Inside slant

Considering coach Norv Turner's philosophy, it appears nothing short of amazing that Oakland finished ranked No. 17 in NFL total offense last year.

His philosophy was based largely on having a strong running attack that would entice defenses up close to the line of scrimmage, thereby opening up the deep passing game.

The Raiders finished last in the league in rushing. Their No. 17 ranking in offense was predicated on passing without the advantage of the running game that was supposed to make it work.

Without the necessary help, with a change in quarterbacks three weeks into the season, the Raiders ranked No. 8 passing behind Kerry Collins.

Hence the acquisition of LaMont Jordan as their go-to back takes on far more significance than can be overstated.

Jordan does not have to rank among the league leaders in yards rushing to make him worth the $27.5 million price tag that has been attacked for being an overpayment.

If Collins' success throwing for 3,495 yards and 21 touchdowns came against defenses stacked to stop him -- and there is no question about that considering the 5-11 Raiders spent the year battling from behind -- came without augmentation from the ground game, then imagine where Oakland should be if Jordan can help bring the Raiders back to the middle of the pack as a rushing threat.

And that doesn't even count the impact of new Raider wide receiver Randy Moss.

"I think this is equally exciting as (the signing of Moss)," Turner said of the Jordan acquisition. "It brings us the three things we are looking for: a power back, a guy who can be durable and handle the amount of carries we want to give him, an explosive runner and an outstanding receiver. We got a guy I believe is as complete a back as we could find."

Jordan made no predictions other than to raise a point the Raiders clearly had in mind in upgrading their running attack.

"If you are a defensive coordinator, the question you have to ask yourself is how do I want the Raiders to beat me," he said. "If I don't rush for 1,400 yards but we go out and break an NFL record passing, then I'll feel like my job is done."

--The Raiders' stash of free agent signings has a common thread: familiarity.

As a New York Jet, Jordan was coached by Raider offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye.

When they signed fullback Rob Konrad, a six-year veteran with the Miami Dolphins, it reunited Konrad with Norv Turner, who coached him in Miami. Moreover, in his rookie year, he set a Dolphins' single game record for a rookie with 10 receptions ... and that game came against the Washington Redskins, coached at the time by Turner.

The acquisition of defensive lineman Kenny Smith, a free agent from New Orleans, brings him together once more with defensive line coach Sam Clancy. Clancy coached Smith in New Orleans from 2001-2003.

In the cases of both Konrad and Smith, there is another link. Both are former high draft picks who were set free after suffering injuries in 2004. Both are health risks the Raiders felt were worthwhile investments.

Konrad, a second round pick in 1999, missed three games with a thigh injury, returned only to suffer a concussion he played through until being placed on injured reserve due to a back injury.

Smith, a third-round pick in 2001, tore his rotator cuff in the preseason last year and spent the season on injured reserve. This came a year after he started nine games at defensive tackle in 2003, making 47 tackles. As a reserve, the previous year, he had 3.5 sacks.


When offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was inducted into the Fayetteville Sports Club Hall of Fame on March 28, there were six dozen family and friends on hand for the celebration.

"Really, this isn't about me," Raye said. "This is a celebration of their support for me. I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for them."

Among those present for the occasion were former Notre Dame and new University of Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham and San Francisco 49ers running backs coach Bishop Harris.

--A 2004 fourth round draft pick, little Carlos Francis was expected to make an impact on the Raiders as a fourth receiver. As it turned out, he didn't get to make a catch after a strong exhibition season.

The impact he made came midway through the season when he tore his ACL returning a kickoff. It ended his season before he could make a contribution.

Now, 11 months after impressing coaches in minicamps, he's ready to give it another shot.

"It's almost back, almost 100 percent," he said after a recent OTA workout. "It feels good. I'm just trying to get back to normal. The best thing is a good early start. It's exciting. We're enthused about this season and it all starts here. It's all positive right now."

--Although he has only carried the ball 38 times for 114 yards as a pro, newly acquired fullback Rob Konrad rushed for 1,516 yards and 20 touchdowns while at Syracuse.

With the Orangemen, he was the only fullback to have been granted the fabled No. 44 jersey that was once worn by Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little.

