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Junking the backup plan

Got a call Saturday from a Raiders official who took exception to a reference to an interview conducted with Fred Biletnikoff on a Sacramento radio station.

In making a case for taking a flyer on free agent linebacker Odell Thurman, I included Biletnikoff’s contention that the Raiders had too many players of backup quality who were starting.

The Raiders’ position is that Biletnikoff wasn’t necessarily referring to the Raiders, but to the entire NFL, and that the interview if heard in its entirety was extremely positive in nature with regard to the future of the franchise.

I didn’t quote Biletnikoff because I had the contents of the interview relayed to me via e-mail and posts on this board, so I’ll take the Raiders word for it.

But I will say this _ if Biletnikoff wasn’t talking specifically about the Raiders, he could have been have been (or should have been). And the biggest reason he has reason for optimism regarding the future of the franchise is that the Raiders have attempted to bring in more players of starter quality.

The 2007 team refuted the myth that the Raiders have this seemingly endless reservoir of talent, just waiting to be unleashed on an unsuspecting NFL once they get the proper direction from the coaching staff. Even coach Lane Kiffin said picking a roster wasn’t all that difficult because there were so many players who didn’t measure up, and that he hoped it would be a tougher process in future years.

To look at the roster position group by position group is a perfect illustration of what Biletnikoff was talking about (regarding the NFL, of course, not the Raiders).

Quarterbacks: Josh McCown was signed keep the seat warm for JaMarcus Russell. Daunte Culpepper is hoping to hook on somewhere as a backup. Andrew Walter couldn’t separate himself from Aaron Brooks.

Running backs: LaMont Jordan was an excellent backup for Curtis Martin with the New York Jets. The Raiders made a calculated gamble in making him a starter. When Jordan is cut, perhaps this week, he probably won’t end up being a starter anywhere else. Justin Fargas had a terrific season once he moved in to the starting lineup, but his running style leaves him prone to injury and he has below avearge receiving skills. Hence the selection of Darren McFadden.

Fullbacks: It’s not really a fulltime position anymore, with fullbacks coming out for three wide receiver sets. Justin Griffith is a cut-blocker with receiving skills, and the Raiders hope Oren O’Neal can become a Lorenzo Neal-style power blocker.

Offensive line: Robert Gallery will never be the franchise left tackle, but he showed promise in his first year as a starting guard. Right guard Cooper Carlisle graded out as the Raiders best lineman last season. That’s two-fifths of a line. Jeremy Newberry made an admirable comeback but is now hoping to sign on as someone’s backup. Cornell Green’s picture may as well be next to the definition of “journeyman” in the dictionary _ the guy you want in case the starter goes down. Barry Sims was waived and at this point in his career is probably a reserve at best.

Kwame Harris struggled in San Francisco, but Tom Cable is convinced he could be the ideal left tackle. There are numerous skeptics, but then again who would have thought Cable could do what he did with the Raiders line last year.

At center, Chris Morris will compete with veteran John Wade and Jake Grove (if healthy) to replace Newberry. The hope is Mario Henderson can show enough to win the job at right tackle after a season of watching from the sidelines as a third-round draft pick.

Wide receivers: Ronald Curry has led the Raiders in receiving the last two years, but is at his best as a third-receiver in the slot, which gives him fewer snaps and means less wear and tear. Some of Jerry Porter’s best work came as a third receiver with Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, although Jacksonville is convinced he can be a high-quality starter. Tim Dwight signed, showed flashes and also a propensity to be injured near the end of his career. Johnnie Lee Higgins was a non-factor.

Coming to the rescue? Javon Walker, if he can stay healthy, and Drew Carter, who Kiffin said is working well with Russell. Plus a pair of draft picks, Arman Shields and Chaz Schilens.

Tight ends: No worries here. Zach Miller could hold the position for the next decade.

Defensive line: Since defensive linemen are often rotated in and out, the concept of starters is overrated. Derrick Burgess is a proven pass rusher who, based declining production the past two years, probably could use fewer snaps. The Raiders have invested heavily in Tommy Kelly and Terdell Sands, and how they fare will go a long way toward determining how the Raiders play defensively.

