Adjusting to the game

When the camera pans to Art Shell on the Oakland Raiders sideline it is tough to determine what he is thinking or feeling, except pain. Without emotion, the head coach is a deer caught in headlights. Save for his trusty notebook that is.

Raiders coach Art Shell has made note of it, and promises considerable study on the subject. It's bye week in Oakland, time for the Raiders to study what went wrong in two games lost by combined score of 55-3.

Of all the ugly statistics compiled by the Raiders offense through the two games, the strangest stat of all is a zero.

Despite overwhelming pressure on quarterbacks Aaron Walter and Aaron Brooks, the Raiders don't have a single pass completion to their running backs.

It's an amazing statistic, given that one of the tried and true ways to attack a fierce pass rush is through screen passes, check downs and swinging the ball outside for running backs to attack theoretically open spaces.

Raiders quarterbacks have been sacked 15 times in two games. The only other team in double figures is Miami with 10.

"As we move along, I've been writing down notes," Shell said. "That's one of the things I wrote down. We need to get the ball to our backs out of the backfield. We need to put more pressure on the defense by doing that."

The Raiders in recent years have depended heavily on throwing passes to the running backs.

LaMont Jordan had 70 receptions for the Raiders last season, second on the team. In 2004, Amos Zereoue had 39 catches and J.R. Redmond 32. That was in the Norv Turner regime.

The Jon Gruden-Bill Callahan era featured running backs essentially taking "long handoffs" as a way to move the sticks, with the highlight coming in 2002 when Charlie Garner caught 91 passes for 941 yards.

The Raiders are the only team in the NFL that through two games does not have a running back with a pass reception.

A scan of both game books finds only one of 46 passes that were intended for Jordan -- an incompletion by Walter over the middle on third-and-11 that fell incomplete.

In the opener against San Diego, Walter threw deep for Jordan on one play but it was erased by a delay of game penalty.

It's not clear whether there is a flaw in the system of offense or if it is no more than a two-game fluke. Brooks and Walter refer all questions regarding play selection to the coaching staff.

Oakland's offense has its roots with the Sid Gillman system Al Davis learned with the San Diego Chargers in the early 1960s. In Davis' first year as head coach in 1963, running backs caught 68 passes -- including 30 for a staggering 685 yards (22.8 yards per catch by Clem Daniels.

Through the late 60s and early 1970s running backs such as Hewritt Dixon and Charlie Smith were reliable receivers out of the backfield.

Raiders offensive coordinator Tom Walsh is a Gillman disciple, but relying on running backs as receivers was a hit-and-miss proposition when he was on staff between 1982-94.

In 1994, his last season with the Raiders, Harvey Williams caught 47 passes for 391 yards. But the season before, no Raiders running back had more than Steve Smith's 18 receptions.

In 1990, the year the Raiders made it to the AFC championship game against Buffalo with Walsh a key member of the offensive staff, only 20 of Jay Schroeder's 182 completions were to running backs.

According to one player, backs have often been kept in to protect the passer, not that it's done much good.

"You have to adjust," the player said. "I'm not sure we've done that."

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