Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

August 22, 2007
Time to answer some questions

It's been awhile since I've answered questions, mainly because I've been able to cover most issues via blogs.

But enough excuses, here are some questions from the Raider Nation:

Question: Can you provide insight as to how the Raiders' reserve defensive tackles have looked in training camp? I think that the Raiders could use an upgrade at backup d-tackle because they seem to struggle against the run last year. That being said, the trade for Warren would be justified because Brayton, Hawthorne, and Richardson have not stood out significantly in the preseason.

Raider Johnny, Santa Clarita

Answer: You're right, the Raiders do need to upgrade at defensive tackle.

The only thing the Raiders did to address the run defense was re-sign Terdell Sands, which kept AFC West rival Kansas City from luring him away.

Of the current backups, I'll start with Tyler Brayton and Anttaj Hawthorne.

Brayton is playing a new position (again) and it's probably the best fit for him. It's probably not a good sign that the memory that stands out about him from training camp was losing a pass blocking drill to Robert Gallery, followed by losing a fight to Gallery.

Brayton will play hard, but he doesn't make a lot of plays.

I don't think he's an answer against the run and would probably see most of his time in passing situations.

Hawthorne hasn't been spectacular in camp; Warren Sapp was teasing him last week for always being on the ground. He plays with a lot of effort, but he's not the biggest guy, either.

Both have played and looked like backups and could see their roles changed with Gerard Warren in town.

Jay Richardson played some defensive tackle in college, but is probably going to stay at defensive end.

A lot of this will be decided when the Raiders decide if Tommy Kelly will start at defensive end or defensive tackle. If Kelly plays a lot of end, that means Sands is starting next to Warren Sapp inside.

I think the Raiders' best defensive line is Sands and Sapp in the middle with Derrick Burgess and Kelly at the ends.

Sliding Kelly back inside for passing plays isn't a bad idea, especially if Quentin Moses proves to be the steal of the draft that he has played like in camp.

Regardless, the Raiders would need at least two more interior tackles. I think as long as Warren's head is right after sitting out most of the preseason in Denver, he joins Brayton (remember, the Raiders love those first-round picks) in the rotation at defensive tackle.

- Jason Jones

Question: Jason, I met you at camp, the tall guy who grew up in San Pedro and is now in Reno. One question: Is Russell not signed because Al Davis is trying to make a statement and calling bull on the rising guaranteed money to rookies? With Calvin Johnson being the highest-paid WR in history while never taking a snap in the NFL, something is wrong here. So Davis is saying bull, and saying he will only guarantee part of the signing bonus, with the rest being given out in three years. Any progress of late? Thanks.

Mike, Reno

Answer: First off, there's no progress to report in talks between the Raiders and Russell's agents. I spoke with people familiar with the negotiations last weekend and both sides say the other isn't willing to negotiate.

The Raiders believe Russell's agents asking for nearly $10 million more than what Mario Williams received last season is absurd.

Russell's camp believes the Raiders' unwillingness to give a full guarantee against skill and injury is ridiculous.

In fairness, the Raiders deny they won't protect against skill and injury, something the last 15 first overall picks received.

I don't think Al Davis is trying to make a statement. If he is, he's wrong to do it like this. The market is the market. JaMarcus didn't set it, he's just trying to maximize his value in it.

Is it crazy Calvin Johnson's contract is worth more than Steve Smith's, Chad Johnson's or Marvin Harrison's? Absolutely. But who's to blame for that? Not the players.

I'm surprised the NFL hadn't tried to cap what rookies earned in guarantees years ago. At this rate, the first overall pick will be getting more than $40 million in guarantees in a couple of years.

The NBA got a pay scale to work, but in the NFL's setup it might be a little tougher.

An entire NBA contract is guaranteed, which isn't the case in the NFL.

But when it comes to JaMarcus, don't hate his agents for trying to get the most. Hate the system that's set up to where Carson Palmer received about $15 million in guarantees in 2003 and Russell is in line for at least $30 four years later.

If Davis didn't want to pay the sum, he should have traded the pick. But the Raiders insist it's not the money, it's the ability to recoup some if Russell ends up in jail, holds out or something along those lines.

Regardless of who you believe, this is a mess.

- Jason Jones

Question: I know he has had past issues (remember at K-State/Carolina) ... and he is a fun guy.

Last I heard, Jarrod Cooper wasn't returning calls. Has anyone heard from him?

Thank you.

Eric, Kansas City, Mo./Garden Grove

Answer: "Coop" seems to gone underground since being released by the Raiders last month. He knew he probably was going to get suspended for violating the steroid policy, but didn't see the Raiders cutting him.

His friends on the team haven't had contact with him aside from replying to text messages that thank them for their support.

I hear he's probably back home in North Carolina, waiting out the suspension and hoping someone picks him up when he's eligible to play.

- Jason Jones

Question: Will Daunte Culpepper be the opening day starter at QB?

I. Kouvdos, Sacramento

Answer: If I knew the answer for sure, I'd be Lane Kiffin. But he says he doesn't know yet and might not until after next week's preseason finale.

My hunch is it will be Culpepper, based on the way Kiffin talks about him. Kiffin loves players who relish a challenge and in Culpepper (Josh McCown, too), he has a quarterback with something to prove.

Kiffin gushes over the way Culpepper prepares and his attitude on game day.

Culpepper said he has most of the offense down, and Kiffin seems to really like Culpepper's personality and how it meshes with the team.

And just because I believe that, McCown will start against the Lions.

- Jason Jones

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About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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