When Rich Gannon became the Raiders quarterback in 1999, it was in large part due to his mobility. Once Gannon suffered a career-ending broken vertebra in 2004, the torch was passed to Kerry Collins, who was as immobile with that torch as the Statue of Liberty. Enter Brooks, who has the arm strength to get the ball upfield to an explosive group of receivers but also the mobility to escape trouble. Raiders quarterbacks were sacked 45 times in 2005. If Brooks struggles, there will be considerable pressure to get Andrew Walter, a second-round pick in 2005, on the field. Critics contend he has the same characteristics as Collins, while others claim he is more athletic than he appears and is really not all that different in terms of skill-set than Ben Roethlisberger. Marques Tuiasosopo, drafted to run a Gannon-style offense, appears to be biding his time until he is waived or his contract runs out.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters - RB LaMont Jordan, FB Zack Crockett. Backups - RB Justin Fargas, FB John Paul Foschi, RB Walter Williams, RB DeJuan Green, FB Joe Hall, RB Reshard Lee, RB J.R. Lemon, RB Rod Smart, FB Zach Tuiasosopo.
Jordan gained 1,025 yards on 255 carries in 14 games in first year as a feature back. On the minus side, he dropped too many passes and averaged just 3.8 yards per carry -- well under the 5-yard average he accumulated as Curtis Martin's backup with the Jets. He accounted for more than 75 percent of Oakland's meager rushing yardage. The bad news is the Raiders brought in no one as a change-of-pace back despite Shell's grand plan of restoring the organization to prominence through physical football. Fargas, whose rushing totals have declined each year, may be getting his last chance to be a contributor. Crockett remains a reliable short-yardage back who can run occasionally as a tailback. Foschi is an adequate block-and-release receiver who doesn't run from scrimmage. Smart was acquired largely because of his special teams skills.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Courtney Anderson. Backups - James Adkisson, Marcellus Rivers, O.J. Santiago, Randal Williams, Derek Miller.
Anderson, a seventh-round pick in 2004 who chased off second-round picks Doug Jolley and Teyo Johnson, remains an intriguing specimen with the size of a blocker and the soft hands of a receiver. Consistency has been an issue in both areas, as has been his durability. Williams, a converted wide receiver, should stick because of his prominent role on special teams. Veterans Rivers and Santiago will battle it out with Adkisson, a gifted athlete who was talked into switching to tight end last year by Al Davis himself. Early indications in mini-camps were tight ends could be more a part of the offense than they were in the Norv Turner system.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Randy Moss, Jerry Porter. Backups - Doug Gabriel, Ronald Curry, Alvis Whitted, Jason Boyd, Will Buchanon, Carlos Francis, Johnnie Morant, Rick Gatewood, John Madsen, Kevin McMahan, Burl Toler.
Moss is healthy and counting on a big season after groin, knee and rib injuries rendered him mortal much of last season. Porter caught 76 passes but averaged just 12.4 yards per catch and vanished for games at a time. Gabriel plays strictly outside, never in the slot, and has a penchant for making the spectacular catch. His name always comes up in trade talks, but the Raiders to date aren't dealing. Curry was Oakland's best receiver in 2004 before Achilles' tears cut him down two years in a row. It would be a huge plus if he could return to form, although that seems unlikely given the seriousness of his injuries. Whitted's speed has kept him around this long, and Morant was among the NFL preseason leaders last season in receiving yardage before taking a seat on the bench.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LT Robert Gallery, LG Barry Sims, C Jake Grove, RG Paul McQuistan, RT Langston Walker. Backups - G Cameron Spikes, G Corey Hulsey, G Kevin Boothe, G Brad Badger, G Kelvin Garmon, T Jabari Levi, T Brad Lekkerkerker, T Chad Slaughter, C Adam Treu, C Chris Morris, T William Obeng.
If all goes according to plan, Gallery will establish himself as a Pro Bowl caliber left tackle, Sims will extend his career and minimize his problems against speed by moving inside, Grove will stay healthy and prosper from not moving back-and-forth to guard, McQuistan will win a starting job as a rookie and Walker will be a better player for having moved inside to left guard for a year. On the other hand, if Gallery is average, Sims doesn't take to playing guard, Grove gets hurt, McQuistan isn't ready and Walker simply isn't the player they think he can be, it will be another long year. Badger is a reliable backup, as is Treu. Spikes and Garmon are former starters who hope to stick, while Boothe is a project. Morris has long-snapping skills if the Raiders decide to part ways with Treu.