Al keeps ’em guessing


Keeping score of today’s draft rumors:

— Profootballtalk.com reported the Raiders made a lowball offer to Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn and were prepared to make him the first pick of the NFL draft if the price was right.

— NFL Network reported the Raiders had “reached out” to the agents of Quinn, JaMarcus Russell and Calvin Johnson, but that Russell is all but a lock to be the No. 1 pick.

— ESPN.com reported the Raiders had no serious offers to any of the prospective candidates and were unlikely to strike a deal before Saturday’s first pick.

In other words, the Raiders are doing what they do best _ keeping their intentions a secret.

NFL Network also reported something I’ve been hearing lately regarding the Raiders front office. Mark Jackson, the man brought in by Lane Kiffin as the director of football development, has essentially become the new Bruce Allen _ the man charged with working on contract issues and carrying out the business of Davis and Kiffin.

The day’s biggest draft story _ a CNN-Sports Illustrated report that Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson could miss all of training camp following surgery on his collarbone _ has no effect on Oakland.

Once the Raiders got LaMont Jordan to take a reduced signing bonus and signed free agent Dominic Rhodes, they weren’t in the market for a running back as the top pick.

The best educated guess remains that Russell will be announced as a Raider Saturday morning, mostly due to his freakish size and physical skill which Davis won’t be able to pass up.

With any luck, the Raiders won’t reach a deal with Russell or anyone else and keep the drama alive until Roger Goodell takes the podium Saturday morning.


Draft review: 2006


Last in a series reviewing Raiders’ draft classes since they returned to Oakland in 1995:

1/7_Michael Huff, S, Texas
2/38_Thomas Howard, LB, Texas-El Paso
3/69_Paul McQuistan, G, Weber State
4/101_Darnell Bing, LB, Southern California
6/176_Kevin Boothe, G, Cornell
7/214_Chris Morris, C, Michigan State
7/255_Kevin McMahan, WR, Maine

The top pick_Huff, an instant starter from Texas, started 16 games with no interceptions, no fumble recoveries and no forced fumbles. Yet he was solid in coverage against tight ends, an area of difficulty for the Raiders over the years. He also appeared to be an eyelash away from big plays on many occasions _ something he promises will be different this season.

Huff is still playing strong safety, with Stuart Schweigert at free safety. But there are questions as to whether his future is at that position. He said during fall minicamps he hoped to “bulk up” to 205 pounds, meaning that he probably played one of the league’s most physical positions at under 200 as a rookie.

Rob Ryan, Oakland’s blustery defensive coordinator, believes Huff will have his breakout year this season much as Nnamdi Asomugha did a year ago. Huff promises to take more chances and make more plays.

In terms of character, Huff stepped in and carried himself like a veteran starter from Day 1. Never a sign of immaturity.

Could have had_With speculation centering on the choice of a quarterback (JaMarcus Russell) with the top pick of the 2007 draft, people will be keeping score to see if Russell is superior to Matt Leinart (No. 10 by Arizona) and Jay Cutler (No. 11 by Denver).

Under the radar_With Houston’s DeMeco Ryans, Detroit’s Ernie Sims and Green Bay’s A.J. Hawk all enjoying stellar rookie seasons as linebackers, the Raiders’ Thomas Howard was barely noticed outside of Oakland. He was the fourth-leading tackler in the NFL among rookies _ behind the previously mentioned players _ and displayed the sideline-to-sideline playmaking ability which made him a second-round draft pick.

Howard was victimized occasionally by running backs in pass rushing, but not as often as Raiders outside linebackers in previous years. His speed should enable him to make even more progress in that regard.

Darnell Bing, a fourth-round pick from USC, was shifted from strong safety to linebacker but suffered a neck injury and was placed on injured reserve, missing the entire season. He will essentially be a rookie this season.

Changing of the guards_McQuistan was named the starting right guard not long after his arrival, with the organization touting him as a blend of Steve Wisniewski and Kevin Gogan. He was out after two games against the dominating fronts of San Diego and Baltimore in favor of Boothe. In December, McQuistan re-emerged as a starter, this time on the left side, and he finished out the season ahead of Barry Sims.

Sims was moved back to tackle, where he will compete against Robert Gallery on the left side. McQuistan worked at guard during voluntary minicamp, but is listed as a tackle on the club roster and could end up playing there. McQuistan was a left tackle at Weber State.

