Scouring the wires


Quick hits from Lane Kiffin’s conference call press briefing Sunday night:

— Kiffin is expecting the Raiders to be on the lookout for potential replacements for fullback Oren O’Neal and wide receiver Drew Carter, both lost for the season with left knee injuries.

At fullback, Marcel Reece, although an intriguing talent who could have a place on the practice squad, is not ready for prime time on Sept. 8 in the backfield.

“We really only have one with Justin (Griffith),” Kiffin said. “The other guy is a project, he was a receiver a month ago.”

Aside from starting split end Javon Walker and wide receiver Ronald Curry, the seven receivers currently on the Raiders roster have combined for seven receptions for 66 yards. Six of those for 49 yards come from Johnnie Lee Higgins, while Chris McFoy had one catch for 19 yards after being promoted from the practice squad last year.

Jonathan Holland, Drisan James, Todd Watkins and of course rookie draft picks Arman Shields and Chaz Schilens have not caught a pass in the NFL.

“There’s not a lot of history there as far as guys playing in the league besides Javon and Ronald,” Kiffin said. “Really, none of those guys have really played before. Johnnie played a few, I think he had two or three catches last year so it would be tough to only go with two guys who have played before.”

— Veterans available include the perennially troubled but talented Koren Robinson _ whose best success has been on kickoff returns _ and veteran Joe Horn, who has talked his way out of his last two places of employment. Horn’s agent told ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson he expected to talk to the Raiders, but it’s not as if agents ever say, “It’s the darndest thing. No one is interested in my client.”

When it comes to players who aren’t currently employed, there is usually a reason why they’re not employed.

Not that the Raiders won’t be interested.

“There are always a few guys who have been veterans at every position that wait for things to happen like this, for teams to get injuries,” Kiffin said. “They stay in shape and they know their bodies so they know they can still come in late in camp and still contribute.

“That’s one option. There are a number of guys out there. Another option is to wait either until a couple of days for these first cuts or even more for the last cuts. The last cuts, some good people are getting let go on some of the good teams.”

— For the record, Mike Williams is available. So are Johnnie Morant, Doug Gabriel and Carlos Francis.

Never mind.

— As much as the Raiders like Shields’ skill set, his odds of making the 53-man roster appear slim.

“I wouldn’t want to put a ceiling on it but it would be pretty tough,” Kiffin said. “These guys have had so many reps of running our offense, he’s missed so much time. It would be difficult but you never want to count him out.”

Kiffin hopes Shields will be available to practice, although that has been a common theme throughout camp.

— When asked about players possibly in for tryouts, Kiffin could have said, “We’ve got some things going, but I’m not at liberty to say,” or something along those lines, because teams don’t often confirm tryouts.

Instead, (editorial comment to follow) Kiffin lent even more clarity to his current authority with regard to personnel when he said, “I have no idea.”

— OK, enough with the Darren McFadden as Jerome Bettis act. The end is apparently near, with the Denver Broncos on the horizon Sept. 8.

“All I can say on that is I have to continue to remind you guys that it’s preseason and you guys can figure out what that means,” Kiffin said.

— With Ricky Brown apparently having sewed up the job as strong side linebacker and Johnnie Lee Higgins looking to be the return specialist by default, the only real question left is starting center. Kiffin had Jake Grove in the lead last week, but said he may have information regarding a depth chart this week.

— JaMarcus Russell earned generally positive reviews for the third straight time. Russell went 14-for-28 for 140 yards, but missed out twice on potential touchdown passes _ the first when Zach Miller nearly came down with a ball in the end zone but was ruled out, the second when a pass into the back of the end zone glanced off the hands of Curry, who was being jostled by a defender.

On the Curry play, Kiffin thought it may have been worth a flag for defensive interference.

“He had one poor throw, the interception,” Kiffin said. “Other than that, he didn’t force things. He did well, especially under all the pressure he was under. He wasn’t back there setting his feet a lot. He had to move around a lot and made plays on the run.”

