Raiders need Porter to stay healthy

The term "breakout season" has been associated with fifth-year Oakland Raiders wide receiver Jerry Porter for the last two seasons – will the third really be the charm?

After an outstanding 2002 season in which he caught 51 passes for 688 yards and nine touchdowns, the Oakland Raiders expected even greater things in 2003. Porter's season, however, was interrupted early and did not have the explosive season that he or the Raiders sought.

Porter's numbers dipped to 28 catches for 361 yards and one touchdown. There were a few factors in that decline. The first of which was an abdominal strain he sustained in the opening game at Tennessee that put him on the shelf for the next five games.

The Raiders believed that his return would spark the offense to reach heights that resembled their outstanding 2002 season. Once Porter returned to the lineup, the Raiders lost quarterback Rich Gannon (the 2002 NFL MVP) to a season-ending shoulder injury. One game later, No. 2 man Marques Tuiasosopo sustained a season-ending knee injury, leaving the duties to No. 3 man Rick Mirer.

In fairness to Porter, few very passing games will flourish with a No. 3 quarterback under center but the Raiders could use a big season from Porter in 2004 nonetheless. First-year head coach Norv Turner is likely to employ a lot of power running with vertical passing and Porter can definitely get downfield.

At 6-foot-2, 220-pounds, Porter has the combination of size, speed and strength that makes scouts drool. He can also make difficult catches. If Porter can keep his attitude in check and stay healthy, that tremendous season could happen. Most people, however, feel that the former left when Jon Gruden did as the two did not see eye-to-eye – to put it mildly.

Porter's production, however, might not improve greatly over 2002 if future Hall-of-Famers Jerry Rice (41) and Tim Brown (37) remain. Most people, however, feel that Brown and Rice are, at best, possession receivers nowadays. Those same people have suggested making Porter the lead horse while easing Brown and Rice into complimentary roles.

Unfortunately, that viewpoint misses the boat. Hall-of-Famers seldom get pushed into that position. Regardless, the Raiders need Porter to have a massively productive season in 2004.

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