Linebackers: Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard are among the best pass defending linebackers in the NFL, and if Kelly and Sands can do the dirty work inside, could have the opportunity to prove they can be stout against the run as well. As for the third spot, Sam Williams can’t stay healthy and Robert Thomas is a capable reserve because he can play all three spots.

Secondary: Stuart Schweigert is looking for work, probably as a backup, somewhere else. Hiram Eugene looked like a fringe player when given the starting position. Nnamdi Asomugha is a top-level corner, but Stanford Routt has yet to prove he can hold up every down.

Huge offseason upgrades came with the signing of Gibril Wilson at strong safety and DeAngelo Hall at cornerback. Wilson’s presence will allow Michael Huff the chance to justify is No. 7 overall selection in 2005 with playmaking skills instead of simply being a solid coverage player against tight ends. Hall pushes Routt to the nickel corner.

Even if Biletnikoff’s points were out of context, as I was politely told by a club official, it’s pretty clear the Raiders themselves realized they had a team with too many backups and took strides to make things better.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • lefty 12

    if i was a young talented player and heard jordan bitching i’d think he was just a washed up old guy who couldn’t stand the thought of losing his job.and also take notice that if you don’t take care of yourself you could end up like him.

  • Dakota

    Great info Bre…I mean Bob.

    You know I can’t help myself Bob!

  • RANDY Jordon

    I hate to ask a NBA Finals question, but ABC lists that “coverage” of the game starts at 5:30. When do you think the actual tip off is?

  • Dakota

    Pacman partially reinstated today…

  • RaiderNation951

    Bob

    That is what you and I would think about Jordan. I am sceptical about DMC’s thought processing. He knew what he had to loose when he went with his brother to take back the car which led to a fight. That kind of processing can lead DMC onto the NFL’s suspension list for misconduct.

    Cut the cancer out and remove any chance of him bringing the future of the Raiders running game down.

    Having Jordan around could also have a negitive effect on JR. If Jordan is taking attention away from his development. It is just easier to cut him loose.

    Let the Donks have him. The first time Howard hits him his back will go out again. Then he is shanarat’s problem.

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    Dakota..lol, I know.

  • Dakota

    Randy J,

    6 pm

  • RaiderNation951

    Randy

    I wouldn’t expect tip off until 5:50 or later.

  • RaiderNation951

    With Adam Jones back in the NFL (partially) now we can sit back and watch the Cowboy’s soap opera and laugh at someone else’s misery.

  • Dakota

    Bob, I once left my actual name on this blog….no one picked up on it…lol.

  • RANDY Jordon

    The later the better, at least for us in Cali.

  • THETOWN

    Randy Jordan was a baller for the team for a while there. What ever happened to that cat?

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    951 I think you meant lefty12 on post 255…

    But anyway, I would hope McFadden´s new bff Tom Rathman would make sure Lamont stays away.

  • RaiderNation951

    They should have moved the finals up. I hate this month and a half playoff schedule.

  • Dakota

    THETOWN,

    Randy Jordan was a RB coach with Nebraska a while back, not sure if he kept his job through the regime change down there or not.

  • 909raiderlifer

    All games of NBA finals will tip at 6:00P.M. PDT

    Speaking of: Heard today that scalper aka “broker” prices, for tix at Staples are starting @ $500.00 for upper level rafter seats, lower level starts @ 5,000.00, and if you want to sit frrroont row tix will set you back a mere $20,000.00 per each.

    Dakota, better cash in those empty beer cans now.. lol.

  • RaiderNation951

    My bad bob. You are right.

    Lets hope that would be the case. Rathman seems to be doing a good job helping the RB’s out. Fargas didn’t fumble nearly as often last season.

  • Dakota

    Looks like Randy J. is at Texas A&M now:

    http://www.aggieathletics.com/pressRelease.php?PRID=13794

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    Dakota, I don´t need your name, I have your Lakers picture remember?…

  • THETOWN

    Good call Dakota. Thanks for the info. I remember him having some big plays as a change of pace back. One game VS the Sqeelers he had some huge plays. Like Archie Bunker would say “Those were the days”

  • RaiderNation951

    Thurman failed another drug test and is done with the NFL. man that sucks.