— Kiffin acknowledged that Fred Wakefield struggled when inserted at right tackle, where he played in place of Cornell Green for much of the second half.

— Safety Rashad Baker (ankle), cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle) and safety Hiram Eugene (hip) could all miss practice Monday. Shane Lechler probably will not kick, meaning Glenn Pakulak may be retained on the roster through Tuesday cutdowns. Sebastian Janikowski could be available, meaning Aaron Elling could be seeking employment.

— Maybe “Super” Mario Henderson is the answer to the receiving woes. He lined up as a tight end on the left side, and was even announced as an eligible receiver. Michael Bush ran behind him to get a first down.

Kiffin said he was just giving opponents something to look at.

— In Oakland, Kiffin ran a two-minute drill for no apparent reason in the first half other than to get a look at it. He abandoned the run, went for a touchdown when normally would attempt a field goal and attached absolutely no significance to the supposedly most important week of the preseason other than the fact he lost two offensive players for the duration of the season.

Elsewhere, Tom Brady and LaDainian Tomlinson aren’t likely to play until the lights go on. Teams continue to charge full price for half-(bleep) games.

You’ll never hear me trashing Raider fans for failing to show up in August. It’s an instance where they’re showing their good sense. Even a lot of people buying season tickets aren’t bothering to show, because the 39,000-plus announced crowd was pretty much a joke.

The Raiders were offering up partial season ticket plans Saturday night, and seem to be actually making some headway in marketing which would really pay off should the team finally be worth watching.

Come up with a full season ticket plan in February that doesn’t include the preseason and then they’ve done something.

I know. Lots of money at stake. Can’t be done. Blah, blah, blah.

It’s never a bad thing to tailgate on a Saturday evening in the sunshine. But paying full price for the scrimmage to follow is an insult to the paying customers _ not just in Oakland, but throughout the league.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • McRaider

    Oakglenn, I agree with that 100%. That does not however, make Parcells a great GM. He still has to proof that.

    Again, I am not saying that he is not. I am just saying lets wait and see.

  • McRaider you are exactly right about that. Some “fans” here think every thing right is Wolf and Gruden everything wrong is Davis. That is completely preposterous. Davis has made some moves that went wrong that no one could see coming. Eric Turner. Randy Moss. Warren Sapp. Rob Gallery. Even Norv Turner. But that is all on the heels of a Super Bowl appearance.

  • McRaider

    My wish would be for Al to hire a GM and let the GM do his job. Give is feedback, but allow the GM to make the final decision.

    I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Those of you who wish Al ill will, his mom lived to 98.

  • Silver and Black Chef

    Afternoon Gents,
    Mark Davis (Als son)has been seen at practice alot more than any previous offseason, it could be some plan of succesion is in the works, Perhaps him and Kiff are on the same page. Who knows but someone on an ealier thread suggested bringing Tim Dwight back in, may not be a bad idea.

  • La Milicia Negra


    post 355.. yeah we had a talk, here, like this just prior to the draft. To get a guy like Bill Polian, and we would be a modern team..

  • La Milicia Negra


    that would be 352, now, I guess they just deleted some posts :/

  • La Milicia Negra


  • Dakota

    I would trade Al Davis for Bill Polian or Bill Parcels in a heartbeat…sorry Al, your time has come and gone, now make like a CEO and take a jump with the golden parachute and save us the continued suffering of your incompetence. Save your team and save your legacy by bowing out now, before you completely destroy what you created in the 60s, 70s and early 80s.

    We all know you already ruined the Kiffin experiment, now save us the months of speculation and fire him now as your last act as GM. You are going to have to bite the bullet and pay Art Shell, Kiffin and (insert new HC’s name hear) for the 2008-2009 season, so just get it over with. Then hire some young assistant GM to rebuild this pathetic team. You made the no-brainer selections of McFadden and Russell, which are two nice building blocks, now turn this ship over to someone competent enough to at least not destroy those players before they even get a chance to become the stars they are likely to become under a stable, competent and steady organization. You know, they type of organization you have failed to run for the past 25 years.

