71 of the Raiders 212 passes (33.5 percent) and has twice as many receptions as their second leading receiver, Ronald Curry (16 receptions).
GAME PLAN: Oakland comes off a game in which they abandoned the run simply because Seattle showed some run-blitz tendencies early. The Raiders know their strengths, such as they are. Sometimes they run the ball well. They almost never pass the ball well, at least not against quality teams. So look for the Raiders to take their 2- to 3-yards per carry and hope it eventually becomes 4 and 5. And hope the defense can keep things close enough to make a game of it in the fourth quarter. If turnovers fall the right way, who knows?
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Broncos CBs Champ Bailey and Darrent Williams vs. Raiders WR Randy Moss: In Oakland's loss to the Broncos in Denver, Walter forced a pass to Moss near the goal line and Bailey intercepted. The Raiders no doubt took notice when the Indianapolis Colts repeatedly picked on Williams and avoided Bailey. Walter is no Peyton Manning, but the message or the Raiders should be clear enough -- align offensive sets as much as possible to get Moss on Williams. It's for naught if Denver decides to again have Bailey shadow Moss, but the fact is Moss isn't hurting anybody these days, and Williams may get his chance. Regardless, and even with the drops, Moss remains Oakland's best shot to get anything done in the passing game.
--Raiders LE Derrick Burgess vs. Broncos RT George Foster: Burgess had only two sacks entering the first Denver game and added his second against Foster on Oct. 15. That began a streak that has found Burgess getting six sacks in his last four games, including one against Seattle Monday night. He plays primarily with speed, but prides himself on run defense as well. Foster breaks the mold of smallish 290-pound plus Denver linemen who work utilize speed and quickness to execute the cut blocking schemes that defenders consider the scourge of the NFL. At 338 pounds, Foster can play those schemes, but utilize his size and power as well.
INJURY IMPACT: With Barry Sims likely out for the second straight game with an abdominal strain, Corey Hulsey gets his second straight start at left guard. Hulsey struggled in pass protection along with the rest of the Oakland line and the Raiders would be well-advised to be more persistent with the run as long as the score is close.
Hulsey, as well as the rest of the starting line, would be much more effective if runs and passes were equal -- and be even better if they could keep it close enough to run it 40 times, minimizing their inadequacies against a Denver blitz.
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