Behind Enemy Lines, Part 1

To find out about this week's Dolphins opponent, the Oakland Raiders, we checked in with Silver & Black Illustrated's Denis Savage to ask him some questions about the team and this week's matchup. Part 1 focuses on Daunte Culpepper and the Raiders offense.

Q. The big story line obviously would be Daunte Culpepper starting against the team that dumped him this summer; would you anticipate it will be Culpepper at quarterback for the Raiders on Sunday?

Savage: Josh McCown would be the choice if his balky ankle is healed. Culpepper will reportedly start, but Kiffin's decision will likely come down to the wire -- as it has every week this season. Expect to be greeted by your former teammate in the huddle when the ball kicks off.

Q. How did Culpepper look throughout training camp, the preseason and his appearance in last Sunday's game against Cleveland?

Savage: He looked very good in camp. The feeling around Oakland was he earned the starting nod, ironically. When McCown was named it took many by surprise. He moved around better than he has in a year and didn't appear to make the poor decisions that plagued him with inconsistency. In the Cleveland game, Culpepper looked a little skittish at first but settled down as he got his game legs under him. It wasn't trial by fire, however, since the running game was cranking out yards and it is hard to say how he would have fared if he had to mix it up. Play-action-pass opened up a lot of options.

Q. Why did the Raiders go with Josh McCown as the starter at the start of the season instead of Culpepper?

Savage: The simple fact that McCown was with the Raiders through all of their offseason preparation and minicamps earned him the nod. The playbook wasn't limited -- McCown had a firm grasp of his responsibilities. Also, Kiffin believed, and the truth of this is up for debate, McCown would take care of the ball better.

Q. OK, enough about Culpepper, how much better is the Raiders offense than the pitiful unit that took the field in 2006?

Savage: Two word - Tom Cable. The offense was horrible last season and there is no masking it. A lot of the blame falls on Aaron Brooks' poor decisions and an offensive line that couldn't hold off a Pop Warner team. It didn't help that the running backs could not find a way to break that initial tackle. Cable, the new offensive line coach, has introduced a cut-blocking scheme that has worked wonders in giving the quarterback an extra second and creating some running room for the backs to make plays. That is the difference between this year and last.

Q. Former second overall pick Robert Gallery was moved from tackle to guard; how much better is he at guard and would you consider that a failure that he couldn't get the job done at tackle?

Savage: It is a monumental failure. Guards don't get picked in the top five of the NFL Draft. He has been serviceable as a guard and has benefited from having help on either side and fullback Justin Griffith to pound it up behind him. He still has not impressed and must take his intensity level up to be truly successful.


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