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Junking the backup plan

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, June 1st, 2008 at 1:42 pm in Oakland Raiders.

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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  • http://0 Bob Marley

    LOL….take it easy Huffy, we know you use his name but they mean no harm to you buddy.

  • Coach

    I won’t drop your level fella’s, but I’ll respond to those who gave an effort in their response.

    You should know who you’re talking to…. ?

    Playoff Caliber team, most definately. Our Offensive and Defensive scheme is as basic as a NFL team could get…

    These are pro players, if any of you knew what you were talking about you would realize that there wasn’t much difference in talent. The only difference is learning how to communicate to and motivate that talent.

    This is where Kiffin will continue to fail, no matter how long he stays with us or wherever he ends up…..

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    I agree though.

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    With Huff24.

  • Dakota

    Huff,

    When Huff does one thing well, OTHER THAN cover TE’s, then we will be happy.

    I am hopeful Huff will make more plays next year, but not holding my breath.

  • spawn

    well there goes everyone thoughts about T O as a raider next year he sign a contract till 2011

  • spawn

    WHY IS EVERYONE BUGGGIN ON HUFF WHY DONT YOU GO COVER THOSE BIG ASS AND FAST TIGHT ENDS

  • Tonio

    I think Huff will be better @ FS… with that improvement…and a stronger SS… and Hall opposite Nnamdi… that should give us more coverage sacks…

  • Dakota

    Huff

    1 career INT

    1 career FF

    Not good enough.

  • spawn

    i think more ints baby goooooo raiderssssssss

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    Have you guys had a chance to listen to Kiffin´s interview from Thursday? it´s definitely worth listening to, the link is on post 338 from DoeDoe.

    Kiffin speaks on:

    - The Coaching Staff: “With the whole staff returning after working together for a year, it´s a better environment and it´s easier for everyone and they relate better with the players as well now that they´ve known them for a year….”

    - Free Agency moves: “There´s all this stuff written and said about overspending, but it´s just like the Draft, you judge it after a couple of years, players make the pro bowl and then, if anything, we underspent…..and it´s also about the different systems, you evaluate guys according to your system and how you fel they will peform under it and that also goes into paying them.”

    - OL: “The big things is gonna be Kwame at LT…He´s had a great offseason, he was here working out the day after we signed him, he´s gotten stronger, more physical and is working on what he needs with Tom Cable, they´re in there all the time together.”

    - On G. Wilson: “A physical Safety who´s a strong tackler was a huge need for us, that was an area we had to improve and he was by far the best out there, we think we got a great player…”

    - On Russell: “He got back before anyone else and he was working and studying when there was no one else around, he´s gained a lot of respect because of it….”

    - On McFadden: “He´s doing a great job, he loves football, we knew that…. it shows on the way he approaches it, he wants to learn, he hit it off with Rathman and they have a great relationship….”

    It´s not word by word but close enough, you should still listen for yourselves.

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    There´s also a report on foxsports.com from Adam Schein, the most interesting thing is that he spoke with JaMarcus Russell this week…..

    Russell said: “Listen, if there´s anything to those Kiffin is in trouble rumors, we don´t feel it..I´m an extension of Lane Kifin”…….He said he loves working with Kiffin, that Kiffin really has a pep in his step, that he sees harmomny with the rest of the Coaches and that James Lofton has been a welcome addition as WR´s Coach.

    He also spoke about the RB´s and Javon Walker among other stuff.

  • Huff24

    Dakota – When the defense is getting run on, on a consistent basis and the linebackers are getting the majority of the interceptions…something is wrong and I don’t think it has anything to do with Huff or Schweigert. The linebackers are dropping back into zones, which means they’re not up and ready to stop the run and they’re playing the pass instead which also means they’re not blitzing which means the secondary is forced to make plays without pressure on the QB. We’ve seen just about every QB succeed against us and every running back succeed against us in almost every game and you want to pick on Huff? You yourself said Rob Ryan was the problem so why you baggin on players for?

  • 909raiderlifer

    Jacka$$ over on bspn just said Larry Johnson of the queefs is still most “feared” RB in the league.

