Cooper a good fit on defensive line

Regan Upshaw's season-ending knee injury created a bit of a dilemma along the Raiders defensive line. Already a question mark to begin with on the outside edge, Oakland was forced to scramble when Upshaw tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a June mini-camp. Left end Tony Bryant was moved over to Upshaw's slot while second-year man Chris Cooper moved over to right.

So far the moves appear to be working. Bryant looks quicker and stronger than he has in his previous three NFL seasons while Cooper, who played in 11 games as a rookie, is settling in and trying to gain a foothold on a starting job. Both Bryant and Cooper will be in the starting lineup when the Raiders play at Dallas in their preseason opener Friday.

Playing the left end won't be much of a stretch for Cooper. Though he played both tackle and at right end at times last year, the 2001 sixth-round draft pick played left end at Division I-AA Nebraska-Omaha and was primarily playing the left side toward the end of his first NFL season last year.

Now he's concentrating on one position. Cooper has added 15 pounds to his already impressive 6'5'', 275-pound frame but appears to have kept his speed. The Raiders are also having their defensive ends now start lining up on the outside shoulder of the opposing tight ends, rather than the inside shoulder as in years past, in hopes of creating more pressure on quarterbacks.

''I just feel a lot more relaxed,'' Cooper said. ''I can just focus on my technique more.


The Raiders went through a real light practice in the morning Wednesday, the workout not even last 90 minutes. With a game on Friday in Dallas, head coach Bill Callahan is taking a scaled-back approach to practice ... Wide receiver Matthew Hatchette had an up and down day in the morning. Hatchette allowed an easy pass from Rich Gannon to slip through his hands, but the sixth-year veteran came back to make a nice grab on a 30-yard completion from Rick Mirer ... Matt Stinchcomb is getting a long look at left guard. Though Frank Middleton is expected to begin the season as the starter, Stinchomb has spent most of training camp making the move from tackle to guard. With Darryl Ashmore lost for the season to injury, Stinchcomb might be the Raiders most versatile offensive lineman. He's already the backup to left tackle Barry Sims and is the third center behind Barret Robbins and Adam Treu ... Fans lining up for autographs in between practices bring an assortment of items to be signed by the players but one eager fellow took things to new heights when he removed the dash board from inside his vehicle and hauled it to camp to get signed. Several players accomodated the fan, though not before shaking their heads.



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