The Oakland Raiders arrive in Napa, CA, on Thursday for training camp after an offseason full of moves that were both exciting and perplexing at the same time. Oakland traded for wide receiver Randy Moss, signed running back Lamont Jordan, re-signed wide receiver Jerry Porter, re-signed cornerback Charles Woodson but did little improve a leaky defense that has ranked 32nd and 30th in total defense the last two seasons.
Strong-armed quarterback Kerry Collins returns for his second year in the offense to throw long strikes to Moss and Porter coupled with, what the team hopes is, better ground game support in Jordan. Oakland has what looks like a solid offensive line thanks to last year's draft class of tackle Robert Gallery and center Jake Grove. The Raiders should be an exciting team but all the style points in the world won't matter if the defense is not improved enough to where it's at least decent.
After all, Indianapolis and Kansas City have proven that you can only go so far if your defense is the NFL's version of the Phoenix Suns, who treat the word like it's an afterthought.
Like any team, the Raiders enter training camp with the same goal as all other 31 NFL teams – win the Super Bowl. Like every other team, they also have question marks: 1) How long before Moss and/or Porter yap about Collins not throwing them enough passes? 2) Is Jordan, who has never started a game, for real? 3) Can Ronald Curry come back healthy? 4) Can the defense improve enough to at least be decent? 5) Will Norv Turner, who is not likely to get a free pass on another double-digit loss season, be the Raiders coach after this season?
All questions are worthy of discussion. The most pressing one, however, might be: can the offense carry this team on a weekly basis if the Raiders are not, say, top-ten material on defense? Offensively, this the best the Raiders have on paper since the 2002 season in which they won the AFC title. The major difference, however, was that team was at least above average defensively.
Despite making a couple of subtle moves, the defense still has mostly the same group who struggled badly last season. Having said that, can the offense overcome the defense's limitations on a weekly basis? That might be asking a bit much.
Granted, the Raider offense has the ability to match any team score-for-score like Indianapolis or Kansas City. Those teams, however, have one thing the Raiders don't have – a consistent quarterback in Peyton Manning and Trent Green respectively.
As great as Collins can look at times, he can also look lousy at others. When a team has a solid defense, a quarterback's streaky play is less magnified. With this defense, however, Collins might not be able to afford many down weeks.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com