  • Steve LeRoy

    Odell failed a drug test….end of conversation…

  • Dakota

    20k for front row tickets to the finals???? Guess I am leaving the wife at home.

  • RaiderNation951

    If a woman is forking out $20k for a ticket I need to get her #.

    lol

  • RaiderNation951

    I hope Hartwell can help our struggling LB corp.

  • 909raiderlifer

    951… Where did you here about Thurman having a “dirty” test??

  • 909raiderlifer

    *hear* DOHHH!@

  • Dakota

    Dakota Says:
    May 30th, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Might Thurman change his ways and become the talented player we saw flashes of in 2005? Sure, it could happen, but we all know the chances of that happening are much lower than the chance he will revert to his old (normal) ways. Then the Raiders get a fine (maybe lose a draft pick?) and we lose whatever player would have been in his roster spot at the beginning of the year.

    No thanks.
    ______________________________________________________

    Dakota right as usual.

    Dakota 2, Jerry 0

    Maybe I should write this blog?

  • RaiderNation951

    I guess that just leaves Trotter as the best available veteran LB available.

  • RaiderNation951

    909

    it just hit ESPN and NFLN

  • Dakota

    NEW YORK — Former Bengals linebacker Odell Thurman is facing an indefinite suspension after violating the league’s substance abuse policy, a source with knowledge of the situation said today.

    Thurman, who missed the past two seasons because of suspensions tied to drug and alcohol use, could not be reached for comment.

    His agent, Safarrah Lawson, said: “We have not been notified of that at this point. I have no knowledge.”

    As a second-round draft choice in 2005, Thurman led the Bengals with 148 tackles, four forced fumbles and five interceptions. He was suspended by the league for four games in July 2006 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

    The suspension was extended for the rest of the year after Thurman was arrested Sept. 25 for drunk driving. He later admitted in court that he is an alcoholic.

    Thurman applied for reinstatement before the 2007 season, but his appeal was denied. Commissioner Roger Goodell lifted the suspension April 21, 2008, but the Bengals waived him last month when he failed to show up for offseason workouts, citing the death of his grandmother.

    “His grandmother’s been buried for quite a while. Don’t get into his whole family structure,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis recently told local reporters. “We’ve been patient enough with Odell.”

    Lawson said Thurman has received inquires from other clubs, but postponed a planned visit with an unspecified team because “he’s still dealing with some family issues.”

    The Bengals and the league office could not be reached for immediate comment.

  • RaiderNation951

    Dakota

    You would be at Raiders practice as much as Jerry is now.

    lol

  • Coach Alias

    Th Oaklnad Raiders problem is their coaching, mainly the Head Coach.

    This team had playoff caliber talent last season and has Super Bowl talent this season. That being said, unless personnel decisions are not made here real quick, the Raiders will not win even 8 games this season.

    In reference to the issue regarding talent. Here’s the proof: When we can cut a TB (Rhodes) and he can head to a better team and be 2nd on their depth chart when he was 4th or 5th on ours, there is definatley a problem. That problem is Lane Kiffin and company!

    Call em like they are…..

    Coach Elkins

  • 909raiderlifer

    951…Thanx..

  • Coach

    See ya’ll around, I don’t have time for this BS today!

  • Occupant

    At 20 thousand for courtside face-time seats we will probably be seeing a lot of Jack Nicholson and the Hollywood crowd at Staples. Mostly the “stars” who have movies coming out this summer.I can’t wait to see Mike Meyers dressed up as his swami character from “The Love Guru” and Jack Black in a Panda costume.

  • BigDaddy WooWoo

    Playoff caliber talent last year?

    Are you delusional?

    I’m thinking yes if you actually believe oakland had playoff caliber talent last year.

    I mean, what playoff team had either a late-signing rookie or a washed up fumbler or a never-was QB?

