GAMEDAY OPENER: Lions at Raiders

Calvin Johnson will kick off his NFL career in Oakland after all -- just not for the Raiders, who passed on him with the first overall pick. Johnson has time to digest the Lions' offense with Roy Williams and Mike Furrey on hand, but the Lions might look to Johnson often.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 9/9/07
TV: FOX, Matt Vasgersian, JC Pearson, Jennifer Hammond
SERIES: 10th meeting. Raiders lead series, 6-3. Lions won last meeting, in 2003, but Raiders won four before that.

PREDICTION: Lions 27 - Raiders 17

KEYS TO THE GAME: WR Calvin Johnson will kick off his NFL career in Oakland after all -- just not for the Raiders, who passed on him with the first overall pick. Johnson has time to digest the Lions' offense with Roy Williams and Mike Furrey on hand, but Detroit would love to get their top pick matched up against Raiders nickel CB Stanford Routt, who missed most of the preseason with a knee injury. DT Warren Sapp is in great shape, and the Raiders need him and Burgess pressuring QB Jon Kitna. ... Raiders coach Lane Kiffin is waiting as long as possible to announce his starter between QBs Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper, but Lions coach Rod Marinelli said, "You prepare for one, you prepare for both." Both can run the bootlegs and perimeter plays Kiffin features in his offense. They both also have strong arms, a significant concern for a soft Lions secondary starting rookie second-round pick FS Gerald Alexander.

KEY INJURIES: Lions: RB Kevin Jones (foot) will not play. Raiders: None.

FAST FACTS: Lions DT Cory Redding had 8.0 sacks in his final 11 games last season. ... Kiffin (32) is the youngest head coach in franchise history and the youngest in the NFL since 1970.


  • WR Calvin Johnson is responsible for knowing everything everyone else must know, but offensive coordinator Mike Martz won't ask him to do all of that when calling plays. Martz will keep in mind what Johnson can handle and do well.
  • NT Shaun Rogers didn't play in the exhibition season, getting into shape, rehabbing a bad knee. But defensive coordinator Joe Barry said he was in good condition for Sunday's game.
  • FS Gerald Alexander, a rookie, will start Sunday, Barry confirmed.
  • FB Jon Bradley's shoulder popped out in the exhibition finale, but it popped back in and he didn't lose strength. He has been limited in practice this week, and his role for Sunday is unclear.
  • RB Kevin Jones has gone through three practices without suffering a setback with his left foot. He has had some soreness, but nothing unexpected.
  • QB Dan Orlovsky missed practice Wednesday and Thursday because of turf toe and likely will be the third quarterback Sunday.

  • CB Duane Starks sustained a groin injury during practice and was added to the injury list as questionable.
  • LB Isaiah Ekejiuba missed practice with a broken bone in his ankle and is listed as out.
  • LT Barry Sims, who played at guard last season, has fended off three No. 1 draft picks selected specifically to take his position -- Mo Collins, Matt Stinchcomb and Robert Gallery.
  • DE Chris Clemons, who did not play at all last season after playing 20 games in 2004-05 with five sacks for Washington, makes his Raiders debut as a nickel pass rusher against Detroit.
  • FB Justin Griffith, who started 48 games in four years with the Atlanta Falcons, won the starting job at fullback over veteran Zack Crockett with the Raiders.

      Last year, with Roy Williams and Mike Furrey as the Lions' only reliable wide receivers, offensive coordinator Mike Martz and quarterback Jon Kitna felt handcuffed.
      "Last year I played on half a field," Kitna said. "I mean, my reads were basically, 'Where's Roy and Mike?'"
      Martz laughed.
      "The rest of it was kind of a decoy," Martz cracked. "You'd have all these plays, and most of it was a wish list. 'I wish I could call that.'"
      Martz and Kitna got what they wished for in the off-season, when the Lions drafted wide receiver Calvin Johnson second overall and signed Shaun McDonald as a free agent.
      But their regulars didn't play much in the exhibition season -- Kitna sat out the last two games -- and Sunday they face an Oakland defense that ranked No. 1 against the pass last year.
      "Little nervous," Martz said. "We haven't really had everybody together for any length of time in a game, so you're always a little bit nervous about that. I think things will jell, and we'll get going here. I'm anxious to see them all together in a game environment."
      Kitna is excited, but he knows how difficult it will be for the passing attack to click immediately.
      "We're playing a tough team," Kitna said. "It doesn't get much tougher than this in terms of the passing game, with a team that plays bump-and-run.
      "They're always going to be right next to your receivers. The windows aren't going to be huge. And they get after the quarterback in their pass rush. And then you add the fact you're playing in their place opening week. ... We're going to have to weather the storm early."

      The Raiders have five wide receivers on their 2007 roster, and none of them has gained 1,000-yards receiving in a season.
      The last time that happened was 1986, when the unit was comprised of Rod Barksdale, Jesse Hester, Tim Moffett, Mark Pattison and Dokie Williams -- and even then, they had a 1,000-yard receiver at tight end in Todd Christensen.
      For the last several years, with Tim Brown, Jerry Rice and most recently Randy Moss on the roster, Oakland has been the home to some of most spectacular receiving numbers in NFL history.
      No longer.
      Jerry Porter, who emerged from Art Shell's doghouse and into the starting line up at split end, had fine seasons in 2004 and 2005 in which he gained 1,940 total yards receiving but failed to reach 1,000 each time.
      Starting flanker Ronald Curry had 727 yards last season as a rookie, free agent acquisition Travis Taylor topped out at 869 yards with the Baltimore Ravens in 2002 and Mike Williams was dealt away from the Detroit Lions after just 449 yards receiving in two years after being the 10th pick in the first round of the draft.
      The fifth receiver, Johnnie Lee Higgins, is a rookie.
      "It doesn't bother me that there isn't necessarily a standout guy that's above everybody else because they have worked extremely well as a group, and they do complement each other well," Kiffin said. "They have a lot of things that can help us in certain ways, so you need to really figure out what those are and use them in those opportunities."
      Porter and Williams in particular have something to prove.
      Porter was banished to the bench by former coach Art Shell and caught just one pass for 19 yards last season, which included a two-game suspension by the coach. Williams was frozen out by offensive coordinator Mike Martz in Detroit.
      "We can't be bothered by what you guys write about us and say about us," Porter said. "We just need to go play ball."
      Kiffin said Porter has worked so hard he needs to be backed off in practice occasionally to get his legs back. He is hard on Williams, having recruited him at Southern Cal, but likes his size and ability make athletic plays in traffic.
      Raiders quarterback Josh McCown, who played in Detroit with Williams, can see a difference in his desire.
      "He wants to go out and make plays and prove himself after the tumultuous season he went through last year when he didn't get to play," McCown said. "Any time you don't get to play as a competitor you feel slighted. So I'm sure he's excited by the opportunity." 

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