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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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  • Tonio

    Out for now.

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    Speaking of WR´s, just read an interesting column on the lack of proven # 1 WR´s in today´s NFL.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=clayton_john&id=3422209

  • Florida Pete

    Huff24 Says:
    June 2nd, 2008 at 5:37 pm
    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.

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

    i am a happily married man… to a woman…

    these fantasies people have for me… they cannot be…

    please accept this virtual shirt and forgive my indiscretion…

    (how was that?)

  • Huff24

    I think Asomugha is just skipping all the camp fodder to keep himself from getting injured. Once all the bullsh!t passes by, Asomugha will happily sign his franchise tender.

    McFadden will be signed on time but I think the Raiders should wait to see what Chris Long signs for first with the complicated contract of Matt Ryan.

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    Speaking of WR´s, I just read John Clayton´s article about the lack of # 1 WR´s in today´s NFL, interesting read.

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    Won´t let me post the link but you know where to find it.

  • Huff24

    Florida Pete – No doubt. Nobody was 2nd guessing you…we were wondering more about Dakota ya know what I mean? There was already doubts with his McFadden and Lakers/Kobe love fests going on.

  • Huff24

    La Milicia – If I remember correctly, Pacman didn’t physically shoot a gun. He was in the place where the shooting happened and maybe he started something but there was nothing concrete on him doing any shooting. Was he involved in the wrong crowd? Yes. Was he in the wrong place at the wrong time? Yes. That doesn’t make him the shooter. That just means hes a dumb@$$ for putting himself into these situations.

  • Huff24

    Did Salisbury get booted off ESPN after his Crypt Keeper comments with Clayton?

  • Huff24

    San Jose is just too damn expensive to live in. This isn’t even a great city, so why the hell is everyone moving here?

  • Florida Pete

    people have finally gotten the anser to Dionne Warwick’s question????

  • Florida Pete

    answer… answer…

    (peter… you cretin…)

  • Huff24

    Florida Pete – Who, what, where, when why and how?

  • http://www.car.org/ KoolKell

    Bob,

    I listened to the Schein audio on the Raiders, at your recommendation. You neglected to mention he said “the Sky is the limit for the Raiders, they can win 6 ot 7 games” ;-)

  • Captain Black

    Hey Jerry,

    Remind the Raiders that John Madden also said two years ago that the cupboard was bare in reference to Raider team talent.

  • Florida Pete

    Dionne Warwick’s question was….

    “Do you know the way to San Jose???”

    big song back in the late 60′s…. (i think)…

  • La Milicia Negra

    Huff24….

    you’re probably right, but in my book that is still far worse than smoking weed…

    If the driver of a car is intoxicated and runs through a kindergarden, the sober passenger on the seat next to the driver is culpable…

    Same should go for Pacman… anyhoo its way worse than smoking what ever flavour you like

  • Huff24

    Ah…I know the song..I just didn’t know the name.

  • Huff24

    Well…Pacman was suspended for a year and this is his last chance at redemption. If he messes up again, hes gone. All Thurman has to do is pass a drug test and hes good to go but he can’t even do that. He would probably only get a 4 game suspension vs. being exiled.

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    KoolKell post 362

    Allright, you made look at it again, the guy says “6 or 7 wins at least” but hey, he could have said 3 or 12, it would make no difference to me.

    KK, the main thing about that segment is not what that guy feels or thinks.

    I recommended it because he spoke to JaMarcus last week and he was able to provide some info straight from Russell about a number of team issues.

  • http://www.car.org/ KoolKell

    Just bs-ing you Bob.

  • Dakota

    Pete,

    I do like shirts…

  • Dakota
  • http://none Bill Pickel

    Dakota blows goats.

    Go Raiders

  • La Milicia Negra

    Huff24…

    perhaps I misunderstood it, then….But as I get it Odell Thurman is out! I cant see any fairness in this, its subjective rulings… its obvious that none in this league is judged on equal terms…

    And weigh these things both have done, and shootings will (IMO) always weigh more than a tobacco freak… but thats how it is in a gun-happy county… I can’t see any logic in it…
    /LMN

    Gotta go, see ya tomorrow…

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    KoolKell…haha damn you old man, I was already in the middle of another post about it, good thing I refreshed the page and saw you were b-sing me.