    Guys, what is the over/under on the number of HC’s Jamarcus Russell will have to deal with in his time here with the Raiders? Tim Brown suffered through, what, 7 HCs?

    My money is on 5 HCs if Al remains the owner over the next 12 years.

  • La Milicia Negra


    how was your vacation??

  • Dakota


    It was great, thanks for asking. How was your trip to Sweden?

  • Chris in NY

    — This team has had a bad run but Al can pull it together. You have to remember that the Raiders were one of the best teams in football about 5 years ago and in several seasons leading up to their run to the Super Bowl. That team was also filled with veterans at the end of their careers like Gannon, Brown, Rice, Woodson, Garner, Kennedy, Romanowski, Eric Allen and many others.

    It was going to take some time to re-load after that. It’s almost like the Raiders became an expansion team with all those guys gone. Now, with Russell, McFadden, Bush, Howard, Morrison, Nnamdi, Burgess, Huff, Kelly and Miller the Raiders have a good core in place to be a winning team again. This team could have been 8-8 last year if they won a reasonable number of games where they blew 4th quarter leads or were driving at the end with a chance to win/tie. Unfortunately, the QB play was pretty horrendous. Now, Russell is the real deal and I think we have the best secondary in football. The Raiders are a dangerous team again.

    — Koren Robinson would be a great fit as long as he’s clean and in shape. A solid receiver who has been a Pro Bowl return man. That’s exactly what we need. If he isn’t signed you’ve gotta figure something is up with him again. That would be the only logical explanation. The Raiders could really use that guy.

  • !!!

  • C’mon. I would trade the entire city of Oakland for Bill Polian.

  • Dakota

    For all my bashing of Al Davis, I do admire the man for wanting to win and spending most of his $$$ to try and get the job done, I mean, there are many owners out there that only care about the bottom line, but Al just wants to win…his fatal flaw is that he is the one choosing which players to spend that money on…it is an unfortunate situation. As someone suggested above, a competent GM with Al’s willingness to reinvest in his team would be an unbeatable combo.

  • bank-bank

    My Goodness,you think the season is over already.Relax,its still EXHIBITION season.It was game three of the EXHIBITION season which means its time to find out whos staying and whos going.Most of your starters were done after half-time,so don’t let the second half of an EXHIBITION game be our measuring stick for our season.Everyone knows about the 4 win 1 lost EXHIBITION season under Art Shell,things were great on this sight everyone was happy.Everyone knows the outcome of that REGULAR season 2 wins 14 loses.So,please keep your heads up because its only EXHIBITION season.

  • Bud

    I read bloggers saying so and so is going to catch 60-70 or more passes, have you watched the pass blocking of our o/line. Jamarcus doesn’t get time to set his feet to pass, so he has to roll out and cut off half the field. If the o/line doesn’t improve their pass blocking skills it will be a run only team. The o/line has to improve pass blocking, period.

  • NoLuv4Hoes

    bring in pope from the vikes he got cut. and sammie parker

  • darkknight01

    figure who the better blocker is between Joe and Rankin and keep them as the back up fullback…chances are JOE is a better blocker.

  • Scottish Raider


    I agree that Robinson is probably the best option around at the moment. I am not too excited by some of the other vets – too much mileage, not enough motivation. Robinson is still young enough and hungry enough – and is supposed to be off the booze.

    It all depends on what sort of receiver Kiff and Greg are looking for. Kiff hasn’t said what type of WR he is looking for – another deep threat or a better slot option?

  • Same old dumbass arguement, these dumbells want Mr Davis to trun over his franchise to young kid who hasn’t even though he hasn’t won a damn thing and we don’t know if he ever could if you gave the entire organization to him.

