Behind Enemy Lines: Offseason Edition

In a special offseason edition of Behind Enemy Lines, we check in on the Oakland Raiders with team expert Denis Savage. Coming off another distant last-place finish, the Raiders appear to have closed the gap this offseason. From the defense's quest to maintain excellence to the offense's drive to rise from the ashes, here is everything Chargers fans need to know about their most hated rivals.

Who will be the Raiders starting quarterback on opening day: top pick JaMarcus Russell or journeyman Josh McCown?

Denis Savage: Despite scoring a league-low 168 points last season, the offense has talent and should not be dismissed out-of- hand. The year before that – with a hated Kerry Collins at quarterback – the team scored 290 points, placing them in the middle of the pack offensively that season.

Given that information, and with many of the weapons at wide receiver still intact, McCown will get the nod. If the loses pile up, Russell could very well be ushered in as they prepare for 2008 and beyond.

What is new offensive line coach Tom Cable doing to help the once- promising Robert Gallery get his career back on track?

Denis Savage: There is no position that requires a more able coach than along the offensive line. Part of the problem last year was the ineffective leadership along the line – particularly from the coaching staff. Cable has restored confidence by going back to the fundamentals and teaching his players the basics again.

Gallery lost confidence as the year progressed but has been reassured by Cable who expects the best from everyone but has a way of reaching players that his predecessors did not.

Will the trade of Randy Moss – combined with the addition of Lane Kiffin – allow Jerry Porter to return to the fine form he showed in 2004 and 2005?

Denis Savage: With a new coaching staff and a fresh outlook on life, it is conceivable that Porter returns to the form that saw him lead the team in receptions in 2005. Ronald Curry should not be forgotten either. He is a talented player that finds the open field and can go deep. The two of them should prove to be a formidable pair in the coming year.

The Raiders ranked No. 3 in the league in total defense in 2006. Was that a statistical anomaly or is the Oakland defense capable of repeating that feat?

Denis Savage: The team will regress in some areas defensively but should actually be stronger as a unit.

Consistent pressure from the opposite side of Derrick Burgess could be gained with the quick burst of rookie Quentin Moses and while it is unlikely the cornerbacks play as well as they did last year, Michael Huff will pick up the slack with improved play.

Given that the Chargers, Broncos and Chiefs all finished the 2006 season with winning records, what will it take for the Raiders to climb out of the AFC West cellar?

Denis Savage: A miracle. The Raiders are a team that are just beginning their rise to prominence and while they have elements in place to make a significant jump this year, the quarterback position is one that will take time to come together.

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