Denis Savage: On
a team that was a miserable 2-14 last year, not one drafted player is set to
start. But one may make more contributions than most. Quentin Moses, the embattled
former Georgia defensive end and third- round pick, has shown a good burst to
get around the tackles and a good motor. He should be an integral part of the
Raiders' defense, coming in on third down to provide pressure opposite stalwart
DF: The Raiders' offensive line was horrid in 2006 - what can you tell us about new line coach Tom Cable and why the line might be better? Also, did the recent epidemic of quarterback fumbles against San Francisco have a lot to do with the center position?
DE: The line was better than it showed a year ago and the former coaching regime should take part of the blame. They put the players in terrible positions and did not play to their strengths. Cable has introduced a new scheme that uses the mobility of the line to its advantage, using cut-blocks and adding more accountability to the unit.
The fumbles were largely
due to the center position. Jake Grove had a tough time in the shotgun, oftentimes
hitting knees rather than getting it into his quarterback's hands. Daunte Culpepper,
however, has had a tough time with the ball and gets a little antsy to begin
the game. Both are correctable.
DF: Lamont Jordan has been impressive in the preseason, but we haven't heard much from Dominic Rhodes. Is Rhodes the second straight Colts running back to make the mistake of leaving Indy's expert line and generous rushing lanes for big money with a bad fit? What will prevent him from becoming Edgerrin James, the sequel?
with the last question first, Rhodes is not in James' position. He will be a
change of pace back that uses his quickness to gain yards and will share carries
with Jordan while James was given the heavy load in Arizona. Rhodes has never
been the big name back that is going to carry a team and is a complimentary
back to light a fire under Jordan in the guise of competition. By the time he
comes back after his four-game suspension to begin the year, Jordan should have
a stranglehold on the position with Rhodes adding a different flair to the offense
in various roles.
DF: What specific attributes does Lane Kiffin bring to the team (and no fair using the "He's not Art Shell" answer)?
Nothing is assured with him on the sidelines - no job secure. He is detail-oriented
and puts his team in position to win games rather than playing to lose. He is
a motivator and during the short time he has been in Oakland, Kiffin has earned
the respect of his team and gotten them to aspire to be better than they ever
have. Shell never had that type of influence on the team.
DF: Which second-stringers should the Seahawks be watching out for in Thursday's game?
DE: B.J. Ward. The safety is a ferocious hitter that will only get better with age. He has some technical deficiencies but is a playmaker through and through. Consistency may be something he still has to attain but every time he is in the game something exciting happens.
Johnnie Lee Higgins has impressive speed and can hit a second gear when he gets going. He isn't as elusive as you would like but can make plays when the ball touches his hands. Higgins should get plenty of looks as a returner this week and at wide receiver.