    Hey!! idiots this kid is UNPROVEN get it UNPROVEN that he even knows how to coach let alone run a draft.

    It’s one thing to give a team to someone who’s proven he can handle it. It’s totally something else to give total autonomy to someone who hasn’t.

    It’s like letting your 16 year old son who’s learning how to drive, drive the Porsche while you drive the beatup VW. Who in there right mind would do that?? but a complete idiot.

    Yet you want Mr Davis to do that with Kiffin. Let Kiffin get his first winning record then you MIGHT have a point.

  • Dakota – There are only 3 owners in the league I respect and admire: Al Davis, Jerry Jones and Daniel Synder. All 3 would do whatever it takes to win – whatever the cost. Synder’s problem is he doesn’t know How to win – but he’ll write the check. Jerry Jones gets his from Davis.

    These other owners? I don’t think so. They try to do most things cheaply and end up selling out the fans. Look at the Eagles. They could be atop the NFL but they’re too damn cheap to get McNabb a WR. Its unbelievable to witness.

    I would much rather be a fan of a franchise who’s owner does whatever he/she can to win than root for a team that will not win or have a tough time winning b/c the owner’s too damn cheap.

    With Mr. Davis winning is all that matters!

  • Dakota

    Kiffin may have to drag Madsen out of the dog house and let him on the field once in a while this year…say what you want about Madsen, but the guy gets open.

  • Dakota

    Right Terp, that is what I said in #366.

  • jim

    If you look at the curent reiever corps, only walker and curry have any experince, I kno weverybody is negative towards joe horn, but can youname another free agent reciever out there with th eexperience that joe horn would bring…I think the best thing to do is start checking around h league fro available players and possibly look for a trade partner to get a decent 3rd reciever..Adimchinobi Echemandu is apretty decent back and would be worth giving up for some 3rd or fourth reciever..I know that every year around cut time ther is a few good names available..so I am sure we will find someone..I am more worried however abotu finding a replacement for o’neal

  • Scottish Raider


    My gripe with Al is that he hasn’t spent enough time or effort putting the right organisation in place to support a winning team. The front office is almost as crucial as the coaching staff. Two decades ago, we had what was recongised to be the best off-field organisation – good scouts, good personnel, good fitness/health. The other teams first copied and then innovated. We haven’t really moved forward.

    You have to win off the field in order to win on it.

  • Thec

    sammie parker still has an injury, thats why
    dis-chargers let him go.

  • Dakota

    Teams have to cut down to 75 players tomorrow right? Maybe a FB might become available, or more likely, on Saturday when rosters have to be down to 53…that means some 864 players currently on rosters today will be free on Saturday…we should be able to find some decent backup WRs and a serviceable backup FB in that bunch shouldn’t we?…if Al can stomach cutting Grant Irons.

  • Not much has changed Scottish except one crucial point: we started losing. When you win, everyone’s all over your jock …give you all sort of credibility and accolades. When you lose, you’re the tarpit of the League. When we begin to win again, you’ll see. Its gonna be champagne poppin’ and feet kissin’ all round the NFL ..writers sayin’ “they’re back! and I told you so’s”. The Raiders are more of the most recognized teams in the NFL – they draw admiration and hate from all circles.

  • I don’t know Dakota, that pass that went right thru Madsens hands in the AZ exhibition game sent shivers thru me. The saddest part about it was Jam DID EVERYTHING RIGHT!!! Blitz came, got out of it, you could see Jam’s mind working…….TE should be right here……perfect pass…….clank!

  • bank-bank

    The Offensive Line will come around because it was one of our brightest spots last season.TRUST,this past EXHIBITION game isn’t the way that we’re going to play this season,NO-WAY i refuse to believe that and you should also.

  • McRaider

    Not Saying that this will happen, but how many people will admit that they were wrong if the Raider went 10 and 6? Would they say that the Raider had success in spite of Al, or admit that Al new what he wa doing when he puts the clamps on Lane Kiffin?