Draft bargains_Boothe started 14 games at right guard and is a favorite to remain a starter this season, with free agent acquisition Cooper Carlisle the other starter. Boothe struggled as did the offensive line as a whole, but on one play flattened San Diego nose tackle Jamal Williams _ prompting Williams to congratulate the rookie.

It was the sort of play in space the Raiders will need as they change from a man blocking scheme to more zone blocking and cut blocking under Tom Cable.


Draft review: 2004


Tenth in a series reviewing Raiders’ draft classes since they returned to Oakland in 1995:

1/2_Robert Gallery, T, Iowa
2/45_Jake Grove, C, Virignia Tech
3/67_Stuart Schweigert, S, Purdue
4/99_Carlos Francis, WR, Iowa
5/134_Johnnie Morant, WR, Syracuse
6/166_Shawn Johnson, DE, Delaware
6/182_CodySpencer, LB, North Texas
7/245_Courtney Anderson, TE, San Jose State
7/255_Andre Sommersell, LB, Colroado State

The top pick_Gallery was considered the safest pick in the draft and was being mentioned in the same breath as stalwart left tackles Tony Boselli, Orlando Pace and Jonathan Ogden. Lost in the difficulties of the past two seasons was a pretty fair rookie season as a right tackle, particularly as a pass blocker.

In Year 2, the Raiders switched from Aaron Kromer to Jim Colletto as line coach and Gallery seemed to regress, finishing the season with a broken leg. Under the trio of Art Shell, Irv Eatman and Jackie Slater, Gallery was abused in Week 1 by Shawne Merriman and never really recovered. He had a lingering groin injury as well as a dislocated elbow.

In 2007, Tom Cable will bring a zone, cut-blocking scheme and give Gallery yet another coach. The Raiders are optimistic that the style will suit Gallery, who is an angular 6-foot-7 and more agile than powerful. Another year like 2006 and he could be classified as a bust of Mandarich proportions.

Could have had_Receivers Larry Fitzgerald (No. 3 to Arizona) and Roy Williams (No. 7 to Detroit) were both available and would haven not only eased the transition from Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, but made the later deal for Randy Moss unnecessary.

The nasty center_Second-round center Grove’s past has been similar to Gallery. Cable and Co. will need to work the same magic with Grove they hope to work with Gallery.

Can’t catch on_Morant has been a pre-season wonder who vanishes in the regular season. He never gained the trust of either Turner or Shell in terms of knowledge of the offense and assignements. Francis, world class sprinter, simply can’t stay healthy and has remained on Al Davis scholarship because of his speed.

Draft bargains_Anderson has produced more than one would expect for a seventh round choice, although he hasn’t taken the extra step to become a consistent, dependable player. He will have to compete for a position on the Kiffin Raiders, but still has the best size and skill combination of any tight end on the roster.


Draft review: 1997


Third in a series reviewing Raiders’ draft classes since they returned to Oakland in 1995:

1/2_Darrell Russell, DT, USC
3/72_Adam Treu, OL, Nebraska
3/85_Tim Kohn, G, Iowa State
4/123_Chad Levitt, RB, Cornell
6/172_Calvin Branch, FS, Colorado State
6/193_Grady Jackson, DT, Knoxville

The top pick_In the days leading up to the draft, the Raiders dealt the No. 10 pick in the first round along with selections in the second and fourth round, plus wide receiver Darryl Hobbs, to the New Orleans Saints, enabling Oakland to move to No. 2 overall.

The target, ostensibly, was Ohio State tackle Orlando Pace. Except the Rams, the day before the draft, made their own deal, acquiring the No. 1 overall pick from the Jets. They took Pace. Pace and Russell were considered the two top talents in the draft. Oakland’s company line, after taking Russell, was that they were going to be happy with either man.

Russell, miscast as an end as a rookie, became a Pro Bowl player, only to ruin his career through his own lack of personal discipline. He ran afoul of the NFL substance abuse policy, and died in an auto accident last year while still on suspension.

Could have had_Walter Jones, a left tackle out of Florida State who has been equal or superior to Pace as a pro, was taken at No. 6 by Seattle.

Mr. Reliable_Treu is the Raider of longest service and has distinguished himself as a long-snapper, backup center and occasional starter when Barret Robbins was out due to injury or illness.

