Inside Slant on The Raiders

All along, the focus has been on Randy Moss and how he will impact the Oakland Raider offense this year. Maybe that's the wrong tack to take.

LaMont Jordan may equal, or exceed, Moss' impact in the long run. Looked at in terms of negative significance, the Raiders could more easily survive the loss of Moss than they could Jordan.

The Raiders were already a good passing team. They were NOT a running team of any stripe whatsoever ... finishing last in the league without him.

And they seem determined to make him the workhorse back he has longed to be since leaving the New York Jets and the shadow of Curtis Martin by signing with Oakland in March.

Moss may be the lightning threat but Jordan is the glue to the entire offense. He figures to get 300 to 325 carries this year -- minimum.

By contrast, Moss may get 100 balls. But without Jordan as a distraction, he may not get that many.

Take Saturday night's exhibition opener against the 49ers. Of the Raiders' first five plays, four went to Jordan on two passes and two runs.

Result: 28 yards gained, two first downs. He only was in for two series and 20 plays including penalties. He got the ball more than 40 percent of the plays.

Moss? He wasn't targeted with a pass until midway through the first quarter when he gathered in a sideline pass for 11 yards. He didn't get another.

While it is true that the Raiders don't need to go to Moss frequently to make him effective, it is also true that they want Jordan to carry a heavy burden, as befits someone whose salary now could reach $27.5 million over five years, including incentives.

It's precisely what Jordan dreamed of while watching from the sidelines as Martin served as the workhorse in New York.

"I have to realize that my life is changing now," Jordan said. "I'm in a totally different tax bracket, that's for sure. I think the biggest thing I'm going to have to handle is people just recognizing me ... coming up to me and wanting to talk.

"Everything else, I'm prepared for. It's a role I've been waiting for for four years. It's a role that physically I came into the NFL prepared to handle."

Mentally, he said, he now realizes he wasn't ready for it. But he learned how to reach that point by watching Martin and learning. He is careful to avoid playing the goal game -- such as rushing for more yards than the league's elite, including his former teammate and mentor in New York.

"My goal ... never say how many yards I'm going to get," he said. "My goal is to go out and do the best I can and when I walk off the field, when I look back, just be able to say to myself that I left everything out on the field. "I have all the ability to be up there with those guys but I'm not going to ... make any predictions."

Others do, of course. And Jordan sees those fantasy rags.

"One had me finishing with 975 yards," Jordan said. "I look at that as a slap in the face. One of those slaps where I say, `OK, you can slap me once but at the end of the season, I want to make sure I'm hitting you back with a powerful punch."

--It will be interesting to see how coach Norv Turner makes use of fullback Zack Crockett this year now that LaMont Jordan has joined the Raiders rushing corps and seemingly solved their 2004 ground woes.

The Raiders were stone last in the league in rushing last year, through no fault of Crockett, who may be the most under-appreciated ballcarrier in the league.

Raider followers know that when it comes to short yardage or goal line, Crockett is money. However, last year, he didn't get many chances to prove, or rather re-prove, his worth in that department.

The reason, ostensibly, was that he was too valuable as the fullback. Consequently, through the first 12 games of the year, Crockett got just four carries.

Then, when the season was all but history, he was finally handed the ball and produced big time -- 45 carries for 213 yards and two touchdowns over the last four games.

In the season finale, he had 22 carries for 134 yards against Jacksonville. That turned out to be the biggest output by a Raider back all year.

He was rewarded by nothing less than the arrival of Jordan. On that front, it is no secret Turner plans to get the former Jet the ball 20 to 25 times a game.

But in training camp, as impressive as Jordan has been -- and Turner rhapsodizes about him -- Crockett has been no less effective.

In fact, at age 32 he has been running like a man possessed.

"I appreciate that (observation)," Crockett said. "But I've been doing that for years. You know how I do in short yardage. It never changes. I am always ready. I always prepare. But I am patient. That's why I have been in this game for so long."

Last week during goal line, Crockett followed center Jake Grove straight up the middle where he was seemingly swallowed up with nowhere to go. But Crockett refused to stop, kept churning his legs and with a display of power, forced his way through traffic and into the end zone.

It's not unusual to see running backs hitting the ground hard in this camp, a good sign the rush defense is on top of its game. However, Crockett and Jordan are the exceptions. They're running over and through people on a regular basis.

In the exhibition opener, Crockett made an immediate impact with three straight carries that gained 8, 4 and 3 yards before taking a seat for the evening. It helped the Raiders to a controlled first half lead of 6-0 in which they ran 59 plays to the 49ers' 19 and gained 203 yards while allowing 39.

CAMP CALENDAR: Training camp at Napa concludes Aug. 24 at which point the team returns to Alameda for the final 15 days before the opener at New England on Thursday, Sept. 8. The only open practices the Raiders will have will be in Texas when they have controlled scrimmages with the Houston Texans Aug. 18 and 19 prior to their exhibition game. The California portion of their camp is not open to the public.

