Nation news: Change for the better

Changing positions, changing players at positions and changing numbers. When you are attempting to rebound from a dreadful season, nothing is sacred. And so it begins with the Raiders settling the troops in an effort to make the team better and more diverse.

  • Langston Walker, drafted in the second round as a tackle out of Cal in 2002 and moved to guard last season, is moving back to tackle.

    Walker opened the 2004 season at right tackle, only to have a difficult game in pass protection in the season opener against Pittsburgh. He was benched in favor of top draft pick Robert Gallery.

    He moved somewhat reluctantly to left guard last season, where he started until suffering an intra-abdominal hemorrhage after six games and missing the rest of the season.

    "The way things have gone, I've played guard, played either tackle, so it's pretty obvious my athletic ability has allowed me to excel at any of those positions except center," Walker said.

  • Running backs flaring out of the backfield in search of swing passes will be sorry to here it, but Tyler Brayton's days of being a stand-up guy are over.

    He is back in the starting blocks for good, according to coach Art Shell.

    "He's a defensive end," Shell said in officially ending a two-year experiment of using the 6-foot-6, 275-pound Colorado product at outside linebacker. "When we told him, he was excited about it. Get back down and get after the passer from that three-point stance."

    Not only was Brayton back at end, but he worked extensively with the first time from the right side during the Raiders' three-day mini-camp.

  • The first day of Michael Huff's career as an Oakland Raider included getting beat on a deep pass by Randy Moss.

    "It was my first experience and he scored on me," Huff said. "But that's part of the territory, so I've got to go out there and get better every day."

    Based on the first mini-camp, Huff will be used much like Woodson was -- as a versatile defender capable of playing deep safety, blitzing, covering receivers in the slot or taking players man-to-man.

    "He's capable of doing those things, that's why he's in there working," Shell said. "His versatility is very important to what we're planning on doing on defense."

  • In terms of the review by the coach, the Raiders' first voluntary mini-camp followed a predictable form.

    A strong first day, followed by a sluggish second day, ending on a high note on Day 3.

    "I told them, `we're going to throw a lot of things at you, and you've just got to try and decipher and learn it the best you can,'" Shell said. "In the morning, you'd call a play, and their eyes would be as big as balloons, which should be expected. By the afternoon, you could see improvement. I think they're doing OK."

  • Coach Shell can thank his former coach for the fact the Raiders will have some additional preparation time to get ready for the season opener.

    With John Madden being inducted to the Hall of Fame, the Raiders were selected to play the Eagles on Aug. 6 in the Hall of Fame game, with Madden at the microphone in his debut with NBC.

    That gives Shell four more quarters to get a new staff and offensive system ready for the season opener Sept. 11 against San Diego.

    "I've always liked the fifth game," Shell said. Some people don't like it, but I've always liked it because I feel it gives you a head start. That's going to be invaluable for us, especially with a new staff coming in on the offensive side of the ball."

  • Barry Sims, the longtime starter at left tackle who was moved to left guard, likes the idea of a quarterback who can take evasive action. Predecessor Kerry Collins was a statuesque pocket passer how absorbed 39 of the Raiders' 45 sacks given up in 2005.

    "Aaron is a competitor and he's got a strong arm," Sims said. "It will be exciting to have someone in there that's got some mobility and some leadership. We're excited to have him here."

  • Wide receiver Carlos Francis has abandoned No. 10 for No. 82. And while assuming the number of another former sprinter (James Jett), Francis thought a change of luck was in order.

    "I had to change," Francis said. "There weren't any plays in No. 10."

    Francis, a former world class sprinter out of Texas Tech, suffered a knee injury as a rookie and had his training camp derailed by a hamstring pull last season.


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