Draft bargains_Jackson, out of tiny Knoxville, became an effective and popular player at defensive tackle, a player of immense natural strength and surprising quickness. Only his weight (too high) and disposition (too nice) prevented him from becoming a Pro Bowl player. Branch is a special teams player who is now a Raiders scout.


No Randy, problem


Randy Moss elected not to join the Raiders for their first voluntary minicamp Tuesday. It’s an exaggeration, but not by much, to say his teammates were too busy to notice.

The Raiders have gone back to setting a furious practice pace, getting in more work in less time. It’s something they did in the Jon Gruden-Bill Callahan years, backing off slightly in the Norv Turner years, before coming to a screeching halt under Art Shell.

Center Jeremy Newberry, who participated in drills but not the no-pads scrimmage session, estimated he went through 16 drills in 20 minutes.

Some players struggled to keep up. Most seemed to enjoy it. There was grumbling about the length of Shell’s practices, which seemed even longer because there was a lack of urgency and too much standing around.

“That’s the pace of practice that we have to get to,” Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said. “We have a long ways to go. It’s Day 1, guys were out there moving around. They’re starting to understand the tempo we preached about in our meetings for awhile now. With that being said, we have a long ways to go with it but that’s the tempo we practice at because I don’t know any other tempo.”

Tuesday news and notes:

— Moss was one of three prominent Raiders who did not attend the voluntary camp, along with Warren Sapp and Derrick Burgess. Kickers Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler were also absent.

Kiffin estimated attendance at 95 percent.

— Kiffin said he has spoken to Moss since their 15-minute conversation after his hiring, but did not elaborate. He said Moss was expected to attend the mandatory minicamp following the draft.

— In the 20 or so minutes the media was allowed to watch the Raiders scrimmage, Oakland did not throw a single pass more than 15 yards downfield. Quarterback Andrew Walter rolled out, took short drops and even took off and ran on occasion.

He didn’t look particularly nimble, but at least Walter was taking evasive action after spending 2006 as a clay pigeon. Walter is getting the bulk of the work, with Josh Booty and Jeff Otis getting the occasional scrap.

— Tackles Robert Gallery and Barry Sims each played both left and right tackle. Paul McQuistian, listed as a tackle on the Raiders roster, was at left guard.

— Tyler Brayton, who has played both linebacker and defensive end, got some snaps inside at defensive tackle.

— Kiffin confirmed wide receiver Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech had visited the facility and said quarterback JaMarcus Russell would be in Alameda soon. No telling what coaches really think this time of year, but it was interesting Kiffin, when extolling the virtues of Johnson, finished his sentence by saying, “He’s perfect.”

— Running back LaMont Jordan, who elected to accept a $3 million roster bonus instead of the $4.75 million he was due, was philosophical about the transaction.

“It was pretty much, `take a pay cut or get released,’ ” Jordan said. “Make no mistake about it, I’m not happy about having to take a pay cut. I’m not happy about it at all. But at this point, there’s nothing I can do about it. Had I left, I felt that I would have failed here . . . it was my first starting gig, we were terrible for two yeras, the running game was at the bottom, and I would have felt like I failed.”

— Center Jake Grove is embracing the new zone and cut-blocking offensive philosophy even though it’s all new to him.

“We’ve got direction, something that’s been missing here in the past,” Grove said. “I’ll have to work hard to master it. We’ve had a different line coach every year I’ve been here and I haven’t had the chance to master one thing. I’m dedicating myself to this, as we all are, and making this work for us.”

Grove said he wasn’t entirely sure he would remain a center, although it’s unlikely Newberry will be a factor as a starter until he proves his surgically repaired knees can hold up.

Center Chris Morris, a rookie last year, saw some snaps at guard.

— Grove took some solace in being able to start 16 games last season.

“I think it took a lot of mental toughness, a lot of physical toughness to battle through that,” Grove said. “That was just a small accomplishment in a seas of failures.”

— Spotted on the field and not the training room _ wide receiver Carlos Francis.

— Spotted on the field watching practice _ personnel executive Mike Lombardi, banished from the field in the Shell regime.

— Justin Fargas, recovering from a shoulder injury, was at the minicamp but did not practice.

— Center Adam Treu, rehabbing from a torn quadriceps, was working out with trainers and did not practice.