NOTES, QUOTES

-- Although Cal LG Langston Walker, a former tackle at 6-8, is one of the tallest guards in the league, coach Norv Turner says he has no problem with the notion of keeping him there even if it does go against the grain.

"I really like what he's doing," Turner said. "He is getting better as we continue to do things over and over and he gets reps. He is playing lower and the thing people don't appreciate is that here you've got guy who is 355 and he gets out on those defensive linemen."

Turner may have divulged a little secret there. Walker is listed at 345 pounds, which would be up five pounds from a year ago. But his size is more of an asset than a negative, the coach said.

He's the on-field version of a black hole. When he's leading the way, the ball disappears into one.

"They (defenders) have a tough time finding the back with the ball cutting inside in the running game," Turner said.

Besides, he added, "there have been a lot of good 6-6 guards. I mean, it's only a two-inch difference. I don't know where you draw the line."

-- A one-time third round pick of Buffalo, massive 6-7, 330-pound tackle Robert Hicks made it all the way through most of camp last year before being cut. This time, he may be able to mount a challenge to 6-8, 340-pound Chad Slaughter, who has been the team's key reserve.

Hicks recently bowled over former Atlanta DT Ed Jasper during an afternoon drill. And it's not that Jasper, who had considered retirement, has lost it. In the Raiders' exhibition opener at San Francisco he had one of the Raiders' three sacks.

There almost appears to be a pair of twins standing behind center when the Raiders line up for an offensive play here.

No. 5, Kerry Collins, and No. 16, Andrew Walter, are both not only highly motivated but highly elevated -- Collins standing 6-5 and Walter a slight, yet clearly visible inch taller. Since neither is a scrambler and both possess rocket arms, there are those who are already prepared to conclude the two are pretty much the same guy.

Not coach Norv Turner.

While praising Walter for being natural with "a great feel for the pocket and a quick release," he notes that aside from being big and strong they are alike in just one way.

"They're both big, strong guys that throw up the field," he said. "Andrew's background is just a little different."

True: he hasn't been to a Super Bowl yet. But he appears to have an arm that just might get a team there.

-- Punter Shane Lechler is a former quarterback and, as such, just like Raider legend Ray Guy considers himself a football player first and a kicker second.

That mentality, while making him a popular teammate, can work against him. It did in Saturday's opening exhibition game at San Francisco.

On Lechler's first punt of the year, he got a rather bad snap from Kenny Smith, found himself facing a possible block by 49er Keith Lewis, sidestepped the rush and started to kick anyway ... until he realized the kick would be negated by blockers being downfield.

There was room to run on the right side so, ever the athlete, he took off. Bad decision. Just past the line of scrimmage, 49er Saleem Rasheed made a dive for him, grazing his leg and sending Lechler into an out-of-control stagger in the direction of the first down marker.

Officials at first ruled Lechler got the first down by a yard but the 49ers challenged that his knee was down three yards short of where the ball had been spotted. The review proved San Francisco coach Mike Nolan correct.

Small issue in an exhibition game except for one problem. The awkward dive Lechler had made for the first down marker left him hobbling. He had pulled a hamstring and did not return the remainder of the game.

He also got a lecture from his coach. "I told him if he got into any trouble, I didn't have any problem with him going down if he got a bad snap," Norv Turner said.

"It was instinct," Lechler said. "There was no way I was going to lay down. Looking back, I should have turned and kicked it out of bounds. But hindsight is 20-20."

The hamstring injury was declared a mild strain.

-- For the second time in 10 months, Raiders defensive line coach Sam Clancy had to be taken to a hospital after fainting on the sideline while coaching.

The most recent incident came Saturday night during the Raiders' exhibition opener against San Francisco. Early in the second half Clancy fainted then, after reviving, went to the locker room before being transported to a nearby hospital where he was held overnight for observation.

The previous incident occurred last October at the Raiders' Alameda encampment when Clancy, 47, complained of chest pains and shortness of breath. He was diagnosed at the time with an irregular heartbeat.

--Coaches and players held their breath during a recent afternoon practice when WR Randy Moss went up for a Kerry Collins pass only to be thumped in the back by rookie linebacker Ryan Riddle.

Moss landed hard but got up and showed no signs of damage, returning for the next play.

"Got real quiet there, didn't it," coach Norv Turner said. "Quiet, then loud."

Loud as in Riddle being riddled with shouts to back off during limited contact drills.

Turner said Riddle got the point, however it brought to mind a similar incident that occurred five years earlier when rookie safety Eric "Crazy" Johnson did the exact same thing to starting tight end Rickey Dudley.