  • Dakota

    The Raiders’ release of LaMont Jordan is less likely to be imminent now that Denver has cut Travis Henry, according to ESPN’s John Clayton.

    Clayton says owner Al Davis doesn’t want the Broncos signing Jordan, which might not happen anyway. But Davis wants to make sure he doesn’t help a rival. Jordan probably wouldn’t intrigue Denver because of his shifty style. Jun. 2 – 8:32 pm et

    Source: ESPN Insider
    _______________________________________________________

    If this is true, AD needs to be put down…don’t you liberals have doctor assisted suicide in Cali? If so, at least let AD know that it is an option….

  • Florida Pete

    are you sheeting us again Dakota???

    I WANT denver to sign Lamont…

    if the wife would let me… i would drive the moron there myself…

    carry his bags and everything…

    and … yeah… i’d buy him a f’ing shirt…

  • Dakota
  • Dakota
  • dick v

    Black Hole Priest says “When I read comments about the Raiders not drafting well it just shows that you don’t understand the process and how difficult the draft really is.” I say you have no idea what you are talking about. look at any good team in the league, and you will see what a good draft looks like.

    The Colts have some 20 players that are qaulity contributers and regular starters on their roster. Well over half the roster is comprised of players they drafted. Not to mention they actually draft pro bowl players. They also have to watch players get taken away from them in UFA year in and year out that they would love to keep, but just can’t afford to keep: David Thorton, J david, Mike Patterson, Jake scott, Cato June… They are able to replinsih their roster with cheap affordable qaulity players year in and year out because they draft good football players.

    With Al Davis the draft is a crap shoot because he is so enamored with raw physical ability and the combine measurables. The draft should not be run in this fashion if you wish to have continued success: year in and year out. The Raiders have periodic success and usually it is because they have to purchase expensive UFA to go along with hitting on a big time player in the draft. Some people might say that your chances are better in obtain a qaulity player in UFA, but when you look at the price you pay for signing above average talent compared to just developing your picks: there is no comparison.

    Rookie contracts are way cheaper than signing a fresh class of UFA that if they bust you will being pay for quite a number of years. Sure the top ten picks have a high price tag; however, the rest of the draft is filled with very good players that are way cheaper. Teams like the colts, Patriots, Steelers, Jaguars, Eagles, Giants, and chargers are able to stay competitive because they draft so well the whole draft: and their 1st round picks are usually pretty good players. Their 3rd-7th rd picks usually contribute and compete at high levels.

    Case in point look at the Colts 2005, 2006, and 2007 draft classes and look at how many of those players contributed last year when the colts were plagued by injuries. The Good teams have qaulity depth behind their starting units that are able to step up and compete at a high level. If the Raiders loose a starter, they rarely have qaulity back ups that are able to hold it down.

    Man the Raiders are my team, but you have to be able to see how other teams are able to achieve continued success.

  • Dakota

    Dick V,

    You can’t talk sense into most of these mindless AD sheep. In their eyes, AD can do no wrong.

  • dick v

    I am not sure if I agree with Kiffins assement that he was cutting bad players and the decision was not that hard: Dave toelfson and K. boothe both contributed for the NY Giants last year and both of those guys were players that Kiffin said were not that good. I wish we had Toelfson this year to compete at DE with richardson, Spires, and Kalimba Edwards.

    Eric Frampton is a true SS that contributed for the Vikings last year late in the season.

    Moses was cut but he did show flashes of potential in the pre season, and I think Kiffin was too quick to cut him. Should have booted Kris Johnson or carried only one full back or something.

  • http://raiders.com 408RAIDER

    ease up on the old man hes gonna di pretty soon then were gonn be stuck with mark & amy!!!

  • dick v

    dakota I think Al keeps things exciting, and I see the reasoning behind picks like McFadden, bracnh, Arman Shields, and Trveor Scott. All of them have high upside if the coaches can coach them up, but if they are lacking in motivation they will just look good in shorts instead of being good players on Sunday. That is the key difference between the good teams and Al Davis’ ‘let it ride approach’. Arman Shields, and Scott have never produced on a field with any sort of notoriety. Branch was CB that they bet can make the transition to Safety: he can’t turn his hips fast enough to be a good CB in the pro levels. Mcfadden had too much talent to pass up despite questionable character and decision making: getting in fights twice in college for “backing” up his brothers. All of these players are high risk high reward prospects that all have great upside. Only Mcfadden has actually produced at a high level of competition or in some cases any level of competition.

