PHOTO: Oakland Raiders wide receiver Randy Moss is photographed at training camp in Napa, Calif., Friday, Aug. 5, 2005. From the start of training camp, it became clear what a huge difference Randy Moss makes to the Oakland Raiders. With Moss as the face of the offense and franchise man Woodson back to help the defense save face, the Raiders hope their latest offseason overhaul will be different from the last two. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Behind Enemy Lines: Oakland Raiders
By Scout.com Staff
Forget the past two years. Forget the 1-3 preseason. The Oakland Raiders are convinced they have the stuff to challenge in what could be a bottleneck of an AFC West division.
What could be the biggest hurdle would be the first three weeks when they face what clearly is their toughest three-game packet of the year, a trio that includes last year's Super Bowl opponents -- New England and Philadelphia -- on the road. Sandwiched in between is a home game against division rival Kansas City.
If the Raiders can survive that run against teams who posted a combined record of 34-14 last year (73-23 over the last two years) and can manage to keep their often fragile psyches intact, they may be right about getting back into the playoff hunt.
Their pumped up offense with Randy Moss and LaMont Jordan joining Kerry Collins and a revamped offensive line figures to be among the league's best. However, the jury is still out on a defense that ranked 30th a year ago and is switching back to a 4-3 alignment to take advantage of a strong group of defensive linemen.
Three keys to the season:
- 1. RB LaMont Jordan,
not WR Randy Moss, is probably the most vital component of the offense. Oakland
had the worst time of possession numbers in the league a year ago when they were
the worst team in rushing. The Raiders are counting on him to bash defenses so
successfully it draws extra defenders into the box to stop it. When and if that
happens, Moss' value takes center stage.
- 2. QB Kerry Collins has
never been known as a low risk passer and to expect him to put up 3-to-1 touchdown
to interception ratios is probably out of the question. Career wise, he has 153
touchdown passes to 154 interceptions. However, at least a 3-to-2 ratio is needed
and should be within reach (he had a 22-13 breakdown the year he took the Giants
to the Super Bowl). That is critical to a team that has an unproven defense and
cannot afford the stress turnovers present.
- 3. The Raiders do not have to vault from No. 30 in defense, No. 31 against scoring to be successful. Kansas City and Indianapolis have proved that in recent years. The middle of the pack will do. But what they do need is to be resourceful on turnovers, resilient on third downs and a whole lot tougher against the pass (No. 30 in 2004) than they have been. The 4-3 is designed to get that done with an improved season from DT Warren Sapp and some QB pressure by free agent acquisition Derrick Burgess.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
WR Randy Moss: It is difficult to calculate what kind of numbers Moss will put together. It's more or less up to opposing defenses and how they want to treat him. He can be indefensible one-on-one and so opposing tacticians will have to pay extra attention to him. And that could bolster the numbers of not only Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry, but those of LaMont Jordan. If opponents decide they will make others beat them, Moss' numbers could be less than spectacular. Moss says as long as the team is winning, he is fine with that. Stay tuned.
DT Warren Sapp: Sapp was a bust as a defensive end. He is now back at right tackle with new-found energy and -- thus far -- the same kind of success that earned him a string of Pro Bowl appearances and 77 sacks in nine years with the Buccaneers.
CB Charles Woodson: This will probably be his last year in Oakland after two years as the team's franchise player. He wants to make the most of it. Despite a string of Pro Bowl appearances that came to an injury-induced end two years ago, Woodson has never had that breakout year people were raving about when he came out of Michigan as that rare defensive Heisman winner. He's getting a chance to sharpen his teeth daily by covering Randy Moss. That should keep him battle ready.
RB LaMont Jordan: If he can provide the Raiders with 1,200 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving, he will have earned his keep. But in addition to productivity, perhaps even more important is that he stays healthy. The Raiders really have no pure tailback with the kind of skills needed in reserve. Since Jordan hasn't played a full season since he was at Maryland in 2000, nobody knows much about his durability.
-- Here's how the Raiders feel about starting TE Courtney Anderson: earlier this year they traded 2002 No. 2 draft pick Doug Jolley to the Jets. Saturday they cut 2003 No. 2 pick Teyo Johnson and 1996 No. 1 pick Rickey Dudley. Anderson has only played in nine NFL games.
-- WR Jerry Porter practiced Friday after missing all four exhibition games with a hamstring injury. His status for Thursday's opener in New England is uncertain.
-- WR Johnnie Morant finished the preseason with 15 catches for 315 yards.
-- The surprise of cut day was the retention of unsung John Paul Foschi, who made the team whereas Teyo Johnson did not. The 270-pound Foschi was listed as a TE but will play mostly as a blocking fullback and special teamer.
-- Another position switch sealed Teyo Johnson's fate at TE. Former Cowboys WR Randal Williams made the switch and played well enough to convince the Raiders to keep him.
-- The reason coach Norv Turner said TE Teyo Johnson was cut was inconsistency, not necessarily just his tepid blocking. "We worked hard to give him an opportunity to be successful," Turner said. "When you have a guy and see potential you say `Hey, this guy might have a real strong upside.' You want to see that come out and at times it did. It's just ... finding the consistency is the thing we were looking for."
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