Raiders ready to splash or flop?

Al Davis has stepped onto the diving board again. This time he is strapping quarterbacks to his side as he looks for the next big splash. But the teams that surround the pool aren't scurrying to the side. "Jump" they say - make the splash you crave.

The latest rumors have Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders trading up in the NFL Draft to acquire top quarterback Matt Leinart. They would have to leapfrog to the second pick in order to achieve their mighty goal, bypassing Tennessee along the way.

The whole idea may have been first planted into his brain by Rich Gannon, ironically.

"I've studied a bunch of NFL quarterbacks - Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Rich Gannon, Brett Favre. I've spent a day to Rich Gannon, he came down to SC. Just how he prepares for a game every day during the week," Leinart revealed.

Gannon was the last quarterback to have success in Oakland and he certainly knows a thing or two about the position.

While it sounds as glorious as the tradition, it is also fit with peril.

The Raiders placed 21st in total offense in 2005 and 23rd in scoring but the offense suffered more from inconsistent play from an offensive line that saw the team finish four-worst in the league in rushing offense.

They jettisoned quarterback Kerry Collins and signed Aaron Brooks in free agency, another inconsistent option. Now they are looking at the quarterback position again before Brooks has thrown a pass.

One thing is certain, however, the Raiders will never get production out of their myriad talent on offense if the line can't hold off the opposition. And for all their woes, they still have a trio of talented playmakers. including Randy Moss who suffered through a down year by his standards.

If they are going to select anyone, it should be an offensive lineman to protect their best assets.

In truth, the real problem is the defense. The defense finished 27th overall in the 32-team league and allowed 23.9 points per game. They had no control over the line of scrimmage as teams churned out attempt after attempt (third-most attempts in the league), wearing the team down.

Davis should be looking for a difference maker up front. Haloti Ngata or A.J. Hawk would fill those gaps and begin to give the potent offense more time with the ball. Only four other teams had a time of possession worse than the Raiders.

The team needs more than one player to take the next step. Moving up from slot seven to two will take ammunition and it will take away from their ability to snare more young talent in rounds two and possibly three, if not a pick in 2007.

Draft picks are gold in the salary cap era. Al Davis needs to take a step back from the edge of the water and sit back down with his pina colada. Then, perhaps, the ship will be righted.

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