D-End not a slamdunk choice

On the surface, the Oakland Raiders' biggest needs are defensive end and center. Raiders head coach Bill Callahan, however, is suggesting that it is not a slam-dunk that Oakland will use both of its first-round draft choices (No. 31 and 32) for those positions.


The Raiders lost Regan Upshaw to free agency to Washington. Trace Armstrong is back for a 16th NFL season but has landed on inured reserve the last two seasons. Chris Cooper is a solid backup capable of playing either tackle or end. Tony Bryant, who sustained a neck injury in Week 8 against San Francisco, has yet to be cleared to play.

            Center is a need not because of weakness but circumstance. Pro Bowl selection Barret Robbins' future is still uncertain after his episode on Super Bowl weekend. Callahan has not closed the door on Robbins, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee, but has not definitively said that he will return. Adam Treu has proven to be a capable starter. Treu started 16 total games in 2001 (14 regular season, two postseason) along with the Super Bowl.

            "We've built depth across the board," Callahan said. "At (No.) 31 and 32, the draft pretty much falls to you. You go with the best available and see how he fits us. We have a plan in that regard."

            Callahan also pointed to the flexibility the Raiders have with employing the 3-4 look. Oakland is primarily a 4-3 team but with outside linebacker Travian Smith showing the ability to rush the quarterback as an outside linebacker or defensive end the Raiders have another option.

            "If there's a linebacker we covet, we'll take a strong look at him," Callahan said.

            Perhaps the Raiders will take a defensive end with one of their first two picks but it's not a slam-dunk either.


            Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at vdad7@yahoo.com

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