D'ADAMO: Regardless of QB, Raiders need run game

The fact that the Oakland Raiders signed quarterback Kerry Collins really looms large now, the question is will the running game continue supporting him with ample production.? Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon sustained a fractured vertabra in his neck during a first quarter after colliding with Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks Sunday night in the Raiders 30-20 win over the Bucs in front of a nationally televised audience.

Gannon underwent an MRI exam Monday morning, and Oakland Raiders physicians revealed that they discovered a cracked bone that went undetected during an X-ray at the Coliseum Sunday night. Gannon is expended to miss six weeks but that's in a best case scenario.

That means that Collins will get the call Sunday, and beyond, when the Raiders visit the Houston Texans. The Raiders signed Collins after the New York Giants released him. Oakland signed Collins to a three-year, $16.82 million contract and the decision to make that move becomes even more important now.

Collins took over for Gannon on the next series. Gannon ran up the middle on a quarterback keeper and Brooks nailed Gannon, who fell forward. Gannon walked to the locker room under his own power. Gannon returned to the sideline but concussion was ruled out as an injury.

Collins completed 16-of-27 passes for 228 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Most people have argued that Collins' arm strength makes him a more natural fit for first-year head coach Norv Turner's offense that emphasizes the vertical passing game and power-running game. Those same people believe that Gannon was a better fit for the offenses of former head coaches Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan.

That point might be entirely true and nor should we lose sight of the fact that Collins, whom the Raiders signed as a free agent after the New York Giants released him, calmly led the Raiders to Sunday's win over the Bucs in going 16-of-27 for 227 yards and one touchdown. However, Oakland's running game, which had been nonexistent in its first two games experienced a great revival Sunday night in rushing for 173 yards (102 from Tyrone Wheatley) after combining for just 134 in its first two games.

Even if Gannon were healthy enough to start Sunday in Houston, the fact that Collins did an outstanding job after replacing Gannon would have brought out those who believed Collins should be the starter. Again, make no mistake, Collins was solid but let's not forget one idea. It does not matter who is under center, the Raiders need the ground game.

Many modern-day pundits argue that the passing game is how teams win today. They might point out the 1999 St. Louis Rams, who were Super Bowl champs that season. How soon they forgot that Rams running back Marshall Faulk rushed for well over 1,000 yards (1,381 to be exact). Unfortunately, those people miss the point. Through three weeks, teams with a 100-yard rusher are 21-8 while teams with a 300-yard passer are 7-7. Chances are pretty good that those winning percentages probably won't change appreciably by the end of the season.

In a perfect world, you want a balanced offense, which the Raiders can be. Granted, Oakland might not rush for 173 yards every week but an average of say 130 would be more than adequate support regardless of who is under center.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com


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