Art Shell's camp checklist

It isn't so much the questions that come every year at this time but the necessity to build certain units and/or players up for the coming year. Oakland head coach Art Shell has his hands full with finding a quarterback, an offensive line, while balancing it with the play of rookies.

Establish Aaron Brooks as the starting quarterback: Signed as a free agent from New Orleans, Brooks was told he wasn't necessarily the starter in the Art Shell regime. However, it appeared to be headed that way in the lone mini-camp open the media as well as behind closed doors.

Shell said in June he hoped to have his quarterback selected before camp began, and it would serve the Raiders well to publicly proclaim Brooks as the starter and allow him to begin the process of assuming the leadership role, giving him ample opportunity to get his timing down with an explosive receiving corps including Randy Moss, Jerry Porter and Doug Gabriel.

Although second-year quarterback Andrew Walter has been listed as a dark-horse candidate to start, the reality is Walter has never taken a snap in a meaningful NFL game. Marques Tuiasosopo is in the last year of his contract and isn't likely to challenge.

With the Raiders at a crucial period in their history, the wise move would be to pick a veteran starter and go with him for continuity's sake. The last thing they need is an unsettled quarterback situation heading into a season with a new coaching staff including a head coach and an offensive coordinator (Tom Walsh) who may show some signs of rust.

Get a line on success: Establish a physical practice tone for an offensive line that was one of the NFL's worst last season. Robert Gallery, the No. 2 pick overall in the 2004 draft, has been moved to left tackle and needs to play up to his potential.

Although already labeled a disappointment in some quarters, Gallery's rookie year at right tackle was a promising one. He, as well as the entire line, underachieved with Norv Turner as the head coach and Jim Colletto as the offensive line coach.

Hailed as a line talent in the Jonathan Ogden, Tony Boselli mode coming out of Iowa, the ripple effect would be considerable should Gallery approach that level in Year 3.

Infuse rookies into the lineup: With five pre-season games, the Raiders have ample opportunity to get first-round pick Michael Huff, second-round selection Thomas Howard and third-round pick Paul McQuistan into the starting lineup.

A team that was too old a few short years ago, the Raiders could use the youth and aggression of their three top picks. Huff, the No. 9 pick overall, is a no-brainer. He'll line up as a strong safety, but his position will change with down and distance to take advantage of skills which range from tackling to coverage to rushing the passer.

Howard, a linebacker from Texas El-Paso, has excellent coverage skills and is the sort of explosive athlete the Raiders have seldom had at the position.

McQuistan, a tackle at Weber State, was quietly moved to right guard at closed mini-camps and Organized Team Activities and has gotten reps with the first team. It is hoped he seizes the opportunity, becomes a starter, and along with Gallery and center Jake Grove, gives the Raiders three young linemen to build with.


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