  • Dakota


    Are you still leading the village mob to Alameda if Al fires Kiffin? I recall you declaring war on Al Davis back in January when the resignation letter fiasco was reported, lol. Count me in.

  • garthraider

    post372/373 Well said, Im waiting (hoping)for a clear the air press conference,its been a while!If they want more ticket sales,then get on the SAME page,get the fans pumped UP!Stop all the negative BS,Just Win,Baby

  • Rick Wascher

    Koren Robinson solves two problems. WR and punt or kick returns.Higgins is still a liability back there. Better look for a few tackles on the O line too.

  • Dakota


    You will see a formal letter of apology from China regarding its falsification of certain passports to qualify gymnasts for the Olympic games before you get your joint Davis/Kiffin news conference, lol. Don’t hold your breath.

  • Scottish Raider

    Terrapin, I just don’t think all the blame for the last five long seasons lies with the players or the coaches. I think that the front office is equally deserving of criticism and they must also be held partially accountable.

    The next week is crucial. Our front office team needs to move quickly and smartly. Some good players are going to become available – over 850 according to Dakota. We need to upgrade our back-up talent in key areas:

    1) WR
    2) TE
    3) FB
    4) OT
    5) OG
    6) MLB
    7) CB

    At least seven slots in the 53 roster. I think the talent will be out there – we just have to find it and sign it.

  • anthos

    dakota go over to pft.com and philley just released a fb i think hes pretty good too

  • Dakota

    Oakglenn Says:
    August 25th, 2008 at 1:36 pm
    I don’t know Dakota, that pass that went right thru Madsens hands in the AZ exhibition game sent shivers thru me. The saddest part about it was Jam DID EVERYTHING RIGHT!!! Blitz came, got out of it, you could see Jam’s mind working…….TE should be right here……perfect pass…….clank!

    Really? That sucks. I missed the game because I was on vacation…I guess that is why I am not panicking about an exhibition loss.

  • K-Rock

    Where are the Raiders going to get all this money to sign these players?

    They are only 4 mil under the cap.

  • bank-bank

    You can’t keep firing coaches and the songs still remains the same meaning (losing seasons).We have to change the products to find the right taste.We’ve had caoches in the past that we fired only to have them go to another batch of products and Win.

  • Scottish Raider


    I am on a long-term downer with Al, because he hasn’t had the wisdom or humility to recognise his own and his flunkies failings.

    But, I am on a short-term downer with Kiff over his ridiculous Mike Martz pastiche on Friday.

    I think the best answer is for Al to sell up, for Mike Holmgren to be made GM and for us to find a head coach with Kiffin’s enthusiasm but with perhaps more leadership ability.

    I guess I am still really upset and angry about Oren O’Neal’s injury. Why were we putting a key member of our offense on special teams in a meaningless pre-season chuck-around? Especially as Oren had only recently returned after knee problems. Tragic, just damn tragic.


  • Andrews Mom

    How many NFL teams have a GM that is not the owner?
    I bet 20 of those GMs are perpetual losers and there may be 4 that are sure winners. Toss in a handful of mediocore GM’s.

    Good luck landing a sure thing when Al is gone.
    Theres no proof that this team will improve without Al.
    I will take my chances with the man who had us in the SB 5 years ago and promised to take us back there again.

  • garthraider

    Dakota,Just wishful thinking,I am sending BIG AL an email though,signed by Jerry

  • Dakota


    I had to look up PASTICHE…

    …and I feel your pain.

