Raiders will look to open up the passing game

Much has been made about the changes being made to the Raiders offense, including the team's apparent goal of incorporating more deep passes into the playbook. During the first few days of training camp, Oakland has indeed been extending its pass patterns but don't expect quarterback Rich Gannon to be heaving 60-yard throws downfield every game. Head coach Bill Callahan says the vertical passing game can come through various ways and means.

''If you catch a ball five yards downfield and it gains 80, that's a big play,'' said Callahan during a break in Monday's practice. ''We're working on all facets of our passing game. Some days we're shorter, some days we're longer. We're going to test the defense. We're going to take advantage of the way defenses are playing us. As long as we're making plays and making yards after the catch, that's all that matters.''

Under Jon Gruden the Raiders rarely opened up the passing game. Gruden preferred a ball-control offense that relied heavily on crossing patterns, dump-off passes and short throws downfield. It often seemed that the only time Oakland threw deep with any kind of consistency was in games that they trailed late.

That conservative approach was both highly successful and at the same time highly troubling. While the Raiders have not lost by more than nine points since Dec. 13, 1998 when they were waxed by Buffalo, 44-21, a span of 50 consecutive games. But in the four years that Gruden was head coach in Oakland, the team was just 26-22 in games decided by 10 points or less.

''One of (Gruden's) greatest abilities was to keep us in games,'' said a Raiders source. ''But it also might have been his worst ability because we didn't win too many blowouts.''

Since Callahan was named as Gruden's replacement, though, the Raiders have been getting the ball downfield in practice more frequently. As part of Callahan's spin on the offense, some pass patterns have been extended by 10-15 yards in some instances.

And though the perception of Rich Gannon is that he is not adept at throwing the deep ball, Oakland's quarterback says he welcomes the change in philsophy.

''For whatever reason, I've gotten a knock that I don't like to throw the ball deep,'' said Gannon. ''That's just not the case. We were very selective when we did it in the past. That was something that was a weakness of ours a year ago. We also weren't as successful as we've been in the past on third-and-medium. Those are areas that we've addressed, that we've talked about, that we're going to try and focus on, concentrate on and try to get better at.''


The Raiders worked on several difference areas Monday, most prominently the red zone offense and third-down defense. Both sides came out winners in their respective drills. During the red zone portion of practice, quarternack Rich Gannon fired a pair of touchdown passes, including one to running back Charlie Garner. Back-up quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo had a tipped pass intercepted by safety Johnnie Harris but later came back to make a nice read and throw to Reggie Barlow near goal line on the left side of the end zone ... As will be the case for the majority of camp, the Raiders removed their pads in the afternoon practice. Though the heat in Napa still hasn't reached peak levels just yet, head coach Bill Callahan is taking no chances. He continues to trim practice times down from their alloted schedule, often by as much as 30 minutes ... Another trait of Callahan's is that he is rotating time off in the afternoon for veterans. On Sunday, wide receiver Jerry Rice and linebacker Greg Biekert were both given a break from the late session and each took the opportunity to get a massage at a nearby facility in Napa. On Monday, it was Tim Brown and Rod Woodson's turn for a respite from practice. The Raiders did similiar things for veterans while Jon Gruden was head coach and Callahan is continuing the tradition ... Cornerback Charles Woodson, whose contract expires in 2003, is having a solid start to camp. Woodson has been playing blanket-tight coverage on whichever receiver comes his way and has intercepted a pass three days running. On Monday the victim was Gannon. During 11-on-11 drills during the afternoon, Gannon tried to sneak a short pass out in the right short flat only to see Woodson dive past the receiver at the last second to record the interception ... Tight end Roland Williams made the catch of the day when he sped downfield on a fly pattern to haul in a 25-yard pass from Gannon. Linebacker Bobby Brooks had Williams covered well but the ball was thrown just out of Brooks' reach and Williams reached back to make the reception.


Running back Tyrone Wheatley (calf) and tight end Doug Jolley (groin) continued to sit out practice. No other new injuries were reported Monday, though center Barret Robbins did withdraw from some of the morning drills due to a jammed wrist. Offensive lineman Tom Ackerman had leg cramps and was out of the workout only briefly.


''We dont need no 49er jerseys out here. Where ya'll think you're at in the crimson and gold?'' -- right tackle Lincoln Kennedy, loudly pointing out two camp spectators who had wandered on the field wearing San Francisco gear.

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