Not only did Johnson earn his nickname that day, his eagerness earned him a spot on the roster as an undrafted free agent.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was my fault. It was my choice and I messed up. Nobody did it to me. You have to be a man and take responsibility for what you do and I am paying for it now." -- Rookie DT Anttaj Hawthorne, who fell from a projected first or second round draft pick to the sixth round after testing positive for marijuana in February at the Indianapolis combine.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Depending on who you believe, the Raiders are either going to be multiple in their defense (going to the 3-4 or the 4-3 equally) or they have shifted entirely to the 4-3.

Against San Francisco, the focus was on the 4-3 whether by long-term or short-term design dependent on the opponent. However, there was no question the first unit was highly successful, though it was against a rookie, San Francisco's No. 1 pick, quarterback Alex Smith. Tommie Kelly, who started at right end after a move from tackle, was particularly effective with a sack and a tackle of Kevan Barlow for a three-yard loss but Warren Sapp, playing right tackle instead of right end, also had a sack.

--Following the second week of training camp, Derrick Gibson began playing with the first unit at strong safety and Marques Anderson, who had been starting, began working with the twos. Gibson got the start against San Francisco. However, it wasn't necessarily a permanent promotion. Coaches wanted to get a look at both with the first units.

--RB DeJuan Green was expected to get between 12 and 18 carries against San Francisco, but went down with a sprained ankle the day before the game. That led to the addition of running back Leonard Henry to the roster as a free agent. Henry, a seventh round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2002 played six games for the Dolphins last year with 46 rushing attempts for 141 yards and three pass receptions for 12 yards in six games. He had two starts in Miami. At 6-1, 210 he gained 85 yards in a game against Pittsburgh on Oct. 3.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: It's not for a position but it's what is taking place on the practice field between left cornerback Charles Woodson and wide receiver Randy Moss. The two are involved in pitched battles daily between defender and receiver and it has been no less than spectacular at times. One day Moss makes a one-handed grab, the next day Woodson -- who seems more motivated and challenged than he has been in years -- will close with a rush and bat the pass intended for Moss down. It has paralleled their battles when they were not teammates and Moss was in Minnesota. One time Moss would prevail, the next it would be Woodson.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Gibson, who is more accomplished as a pass defender, and Anderson, stronger against the run, are making their own statements to start but it seems clear that Gibson will be on the field more frequently as a key member of the nickel and dime packages ... Tim Johnson has been annoying offensive players with what they consider to be cheap shots as he fights off the challenge of rookie Kirk Morrison for an inside spot in the 3-4 ... Although coach Norv Turner has said that WR Doug Gabriel is his No. 1 punt and kickoff returner, rookie free agent Chris Carr is emerging from the pack as his chief challenger. In the exhibition opener, Carr had impressive punt returns of 17 and 12 yards but Gabriel one-upped him with a 36-yard runback on his lone return. Carr also had an interception on defense.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Johnnie Morant, faced with the possibility of not making the roster due to a glut of talent at the position, took advantage of hamstring injuries to Jerry Porter and Carlos Francis by making four catches for 76 yards in the opener against the 49ers. A fifth round pick a year ago, Morant appeared to be on the bubble but now must be considered a serious contender.

ROOKIE REPORT: CB Fabian Washington continues to back up RCB Nnamdi Asomugha but isn't close to replacing him in the starting lineup and remains a non-participant in first unit nickel and dime defenses. ... No. 2 pick Stanford Routt had a disastrous first outing at San Francisco. He was beaten for two touchdowns in a 21-13 loss, letting Brandon Lloyd get behind him for a 36-yard score and then whiffing on a short hook to Arnaz Battle, who wheeled and went into the end zone untouched from 13 yards out. ... Pick 3-a, QB Andrew Walter mirrored his practice work in the opener throwing some impressive passes in a 13-for-24 debut for 131 yards, but also dealing out a pair of interceptions. ... Pick 3-b, LB Kirk Morrison is getting plenty of playing time and while not dominating, seems to be well on his way in his bid to be a regular in the 3-4 defense. ... Pick 6-a, DT Anttaj Hawthorne stepped it up in the second week, showing quickness at the nose at 317 pounds, a real change of pace from the man ahead of him, 360-pound Ted Washington. ... Pick 6-b, DE Ryan Riddle has displayed aggression but also lots of mistakes as he makes the switch from defensive end/edge linebacker to the inside. He faces long odds to be part of the final 53 however. ... Pick 7, T Pete McMahon, is getting additional work at guard in hopes of finding his niche.

INJURY REPORT: While WR Jerry Porter is to return and possibly play in the second exhibition game at Houston, WR Carlos Francis is still at least a week away. Both have hamstring injuries ... Backup center and No. 1 long snapper Adam Treu returned to practice Aug. 15 after sitting out more than two weeks with a calf strain ... RB DeJuan Green suffered a sprained ankle and will be out indefinitely ... Ronald Curry (Achilles) will sit out the Houston game but is expected to make his return from offseason surgery for the Arizona game the following week.

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