  • Thec

    Not everybody has the sky is falling attitude. We have a good football team that has some holes.
    The issues we saw in the cards game will be addressed. I for one am glad that Kiffin went with that game plan. that game plan put our O-line, and our young QB under a lot of pressure. that pressure was a great simulation that our young QB will see when teams attempt to stack 8, or 9 in the box. I for one am looking very forward to that day because when they do that we will strike quickly….
    Again the most exciting thing about the Cards game is our 1 WR is just that a true no 1. take a look at the titans game, and the crads game. he was open a few times for 6 in each and missed.
    I am more anxious at who is going to get cut. archuleta comes to mind as he has not done, nothing.

  • Chris in NY

    That loss vs. Arizona didn’t trouble me at all except for the injuries and the fact that the Raiders didn’t capitalize on all the first-half turnovers. Oakland’s D dominated that half and the offense was OK. The pass-blocking was pretty poor but Russell did a great job of avoiding the rush to buy time.

    Our first units were controlling the game, but much like in the Tennessee game, they didn’t finish drives enough to get the lead on the scoreboard that they deserved. So the final score of that AZ game is totally misleading.

  • darkknight01

    Sign Koren Robinson! He can KR/PR and play the 3rd WR position!

  • Quagmire’d

    Hey Wiz- where you at?

  • Dakota

    By Tony Moss, NFL Editor

    (Sports Network) – The dysfunction continues for the Oakland Raiders.

    A team that has gone a horrid 19-61 over the past five seasons would have to eventually rise from the abyss in the parity-stricken NFL, right?

    Not necessarily. The events of the offseason that followed Oakland’s 4-12 campaign of 2007 only made the franchise look more clueless and directionless, not less so.

    Where to begin?

    Well, head coach Lane Kiffin tried to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who presided over the No. 26 scoring defense in the NFL last year, but owner Al Davis vetoed the move. Then, it began to seem that Kiffin was on his way out, showing up for public events not wearing any Raiders gear and generally giving vague answers (or no answers) when asked about his future. Kiffin made it to training camp with his job intact, but you’d find few folks willing to wager that he’ll make it all the way through 2008.

    The Raiders spent a ton of money in the free agent period, but spent it curiously.

    They gave ridiculously outsized contracts to average defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and wide receiver Javon Walker, both of whom come off major injuries.

    Davis also dealt for Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall, whose prima donna act in Atlanta made many more headlines than his play.

    There were a few canny moves, like the signing of underrated safety Gibril Wilson, a key part of the Super Bowl Champion Giants’ defense, and the selection of dazzling Arkansas running back Darren McFadden with the No. 4 overall pick.

    But the bad still outweighed the good by a wide margin, and it’s hard to believe a team that made slight progress under Kiffin last year will have a chance to truly jell with so much uncertainty permeating the organization.

    If this team’s play does indeed match up to whatever Davis’ vision is, it will be a Lazarus act of the highest order.

    Below we take a capsule look at the 2008 edition of the Oakland Raiders, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

    2007 RECORD: 4-12 (t3rd, AFC West)

    LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2002, lost to Tampa Bay, 48-21, in Super Bowl

    COACH (RECORD): Lane Kiffin (4-12 in one year with Raiders, 4-12 overall)



    OFFENSIVE STAR: Darren McFadden, RB (1st Round, Arkansas)

    DEFENSIVE STAR: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB (34 tackles, 1 INT)

    OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 6th rushing, 31st passing, 23rd scoring

    DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 31st rushing, 8th passing, 26th scoring

    KEY ADDITIONS: QB Marques Tuiasosopo (from Jets), RB Darren McFadden (1st Round, Arkansas), WR Javon Walker (from Broncos), C John Wade (from Buccaneers), T Kwame Harris (from 49ers), DE Greg Spires (from Buccaneers), DE Kalimba Edwards (from Lions), DT William Joseph (from Giants), CB DeAngelo Hall (from Falcons), S Gibril Wilson (from Giants), S Adam Archuleta (from Bears)

