Raiders planning for the Merriman factor

Raiders head coach Art Shell and left tackle Robert Gallery are nervous heading into week one. Both point to Shawne Merriman as the reason for their angst.

An offensive lineman to the core, Raiders coach Art Shell said the first order of business in formulating a game plan is designing the proper pass protection.

Which means the Raiders staff has been working overtime figuring out how to deal with Chargers outside linebacker Shawne Merriman.

"I expect to be a lot more advanced into the season," said Merriman. "I am not playing catch up."

"He presents problems," Shell said. "He plays with a lot of tenacity, he's bigger than Junior Seau was. You have to know where he is. He's good at blitzing and can play the run when he has to."

As a rookie out of Maryland, Merriman led the San Diego Chargers with 10 sacks and made the Pro Bowl. At 6-4, 272 pounds, he plays outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense with the size and strength of a defensive end.

The Chargers complicate matters by occasionally flopping Merriman and bringing him from the left instead of the right.

The Raiders reconfigured their offensive line in the off-season and both starting tackles had bumpy preseasons. Left tackle Robert Gallery, drafted to play that position in 2004, played on the right side for the past two seasons. Right tackle Langston Walker played left guard in 2005, after losing his right tackle spot to Gallery the previous year.

Gallery has acknowledged moving back to the left side has been more of a process than he anticipated, but believes he has improved each week.

Waves of reporters made their way to Gallery's locker to ask about Merriman, but Gallery is concerned that worrying too much about one player could be detrimental to the defense overall.

"He plays really hard, but we've got to worry about our schemes -- what we're trying to do," Gallery said. "I don't want to focus just on him."

Help in dealing with Merriman could come from tight end Courtney Anderson, as well as chip blocks from fullbacks Zack Crockett and John Paul Foschi.

"Sure, I would think there is going to be help going his way, but I don't want to get too caught up in it," Gallery said. "You have to prepare for every guy. You put too much focus on one player and it's someone else who gets you."

Merriman had no sacks against the Raiders last season, but did pressure quarterback Kerry Collins on a pass that was intercepted in the first meeting between the two teams.


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