  • Dakota

    Yeah, 25 years of exciting football with nothing to show for it. I am tired of Al’s excitement and ready for a SB victory.

    Just Excite Baby…is that AD’s new motto, or is this still about winning?

  • Dakota

    I know AD wants to win more than any of us….he just has not got the job done. Period. Just retire baby.

  • http://www.sjmercury.com Raiderdude_Saratoga

    408 Guy,..you mentioned Mark and Amy,…you got that right…Mark Davis is currently working on a stadium deal in Pleasanton…the USARMY has alot of acres there,..not using,..they are giving it to the Raiders….look for a new stadium there in 3-4 years,..likely called USARMY Stadium/coliseum…something like that.

  • Huff24

    I’d want AD to retire if I knew the team would be put into good hands but unfortunately, I don’t see the team getting better at the hands of Mark and Amy. I see a tragedy and a continued downward spiral. I’m hoping that Kiffin can be successful, stick around and maybe he can be the next owner or something but for all I know, he’ll be fired at mid-season and thats it. Imagine the team being handed over to Art Shell after AD passes…Maybe Tom Walsh can be his G.M. Everyone mentions John Madden taking over but I seriously doubt that will happen.

  • Dakota

    If AD dies I think Mark and Carol will hire a GM/team president to run the team…scary yes, but the odds are in favor of that person being better at running a modern franchise than AD…unless they choose some darned ex Raider like Upshaw, or…Matt Millen????Lol.

  • Huff24

    Dakota – Thats exactly whats going to happen and you know it.

  • Dakota

    Huff,

    Can I hope it will be Rich Gannon or Greg Biekert?

  • Calvino

    Our future hasn`t been this bright since our last Super Bowl appearance.If you look at all the QB`S we`ve had between Jim Plunkett and Rich Gannon (our last 2 SB QB`S)you`ll have to agree with me that we finally have a “Franchise Quarterback” which we have lacked for 2 long.Other than Rich Gannon when was the last time we had Franchise QB?

  • Dakota

    new post

  • Raiderbaitor

    Dakota-
    Why do you think Al is so anal retentive When it comes to Lamont Jordan? The team didn’t hesitate to cut Schweigert or Rhodes, who is a better RB. Al didn’t seem to care where they ended up playing. When you flush stuff down the toilet, do you worry where it ends up?

  • Big AL’s GOON

    Lefty 12 Says:

    Goon-not one of those guys from last year started,and probably only 1 or 2 of those mentioned this year will start.that was the point,they’re not starting caliber players.
    ——————————————————

    If they didn’t start and Kiffin cut them because they weren’t starter caliber and they got signed by another team and end up playing a back-up role, so what? What’s the point? Was a cut back-up for us supposed to go elsewhere and automatically become a starter? What an impossible argument. Sounds like people are looking for something to hate on.

  • Big AL’s GOON

    RAIDERNATION 951 Says:

    Clemons, Porter and Carr left on their own. Kif didn’t cut them. Rhodes took a pay cut in order to leave. That realy isn’t what I would consider a cut either.

    But no matter how you look at it the team is better off since it has trimmed the fat.

    Porter was a biotche and will get jacked up in the AFC South. Enjoy that move jerry. I am glad your gone.
    ————————————————-

    True, we didn’t match the contracts offered to these players which just like being cut in most respects. Until I see someone emerge on the opposite side of Burgess I wouldn’t have minded keeping Clemons. Someone better step up or that will be a glaring issue.

  • Big AL’s GOON

    Lefty 12 Says:

    Goon the question should be,what starter has Kiffin cut that starts for another team?that is what the conversation was about.also,Mccown and that other idiot(dc)weren’t cut,they were FA.
    —————————————————-

    Okay, this question keeps changing. What starters has Kiffin cut? And I know McClown and C-pep were FA’s, but we had no intention or desire to resign either so it’s just like they were cut, but point taken.

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