    KEY DEPARTURES: QB Josh McCown (to Dolphins), QB Daunte Culpepper (not tendered), RB Dominic Rhodes (to Colts), RB LaMont Jordan (to Patriots), FB Oren O’Neal (out for season/injured), WR Tim Dwight (not tendered), WR Jerry Porter (to Jaguars), WR Drew Carter (out for season/injured), C Jeremy Newberry (to Chargers), T Barry Sims (to 49ers), DE Tyler Brayton (to Panthers), DE/OLB Chris Clemons (to Eagles), CB Fabian Washington (to Ravens), RS/CB Chris Carr (to Titans), CB Duane Starks (released), S Stuart Schweigert (to Redskins)

    QB: The JaMarcus Russell (373 passing yards, 2 TD, 4 INT) era begins in earnest for the Raiders this season, as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 Draft is given an opportunity to sink or swim. Russell played in just four games last year, starting one, but showed enough positive signs in a season- ending loss to the Chargers to give Oakland fans hope. With 2007 starters Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper both departed, two prodigal sons return to back Russell. Andrew Walter was at the bottom of a four-player depth chart last season, but is the odds-on favorite to win primary backup duties in 2008. Marques Tuiaosopo couldn’t get off the bench in six years with the Raiders, but returns as the probable third-stringer after one season in a similar capacity with the Jets.

    RB: The Raiders’ most significant offensive bright spot last year was the play of Justin Fargas (1009 rushing yards, 4 TD, 23 receptions), who went over 1,000 yards late in the season before being sidelined with a knee injury. Still, Oakland couldn’t pass up drafting the dynamic McFadden in the first round, and it stands to reason that the players will both see the football frequently this year. The jettisoning of LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes will help Michael Bush move up the depth chart. Bush sat out all of last season with a broken leg, but at 245 pounds gives the team an intriguing option between the tackles. With Bush on the roster, it will be interesting to see whether the team uses fullback Justin Griffith (26 receptions, 1 TD) as frequently.

    WR/TE: Though they got decent production from Ronald Curry (55 receptions, 4 TD) and the since-departed Jerry Porter a year ago, Oakland lacked a bona fide No. 1 receiver that could both stretch the field and make the tough catch. Enter Javon Walker (26 receptions with Denver), who could once do those things, but is now a major question mark due to frequent knee trouble. At 30, Walker will have to prove to both the Raiders and the masses that he still has it. Curry’s biggest competition for the No. 2 job was supposed to come from newcomer Drew Carter (38 receptions, 4 TD with Carolina), but Carter was injured in the team’s third preseason game and is out for the year. After Walker and Curry, it’s difficult to say what receivers will stick. Rookie Arman Shields (4th Round, Richmond) and Chaz Schilens (7th round, San Diego State) will battle incumbents Johnnie Lee Higgins (6 receptions), Chris McFoy (1 reception), and first-year player Todd Watkins for a spot on the roster. At tight end, Zach Miller (44 receptions, 3 TD) was quietly effective last year, and will top a depth chart that also includes John Madsen (8 receptions, 1 TD) and Tony Stewart.

    OL: The Oakland offensive line wasn’t nearly as embarrassing in 2007 as it had been the year prior, when it gave up a whopping 72 sacks. That number shrunk to 41 last year, and Fargas’ 1,000-yard season was further evidence of the unit’s development. Still, it would be a reach to call this unit “good.” Left guard Robert Galley, right guard Cooper Carlisle, and right tackle Cornell Green are the most reliable players up front, but should hold off making those reservations for Hawaii. Left tackle could be a real problem, since Kwame Harris, a pariah for five years with the 49ers, has been basically guaranteed a job as the successor to Barry Sims. The competition at center is among John Wade and Jake Grove, with the 10-year veteran Wade looking to have the edge over 2004 second-round pick Grove. Paul McQuistan, Mario Henderson, and Chris Morris all served in backup roles last year and have a good chance to remain on the roster.

