All on the Shoop

Shoop. Shoop. Shoop. Shoop-a-dup. Last week the Oakland Raiders saw a new weapon emerge and John Shoop, the new offensive coordinator, was instrumental in bringing that man to the forefront. Could it also mean an expanded role?

Raiders rookie tight end John Madsen had an idea his breakout day was coming, even if he didn't tell anyone else.

"Going back to our Kansas City game, they were implementing more of my plays and different routes I could run," Madsen said. "I had a lot of plays in that game, but it didn't go my way."

Madsen, a former wide receiver at Utah who has been transformed into a tight end, didn't catch a pass against Kansas City. The lag time in putting his plays in and actually getting Madsen the ball was one week.

In the Raiders' 21-14 loss to the Chargers, Madsen caught three passes for 69 yards and his first professional touchdown, a 2-yard pass from Aaron Brooks that was preceded by a 57-yard pass that was originally ruled a touchdown but reversed by officials because he had stepped out of bounds at the 2-yard-line.

On the next play, Madsen ran a slant inside cornerback Quintin Jammer, and Brooks hit him for the score.

Earlier in the game, Madsen had missed on another big play possibility deep in San Diego territory. He couldn't decide whether to reach back with both hands or catch it over his shoulders, and when a closing safety came within range, Madsen admitted he heard some footsteps.

"I think I kind of flinched," Madsen said.

The reaction Madsen got from his teammates kept him in a positive frame of mind.

"A lot of guys came up and said, 'Don't worry about it, you'll get another shot,'" Madsen said. "But I'm hard on myself. I was kind of shaken up on the sideline trying to forget about it. I'm glad I shook it out of my mind and did something positive."

Madsen, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound wide receiver at Utah who is now up to 235 as an NFL tight end, plans on giving the football from last week to his father.

He originally saw himself as an Ed McCaffrey-type wide receiver, but a broken ankle ended his senior year, and he wasn't able to function fully until training camp as a Raiders free agent.

Niners quarterback Alex Smith, a college teammate at Utah, calls Madsen a "freak," in large part due to watching him dunk the ball in pick-up basketball games.

As a pro, Madsen's status as a tweener was cause for concern. Now the Raiders are utilizing him in mismatch situations. In formations with three tight ends, Madsen plays in tight but is too athletic and agile for bigger linebackers.

"You saw when we implemented three tight ends, it kind of got the defense on their heels," Madsen said. "They don't really know how to defend it, kind of paralyzing them a little bit as far as their blocking goes. They've got to respect the fact that we can go out on passes and can run. ... I like the formation a lot."

Raiders coach Art Shell said that after Madsen's performance in training camp, none of his success is coming as a big surprise.

"We liked him as a receiver, and with his body type, we thought we could move him to tight end," Shell said. "He's come along. The thing is, he's not afraid to put his hat on somebody. If you're going to be a tight end in this league, you've got to be willing to do that.

"We know he has good hands. He runs good routes. He's only going to get better."

Madsen's role could become enhanced since former tight end John Shoop has now become the offensive coordinator. Shoop played a major role in Madsen's transformation from wide receiver to tight end.

"I didn't know anything about playing tight end when I got here, and from the moment I stepped onto the field and in the meeting room, he's done nothing but help me, including when I needed to put in some extra time," Madsen said. "I don't know his plans as far as which direction the offense will go, but we're all anxious to find out."


No one can blame coach Gary Kubiak for steering away from the running game last week.

The Texans were playing against the Jets, who have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. After averaging just 1.8 yards per carry through 14 attempts, Kubiak abandoned the running game. The team finished with another loss and a franchise-low 25 rushing yards.

The first-year coach vows he won't do that again. Kubiak said he would continue calling on his running backs even if they struggle on the ground against the Raiders on Sunday.

"Early in the game against the Jets, the few runs we ran weren't very good," Kubiak said. "Me as a play-caller probably got all out of whack and did not give it enough of a chance. I've said over and over again that even when we don't run the ball well, we have to continue to try."

Calling more carries may make a difference.

In the seven games in which the Texans have carried the ball at least 21 times, the team has averaged 4.12 yards per carry and won three of the games. In the other four games with 20 or fewer carries, the Texans have averaged 2.75 yards per carry. None of those games has resulted in a victory.

The Texans' best outing came just two weeks ago against the Bills when they rushed for 188 yards on 27 carries. Samkon Gado and Wali Lundy each averaged almost 7 yards per carry. Seven days later, they each averaged less than 2 yards.

Kubiak hasn't made it clear exactly who will be playing this week. Each running back has been inactive for at least two games this season. Ron Dayne has been inactive the past three weeks, but he took a number of repetitions with the first team in practice Thursday.

Kubiak said Dayne is likely to get another chance to play this week. He may suit all three backs for the first time if fullback Jameel Cook cannot play because of a knee injury that is keeping him from practicing.

No matter whose number the Texans call this week, the job will be the same. The coaches aren't looking for excuses. They expect the backs to gain yards even behind an offensive line that has already lost three starters to injuries. They expect them to gain yards even against the Raiders, one of the best defenses in the league.

"At running back, you have to make a play," running backs coach Chick Harris said. "You have to keep the team on the field regardless of what it is. You have to be able to do it with your heart and make yards on your own sometime. There's no excuses for not doing it.

"That what comes with the job -- shaking a tackle, breaking a tackle, doing something extra special. It's a day-to-day make good with all of these guys. They understand that. They have a great attitude about that. They understand that they have to succeed and they have to do something above the normal to make it."

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