The Raiders' Offensive Line needs to improve.

His 18-yard touchdown run against Miami notwithstanding, quarterback Kerry Collins is the first to admit he's about as mobile as a Redwood tree. With opponents blitzing the Raiders with increasing frequency this season, the team's offensive line has failed to hold up its end of the bargain and is a prime reason Oakland has struggled to move the ball with any consistency.

Collins was sacked a season-high seven times during a 33-21 loss to the Dolphins, a defeat that essentially eliminated the Raiders from playoff contention. Barring nothing short of a miracle, Oakland will sit out the postseason for the third straight year after going to the Super Bowl in 2002.

When the Raiders went to the Super Bowl in '02, they did it with a highly efficient offense led by Rich Gannon, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice and Tyrone Wheatley. But the biggest reason for Oakland's success that season was the offensive line, which was dominant for three straight years from 2000-02.

Boasting a pair of Pro Bowlers in center Barret Robbins and right tackle Lincoln Kennedy, the Raiders led the entire NFL in rushing in 2000, were seventh in total offense in '01 and in '02 owned the top-ranked unit in total yardage, passing yardage, first downs and was second in scoring.

This season Oakland is 27th in rushing, seventh in passing, 15th in total offense, tied for 13th in first downs and 14th in scoring.

While the Raiders have had breakdowns of every variety in all three phases, the offensive line's problems take on greater significance given Collins' lack of mobility coupled with the timing he needs to get the ball downfield to receivers like Randy Moss and Jerry Porter.

On Monday, Oakland head coach Norv Turner defended his offensive line but acknowledged the need for better play up front.

''From a coaching standpoint you don't take anything for granted and our protection has been one of our strengths,'' Turner said. ''We've been protecting well. We tried everything we could (against Miami) in terms of helping there, chipping, banging. We had some matchups where we did get beat.

''If you're helping outside on the tackle, your guards end up singled up. If you're trying to help and turn in protection, someone along the way is going to end up singled up. And there were some times where we were singled up and we didn't handle it as well as we have.''

After giving up 30 sacks for all of 2004, the Raiders have surrendered 29 through 11 games this year.


* Defensive back Reggie Tongue was placed on injured reserve after injuring his knee in Sunday's loss to Miami. In his place the Raiders signed Lenny Walls, who played for Denver earlier this season before being placed on, and eventually waived from, injured reserve.

Under NFL rules, a player put on IR cannot play again for that same team that season, even if medically cleared. However, that player can play for another team, which is what happened with Walls and the Raiders. A groin strain landed Walls on the Broncos' IR list Nov. 2 and he was released from injured reserve Monday after reaching a settlement with the team. Twenty-four hours later Walls was in Oakland with his new team.

Though he is the tallest cornerback in the NFL at 6'4'', Walls has been beset by a rash of injury problems since 2003. In addition to the groin strain he had this year, the fourth-year pro had an ankle injury on his right foot during the 2004 preseason and suffered a separated right shoulder during the regular season last year.

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