    DL: NFL observers are still scratching their heads at the $18.5 million in guaranteed money given to defensive tackle Tommy Kelly (30 tackles, 1 sack), who missed nine games with a torn ACL last year and was never a household name to begin with. Kelly will have to stay healthy to even begin justifying the money, and the same goes for Gerard Warren (22 tackles, 4 sacks), who started just three games a year ago and missed five contests due to injury. Terdell Sands (23 tackles), who had a poor season in 2007 but has started for Oakland, will be an experienced backup, and ex-Giant William Joseph has a chance to be in the rotation as well. At end, Derrick Burgess (39 tackles, 8 sacks) is entrenched as a starter but the free agent defection of Chris Clemons calls the other starting slot into question. Jay Richardson (33 tackles, 1 sack) started 10 games as a rookie last year and will be part of the discussion, but veterans Kalimba Edwards (17 tackles, 3 sacks with Detroit) and Greg Spires (26 tackles, 2 sacks with Tampa Bay) have a bit more name cachet.

    LB: Underrated around the league because of their team’s struggles, middle linebacker Kirk Morrison (120 tackles, 4 INT, 1 sack) and weakside LB Thomas Howard (95 tackles, 6 INT, 1 sack) are talented and could play for any team in the NFL. The duo was 1-2 on the Raiders in tackles and combined for more interceptions (10) than the entire Oakland secondary (8). The strong side job is less secure, with holdovers Sam Williams (16 tackles) and Robert Thomas (62 tackles) battling third-year players Ricky Brown (13 tackles) and Jon Alston (8 tackles) for duties there. All four players are unlikely to make the club, especially if Isaiah Ekejiuba (12 tackles), who played in 10 games as a backup and special-teamer a year ago, makes it.

    DB: Davis was especially unhappy with the play of the Raiders secondary last season, which is why he shook things up and added cornerback DeAngelo Hall (70 tackles, 5 INT with Atlanta) and strong safety Gibril Wilson (92 tackles, 4 INT with the Giants). On paper, a group including Hall, Wilson, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (34 tackles, 1 INT) and free safety Michael Huff (85 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) should be solid, but there isn’t a great deal of depth behind those players and nickel back Stanford Routt (42 tackles, 3 INT). Backup safeties Hiram Eugene (31 tackles) and Jarrod Cooper (5 tackles) could be in trouble if forced into starting roles, and fourth corner Chris Johnson (13 tackles) could have trouble holding off fourth-round rookie Tyvon Branch (Connecticut).

    SPECIAL TEAMS: Say what you will about the Raiders’ selection of kicker Sebastian Janikowski (23-32 FG) in the first round of the 2000 Draft, but he and Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler (49.1 avg.) are the longest-tenured players on the Oakland roster and have outlasted many other kickers and punters throughout the league. Janikowski was battling a hamstring injury during training camp, but was expected to be ready for the season. Johnnie Lee Higgins (5.2 punt return avg.) has a chance to field both punts and kickoffs following the departure of Chris Carr to free agency, but will be pushed by backup corner Tyvon Branch in that capacity. Long snapper Jon Condo will fill those duties for a second straight year.

    PROGNOSIS: Even if you believe Kiffin put the Raiders on the right track last season, when the team was much more competitive that it had been under Art Shell, you have to admit a derailment seems imminent. With the owner and head coach at odds, and the head coach and defensive coordinator not exactly best buds, a cloud will hang over this club all season long. And that’s before you get to the fact that Russell and McFadden – potentially the team’s most important offensive players – are green and will undoubtedly make mistakes. Walker is an “X” factor, the o-line remains shaky, and the same defensive front seven that struggled against the run last year has not received much of an upgrade. There is talent on this team, but the high level of uncertainty that surrounds it will conspire to saddle the Raiders with yet another losing season.

    08/25 15:58:37 ET

    “…it’s hard to believe a team that made slight progress under Kiffin last year will have a chance to truly jell with so much uncertainty permeating the organization.”

    That about sums up my concern and anger at Al Davis.

  • Uh huh and…