D'ADAMO: Raiders improved with questions

There is one thing that training camp has not changed for the Oakland Raiders -- you can make an argument for 10 or 12 wins but many things have to fall into place for that situation to happen.

The Oakland Raiders made what appears to be great moves during the off season but beginning in Saturday's exhibition opener against the San Francisco 49ers at 5 p.m. at Candlestick Park, those questions need some answers. Here's a position-by-position look at the greatness, err "ifs," of the Raiders:

Quarterback: If you go with Rich Gannon over Kerry Collins, which Gannon are you getting? The 2002 NFL MVP or the 2003 dear-in-the-headlights version? If you go with Collins over Gannon, which Collins do you get? The one that can be "lights out" or the one who looks like Shemp from the Three Stooges?

Running back: Granted, having a back that can carry the ball 25-30 times is not necessary -- but -- since first-year head coach Norv Turner likes to run the ball with one lead horse, I think you might want a guy for 15 carries every week. Between Tyrone Wheatley, Amos Zereoue, Justin Fargas and Troy Hambrick -- do any of those guys fit the bill? Wheatley, and maybe Hambrick, but is either convincing enough to say yes?

Wide receiver: All due respect to Tim Brown but perhaps the Raiders were right to send him on his way. He is no better than the third best receiver on the team behind Jerry Rice and Jerry Porter. For the sake of discussion, Porter is clearly the best but can he stay healthy -- and consistent? He's only done both one time (in 2002) going into his fifth season.

Tight end: Can Teyo Johnson and Doug Jolley improve as blockers? Is the best blocker of the bunch (Roland Williams) recovered from knee injuries that kept him shelved for most of 2003?

Offensive line: Most likely an entirely new group across the board plus two rookies -- tackle Robert Gallery and center Jake Grove. Yes, those guys have great potential and the Raiders had to fix what was broken but until they get it done in a game situation, there's no way of telling for sure.

Defensive line: Which Warren Sapp are the Raiders getting? The one that was a premier defender from 1995-2000? Or the one whose performance declined from 2001-2003? Which Ted Washington are the Raiders getting? The difference make or the one that gets hurt every other year for the last five?

Linebacker: Well, you still have Napoleon Harris. That's a good place to start but the unit looks weaker without Eric Barton (now a New York Jet).

Secondary: Will Charles Woodson get to camp? Can Phillip Buchanon makes as many plays as he gives up? Can Ray Buchanan adequately replace Rod Woodson at free safety? Keep in mind, Woodson moved from corner to safety, like Buchanan is attempting to do late in his career. Can Buchanan enjoy a similar revival? Will this be the year Derrick Gibson loses his job?

Special teams: The kicking game and return game are solid but will the coverage units please make plays? The good news is that new special teams coach Joe Avezzano will not tolerate anything less.

Coaching: The staff is about 80 percent new and the players are responding well. Then again, they responded well to Bill Callahan because he was not Jon Gruden -- and look what that got him two years later. Turner looks like he has surrounded himself with some quality coaches with new ideas. Then again, new coaches and schemes take time to acclimate.

Upon further review: You can make a case for 10 or 12 wins and it would be no surprise. But given the amount of "ifs" -- 7 or 8 are more likely.

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

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