    Not to mention an O-Line that got served in every way possible the year before and was still in shock over it…

    With Kiffin, I feel it’s the first time the raiders have had a real head coach since chucky…

  • still cant stop the run

    Playoff talent last year….superbowl this year….? That’s some strong cool-aid there.
    Rhodes was on the bench cause while others were busting there butts on the field he was getting busted off it.
    This is been a team of practice squad players for a while now. The only true probowlers out there have been Aso and Lechler. There were some solid players, but playoff level talent….? Hell no.
    The best stuff to come out of oakland last year was the coaching. Getting that bunch of scrubs to put together some wins is a feat in and of itself. Just cause they can blow away the 40 doesnt mean they can play football.

    That said I like some of the additions we have made and am looking forward to this year.

  • 909raiderlifer

    pft.com rumor mill page has more info on the Odell issue. Story was brokeen by former Diego paper hack Jim Trotter, now at SI.

    Not much there, just Trotter citing “sources” in the league office with “knowledge” of the situation.

    I said here a few days back that Big Al, would have had his “people” check into any sort of new problems w/ Odell. Guess AL did his homework, thus no interest for his a$$, along w/ the rest of the league.

  • Occupant

    It’s raving loonies like Captain Alias who give Raider fans their reputation as detached-from-reality zealots. Of course those who think he’s nuts are “haters.”

  • 909raiderlifer

    Occupant… Hopefully, Sly Stallone wont get any more of those front row tix.

    They showed a close up of his ugly mug last game, that was almost as disgusting as that dude getting that boil on his ear busted open by Kimbo, Sat. night..

  • C4

    tomoorow afternoon we should get an update on the first 2 a day practice, that what Im looking foward to.

  • Mark

    Jerry -
    Odell Thurman now facing another indefinite suspension for again violating the league’s drug policy. (SI.com)

  • spawn

    i wonder if i can get my drugs threw Odell

  • Eyepatch

    Well McCown is not a playoff caliber QB thats for sure so that busts your theory before it gets started Alias. The press have always hated a winner that gives them the finger so thats something you have not learned Califlower because you follow the fortyniners who have only been good for about fifteen of their forty plus year existance. Heres an important word for you, tradition, something the Raiders represent every year, winning or loosing. The only tradition on the west side of the bay is men holding hands.

  • Huff24

    You guys might have covered this already but I didn’t see it…

    PFT.com

    RAIDERS, MCFADDEN STARTING CONTRACT TALKS
    Posted by Josh Alper on June 2, 2008, 2:25 p.m.
    Word out of Oakland is that the Raiders will sit down with Darren McFadden’s agent, Ian Greengross, at some point this week and begin working on a contract for the fourth overall pick.

    “I would think we’ll see something in June,” a team official said to the San Francisco Chronicle. McFadden’s camp said they were waiting for Matt Ryan’s deal to get done before proceeding but the playing field is different now.

    Last year’s fourth pick, Gaines Adams, got $18.6 million from the Bucs in guaranteed money but that was without the confusing changes wrought by the owners decision to opt out of the CBA. Both sides will be negotiating in uncharted waters as a result and may find it hard to agree on figures without the availability of guaranteed money in the deal’s sixth year.

    With those difficulties it’s a good thing the Raiders are getting an early start on the process. JaMarcus Russell didn’t sign until after the first week of the regular season and his deal got done under a much more straightforward set of terms.

  • 909raiderlifer

    Since Odell is unemployed, along w/ T Henry, probably can only afford “dirt” weed now, no more “chronic” dude..

  • Huff24

    And stop baggin on Huff. Everyone was pissed off that TE’s would kill us all the time. We draft Huff and that stops. Then, teams decide to run even more on us and the whole defense begins to whiff on tackles. Who do you blame? Huff and Schweigert. Then, everybody feels that Huff should be moved to FS because he will be better than Schweigert, we sign Wilson, move Huff to FS, cut Schweigert and now you’re pissed off because you think Huff is going to whiff as many tackles as Schweigert? What the hell is going to make you guys happy? Just wait and see will ya?

  • Tonio

    Is Jordan participating in the mini camp???

  • Tonio

    LoL Huff…

    Happy is winning the division… I agree… we’re closer with the changes made.