    Just wait til Mike Bush starts blowin LB’s and D-backs up, you douche.

  • Occupant

    Is anyone really losing sleep over whether LaMont Jordan will hook up with Denver or KC if the Raiders cut him? I know I’m not. I really don’t care if the Raiders use him as a tackling dummy at training camp except for the injury issue/settlement issue brought up in a previous post.

    The Raiders say they “don’t know what they have in Bush.” Well, maybe they would know if they had cut Jordan and activated Bush for the last few games of last season. But of course Al was terrified he might go the the Broncs or Chiefs. So what! Going into the last four weeks of the season it was pretty clear none of the teams were going to the playoffs and they weren’t going to play each other again that year.

    Did it really matter that much if Jordan helped win a game for one of those teams? Oh well, now the Raiders can finally find out if they got a “steal” in Michael Bush or just another Raider draft day disappointment.

    The recent releases of Rhodes and Stu is good news. It’s time for the Raiders to do what’s best for the team and quit worrying about where the guys they cut will end up.

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    Last 2 are re-posts, if you guys missed them you might be interested.

  • spawn

    well it also sounds like they will be play the same D from last year what i heard from Stanford rhout

  • Dakota

    Huff,

    I agree RR has screwed our defense for the past 4 years, and he deserves most of the blame. But as to Huff, after 32 games he should have more than 1 int and 1 ff if he is the real deal. True playmakers can overcome poor coaching. Nnamdi has done it, but Huff hasn’t.

    But, like I have said before: Al, save our young players and fire RR. Who knows how Brayton, Washington, Huff etc may have performed under a decent d-coordinator?

  • Huff24

    Where’s this news about T.O. signing an extension? I gotta get the news to my brother since hes a Cowboys fan.

  • Tonio

    Dakota… look at the performance of the TE”s been here though… I want more from him…but its not just him… RE: stu… bottom line… no matter what… you just gotta tackle… that’s why he’s not here… If he’d tackled on a consistent basis…he’d still be here.

  • Dakota
  • Florida Pete

    Florida Pete Says:
    June 2nd, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Dakota Says:
    June 2nd, 2008 at 1:15 pm
    Here is the link on Jordan:

    justfukinwithya.com/lakersin5youcelticmorons

    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    mostannoyingontheplanet.com/dakota/doingkobe

    Dakota Says:
    June 2nd, 2008 at 1:27 pm
    Me annoying? Say what? I guess because I am always right it just ticks some of you guys off. I’ve had to live with that my whole life, so I guess I should be used to it by now, but it really hurts coming from you Pete.

    ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    just messing with you Dakota… I fell for the Jordan story…

    had to get even…

    just had to…

    time to tuck in the little guy… back later…

  • 909raiderlifer

    Huff… pft.com has your TO update..

  • Tonio

    Dakota… if you use Nnamdi as the example… keep in mind wasn’t it his 3rd year that he came into his own?

  • Eyepatch

    Raider linebackers take bad angles on run plays and get caught up in traffic.

  • Huff24

    Dakota – Do you really think the defense will be any different under a different defensive coordinator? I’m really not sure anything will change. Nnamdi is the ONLY player who has done it but he plays on an island. Huff is stuck in the middle of the field. Also, Asomugha was non existent in his first 2 years just like Huff and Asomugha became a Pro Bowl player in his 3rd year so watch out.

  • Dakota

    Okay Tonio,

    Face it, for the #7 overall pick Huff has been a major disappointment thus far. Covering TEs is important, but he has to do more to justify his $$.

    I have not given up on the dude yet, but if he does not show some playmaking ability in the next year or two, time to ship him out.

    Replacing Huff is low on the list of things to do at this point, but eventually AD may have to admit he blew another high draft choice….although I am sure he will just blame it on Shell again.

