Off-season moves huge to season success

The Oakland Raiders made a multitude of moves this off-season but some will have more to do with their 2006 season success than others.                            

The Raiders' three most important off-season moves.

1. Releasing Kerry Collins, signing Aaron Brooks.

Collins was in some ways a scapegoat for a 4-12 season, but there was no denying his play got progressively worse as the season went along. He had become a lightning rod for fan criticism as well as a symbol for all that was wrong with the organization.

It didn't help that Collins never had a healthy Randy Moss after he suffered rib, pelvis and groin injuries in the sixth game of the season.

Brooks, like Collins, has been prone to mistakes at the worst times. But he should have three things Collins did not -- a healthy Moss, a coaching staff committed to solid offensive line play, and the ability to escape pressure with mobility.

Overall, it's a positive switch.

2. Drafting Texas safety Michael Huff.

There was concern that the Raiders passed on USC quarterback Matt Leinart to take Huff, but this is a team that needs help immediately and Huff is more likely to provide it.

Although not as physical as Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu or Baltimore's Ed Reed, Huff has the sort of explosion and versatility which can work well with constantly changing defensive schemes.

The Raiders would have had to wait at least a year to play Leinart, under a new offensive coordinator and a new system. And if Leinart happens to be another Ken Dorsey -- a so-so talent who excelled with a superior supporting cast in college -- it would be a wasted pick.

Huff offers help immediately, which is a positive.

3. Releasing defensive tackle Ted Washington.

Although turning 39, Washington still had some value as a run-stuffer in a division that includes LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and any running back Denver lines up in the backfield.

It appears the Raiders will move Tommy Kelly inside on a full-time basis, and while Kelly has largely put to rest all the questions surrounding his effort level in college, he is not the 380-pound anchor Washington was.


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