Answer Man

<b>Answer Man: </b> Oh, it's you again. <p><b>JW:</b> Don't sound so excited. There are too many issues on the table. <p><b>AM:</b> Such as? <p><b>JW:</b> Such as trades that happened, trades that didn't happen, cuts, promotions, demotions. <p><b>AM:</b> Yeah, yeah. What about the Raiders? You know, that's what really bugs me about you reporters. You take the most superficial topics and run with them. Most of you never delve below the surface.<br>

JW: Hey, that's what I'm here for. We can start with Todd Fordham; we can start with the Raiders' new 3-4. It does not a difference make to me.

AM: What's there to know about Fordham? Hey, you were the one talking to him after the Carolina game.

JW: Geez. He was telling me goodbye. He knew he was gone and I was telling him he wasn't going anywhere, that Cowher just wanted to look at other players before the final cut. But sure enough, boom, he was gone.

AM: The day before that last game, Cowher used Max Starks with the first-team line at right tackle and told Todd he was just trying to give Max some time next to Keydrick Vincent, that it didn't mean much. But Fordham figured it out, that we were cutting him.

JW: What did you get for him?

AM: A seventh-round pick.

JW: And that's based on what? Whether he starts for Carolina? Plays a number of snaps?

AM: No. It's not a conditional pick. Our people just figured we should get something for him before he was cut.

JW: I just don't understand why you guys would cut him, though. Tunch Ilkin wrote a column in Steelers Digest and said Fordham was playing much better than Oliver Ross. How could he go from playing better than Ross to playing worse than Barrett Brooks?

AM: Tunch is the only guy I know who's saying that about Fordham. If you were to ask a guy like Bill Nunn about Fordham, he'd give you the kind of look you should get from great scouts when you ask stupid questions.

JW: Tell me about Dante Brown. I guess Miami wasn't as interested as some of the reports indicated.

AM: They offered a sixth-round pick for him but Cowher turned it down, and then I guess Miami decided to go with Lamar Gordon.

JW: Cowher turned it down and then cut him?

AM: Yep. He has them both now, so maybe it'll turn out to be a good move.

JW: Right. What do you guys need second-day picks for anyway?

AM: We'll let that one go without comment. You mentioned promotions and demotions before. Anyone in particular before we break down the Raiders?

JW: Ike Taylor. How did he go from third corner to fifth corner so quickly? I mean, that pass Rod Rutherford threw the other night was too good to defend.

AM: There were plenty of other passes thrown his way besides that one. He's just not covering as well as he did last year. Maybe it's the extra weight he put on. I don't know. Fact is, he's just not getting it done.

JW: OK. How have the Raiders looked on offense this preseason?

AM: They've been running Tyrone Wheatley and he's running pretty good, downhill and strong and fast. He looks good. They're not doing the three-step West Coast timing stuff. They're attacking downfield and Rich Gannon, in the preseason, has been finding ways to bide time and find people downfield. A lot of their big plays in the preseason were a result of Gannon scrambling and either running or looking downfield and finding people who are working to get open. So it's not that 1-2-3 timing stuff.

JW: That's good for the Steelers isn't it?

AM: Yeah. I mean, not the way we played the other day, but yeah.

JW: So Gannon's still physically able to be an effective quarterback?

AM: Yeah. I think he's back to his form from when they went to the Super Bowl. And Wheatley is running better than I've ever seen him run. He's a downhill, strong runner who carries a load, and they've been opening up seams for him.

JW: Their offensive line must be good if Gallery can't play, right?

AM: Well, I've always liked Barry Sims, and then Frank Middleton is a big guy and if he gets his hands on you you're done. That's the left side. Adam Treau has stepped in at center. He's a solid guy. Ron Stone had a hamstring most of the preseason but at San Fran he was an All-Pro. And Langston Walker is a young guy who has some skill. He's probably the weakest part of their line, him and Adam Treau, just from an experience point of view. It's a solid offensive line.

JW: Is Jerry Porter their top playmaker?

AM: Right. Porter has stepped up. It was a nice, typical Al Davis move, getting a guy who was a safety-slash-receiver but he had size, weight and speed and he's developed into a nice receiver.

JW: They have some quick receivers other than him. This Carlos Francis was timed at 4.3. How fast does he look?

AM: That fast. He carries his pads well. I don't know if he's going to start but they used him at both punt and kick return in preseason.

JW: Defensively, what are we looking at?

AM: You're looking at Ted Washington, a mountain in the middle. Warren Sapp, if he has success early, sees he can beat you in the first two or three steps, then he's still effective but he'll take plays off. Tyler Brayton I think is a better 4-3 D-end. Brayton's always going to give 110 percent effort but he's too light to play 3-4 end. Ted Washington will give you five, six plays a game as long as they're from here to here, and every once in awhile he'll flash another gap, but you're not moving the guy and he can take up two guys. And like I said, if Warren Sapp has success early, watch out.

JW: Are their linebacking and safety units in dire straits?

AM: I wouldn't say dire straits but they're playing with a lot of guys they'd love to have as back-ups. That's what makes it so peculiar that even after Napoleon Harris was hurt they cut Dwayne Rudd. I'm not saying Rudd's great but he was a starter with experience. So they're looking at Tim Johnson and they're hoping he steps up. I like Danny Clark. He's a solid middle backer, stout, can run a little bit, can cover, is instinctive. When Napoleon is back that will be a good crew right there. DeLawrence Grant has been injured too.

JW: Does Grant really weigh 280?

AM: He doesn't move like 280. The last time I saw him he moved around pretty well. That's why I was wondering if he's still 280 or if he dropped some weight.

JW: What about Grant's replacement at outside linebacker?

AM: I think Akbar's going to be alright. He's got some pass-rush skills. I like him. I think he's going to be pretty good. I think it will end up him and DeLawrence Grant as their outside backers.

JW: What about their safeties? Is Ray Buchanan the only sure thing back there?

AM: Well he's a corner who converted to safety who wasn't a super physical corner in the first place. He's still learning angles back there. He's not going to be one of those guys who's going to fly up and mix it up in the action. Losing Derrick Gibson, who was playing really well, hurt them.

JW: What's your summation?

AM: I think whichever defense plays the best will win because both offenses are playing pretty well. They're both running the ball well. Gannon's back. Tommy looks sharp. So whichever defense can step up and whichever team doesn't give up any big plays in the return game will win.

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