  • Dakota

    Pete,

    I am still hurt by your cutting words…

  • Huff24

    Hell, sometimes our defense gets pushed over like a group of young kids and our linebackers are forced to take on offensive lineman coming at them full steam. Then the running back has 5-10 yards to accelerate into the backfield and put his helmet down on a guy in the secondary. Its hard enough for 240 pound guys to consistent take down 220 lb running backs but when you’re 210 lbs trying to do it on a consistent basis, it will not only wear you down but you will fatigue in all facets of the game, including coverage.

  • spawn

    how long did we have to wait for nnanda become a playmaker think about that now huff just needs to adjust just like nnanda so chill on huff

  • Dakota

    Huff,

    I don’t buy into the AD controls the defense theory that goes around here. Other recent d-coordinators have had success here under AD…RR may be given a type of defense to play, but he can’t execute it like other coordinators like Shaw did.

    I definitely think that a d-coordinator that does not allow pizza parties and nap time during team meetings would be an upgrade over RR and would produce better results.

    Supper time…I am out.

    Go Lakers!

  • La Milicia Negra

    Can anybody explain to me how a guy like Odell gets an indefinite suspension, and Pacman gets another chance? how many peoples lifes has Thurman ruined? I bet the guy Pacman paralysed thinks this is unfair!?

  • http://www.consumptionjunctyion.com SilverNblack666

    Nice post Marley People will eventually have to eat their words on JaMarcus. He is going to be a great talent for many years.

  • La Milicia Negra

    Nnanda?
    wait all your life buddy, us fans are waiting for Nnamdi…

  • Florida Pete

    Dakota Says:
    June 2nd, 2008 at 5:21 pm
    Pete,

    I am still hurt by your cutting words…

    ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    jesus…

    i don’t have to … like … buy you anything ???

    do i ???

    lmao

  • Huff24

    Pacman still has time to screw things up. Thurman just won’t stop smokin dope and he hasn’t stayed healthy either so thats his own demise. Pacman isn’t out in the good light just yet but this is his chance to be. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • Huff24

    Florida Pete – Most of the time you have to make up for your mean words with cuddling. Thats what my lady always wants so I’m just figuring it applies. Of course, my lady can always add a new shirt to the closet of unworn new shirts with no problems of course. haha.

  • Tonio

    *shivas*…. Dakota and Pete cuddling… … I got 5 on the shirt dude(s)

  • Huff24

    Hah.

  • Tonio

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3423170

    Cowboys give Owens new 4-year, $34 million deal

  • Tonio

    The wide receiver was slated to earn $7 million this season in the last year of his contract, but he now receives a four-year, $34 million deal. Owens is slated to earn $27 million over the next three seasons, making him — along with Randy Moss, Javon Walker and Larry Fitzgerald — one of the highest paid wide receivers in the league.

    Javon better be good damnit

  • Tonio

    Schweigert signs with Skins, projected to start at strong safety

  • Huff24

    No…Landry is projected to start at Strong with Schweigert at Free.

  • K-Rock

    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.

    ……………………………………………..

    Anyone else heard any news of the McFadden negotiations?

  • SouthTexasRaider

    javon better be DAM good

  • http://erikapodaca@yahoo.com Riverside Raiders Fan

    Coach on Wheels:

    Nice post…maybe you should be a consultant to Kiffen and Davis…you would be an upgrade.

    Question…will Nnamdi and McFadden be signed in time?

  • saintkaufman

    K-Rock,
    All I can figure is that McFadden is going to need a large contract to pay for all of those hideous shirts he wears. WTF??? Someone help the kid out. And while you’re at it, tell Jamarcus too!!

  • http://erikapodaca@yahoo.com Riverside Raiders Fan

    Coach on Wheels…I was talking about your post 157…real great, I enjoyed the break downs..thanks.

  • Huff24

    Who cares what they wear? Just win games on Sunday and you can wear whatever the F*** you want.

  • La Milicia Negra

    Huff24…

    still, Odell hurt only himself physically and the league relation-wise…

    Pacman fooled around with a gun and hurt another being and he hurt the PR of the league way more IMO…

    If Pacman gets to play in september, then this Godell-fella isnt a sheriff he is a pawn…

    and we need Bob Marley to shoot him so his deputy can take over….ehh or something =)