--Raiders defensive end Akbar Gbaja-Biamila is one of 66 NFL players who will be studying in the executive education program at the Harvard Business School and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The NFL and the NFL Players Association worked with the business schools to create the curriculum.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've done a lot of charity stuff, played a lot of golf, worked out a bit to get ready for it. Now it's on us again. Time to go to work." -- Raiders left tackle Barry Sims on his return to take part in the offseason training program.


1. Linebacker. They could rely on that pass rush push from a gifted outside linebacker provided they stay with the 3-4 that didn't materialize as was expected in '04.

2. Defensive end. In 15 of their games, the Raiders had just 18 sacks. In the other game, they had seven (against Buffalo's immobile Drew Bledsoe). With coverage cornerback play having been hit hard by contact rules, it is imperative that pass defense start with an effective pass rush and Oakland finished 30th in NFL pass defense last year. They believe they bolstered their rush by acquiring free agent Derrick Burgess, a post-season whiz in Philadelphia, but he is far from a proven commodity and more is needed from the draft.

3. Quarterback. With Rich Gannon apparently on the way out as of June 1, the Raiders may move to the middle of the draft or free agency to seek out a possible No. 3 quarterback. Currently, they only have practice squad types in David Rivers and Bret Engemann.


--CB Charles Woodson (tendered at $10.541M).



--S Jarrod Cooper has value as a special teams player and was an energetic, if occasionally mistake-prone, wild card sub on defense. He kept nose clean after some troubles with the law in Carolina. Worth another look.

--RB Chris Downs (not tendered as ERFA).

--RB J.R. Redmond was a virtual unknown until the Raiders favored him as a third-down receiver this year. He still flies under the radar of most clubs and is likely to be back.

--OT Chad Slaughter is a long-time deep sub with virtually no action. He's stuck due to his 6-8, 340-pound build but has never really come into his own. Figure he returns only under minimum salary conditions.

--SS David Terrell isn't a major need assuming the return of injured SS Derrick Gibson although he could get a sniff if '04 starter Courtney Anderson is given his release.

--RB Amos Zereoue showed little aside from a 60-yard touchdown run in Week 4 at Houston. He will not be a priority to re-sign and probably will only be of interest to other teams as a backup.


--SS Marques Anderson (tendered at $656,000 with 3rd-round pick as compensation) served as a last-second September starter with season-ending injury to Derrick Gibson and on occasion showed why Green Bay was willing to let him go back in August with occasional erratic play. Also got involved in an embarrassing public intoxication incident along with Charles Woodson late in the season. Team may not bother to exercise right of first refusal if he gets outside offers.

--LB Tim Johnson (tendered at $656,000 with no compensation) served the club well as a stopgap starter when injuries struck, but has never engendered outside interest in the past and will probably wind up in Raiders camp again with another shot at making the roster.


--WR Ronald Curry (tendered at $380,000) is a must-tender former seventh-round pick who developed last year into a big-play wide receiver before tearing his Achilles in the 12th game.

--S Keyon Nash (tendered at $305,000) has been around for several years and will probably continue to do so because of his uncommon size (6-3, 215).

--QB David Rivers (tendered at $230,000) will likely be tendered since the Raiders are shallow at the backup quarterback position.

--WR John Stone (tendered at $305,000) showed some promise late last year after Curry's injury and shows promise as a deep threat.


--DE Bobby Hamilton: UFA; terms unknown. FB Chris Hetherington: UFA; $690,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2005 cap: $455,000. WR Jerry Porter (Potential UFA; $20M/5 yrs, SB unknown). OG Ron Stone (FA, had been released by Raiders; $12.6M base salaries/5 yrs, SB unknown).


--DE Derrick Burgess: UFA Eagles; $14M/5 yrs, $6M bonuses. RB LaMont Jordan: UFA Jets; $27.5M/5 yrs, $7M SB; 2005 cap: $1.95. FB Rob Konrad: FA Dolphins; $700,000/1 yr, SB unknown. WR Randy Moss (trade Vikings). DT Kenny Smith: UFA Saints; terms unknown.


-- CB Ray Buchanan (released). LB DeLawrence Grant (released). LB Napoleon Harris (traded Vikings). OG Frank Middleton (released/failed physical). DT John Parrella (released). RB Tyrone Wheatley (released/failed physical). TE Roland Williams (released).

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