Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

May 30, 2007
Kiffin keeps things competitive

ALAMEDA - You have to wonder when Lane Kiffin doesn't think about football.

I thought offseason workouts were about learning the offense. Not for Kiffin.

Rather than use organized team activities to put in the offense with no flexibility, Kiffin is going at it as if it's the regular season.

Hence the play Kiffin called today, where quarterback Josh McCown ran a naked bootleg, fooling the entire defense for a big gain.

"It was something that we saw in the defense that we thought would be there from yesterday's practice," Kiffin said. "So we put it in just like we would in a game. So we try to create situations like that on offense, defense."

It's all about what seems to be Kiffin's favorite word: competition.

There's no vanilla defense for the Raiders to attack in practices. The linebackers blitz, safeties are near the line of scrimmage and corners press the wide receivers to simulate games as best they can without pads.

The defense knows the offense is trying to learn a new system, so it makes life as difficult as possible.

Or, as defensive coordinator Rob Ryan once said, make the offense cry.

"At times they (the defense) game-plan us, how to attack us on offense, just because we want our guys to be put in competitive positions of game-like situations," Kiffin said.

- Jason Jones

May 30, 2007
Williams remains sidelined

Mike Williams' injury that took him out of his first minicamp practice May 4 still has him sidelined.

Sure, Williams knows Kiffin's system (he was great in it at USC), but this isn't the way he wanted to start over in Oakland.

Williams said a couple of weeks ago he hoped to be back on the field soon. But instead of wearing a helmet on the field, he's wearing a beanie as an observer.

"It was not something that just happened real quick," Kiffin said. "It was very serious. And actually the first thing we heard (on how long Williams would be out) was even longer than what we hear now. So we think he's getting pretty close."

If Williams is back by the Raiders' third minicamp June 11-13, it would give the offense a chance to see where he fits and if he can shake the rep he gained in Detroit. It's a voluntary camp, but when you're Williams, there's no such thing.

Et cetera

• Running back ReShard Lee had arthroscopic knee surgery and should be back in six to eight weeks, Kiffin said.

• Rookie receiver Johnathan Holland also had knee surgery. Free-agent tight end Tony Stewart still is bothered by a heel injury that hasn't required surgery.

• Running back Adimchinobe Echemandu was running hard after leaving the field two weeks ago on a cart with a sprained ankle.

• Darnell Bing continues to look good at strong safety. He was moved to linebacker last year, then put on injured reserve.

• LaMont Jordan made a nice diving catch toward the end of practice on a long pass from McCown. Jordan caught 70 passes in 2005, mainly of the shorter variety.

• Veterans Warren Sapp and Derrick Burgess still are training out of the area. Kiffin said he's in touch with both, but doesn't know if they'll attend the voluntary minicamp next month. Either way, too big of a deal will be made of their appearance or absence.

- Jason Jones

May 26, 2007
Rushing to Raiders defense

Q: The Raiders supposedly have a great defense but teams still run on us at will. Will the nose tackle position be addressed through free agency or are we going into the season with the same unit?

- Patrick Grant, Sacramento

A: The Raiders rush defense last year was 25th in the NFL and they allowed opponents to average four yards a carry.

But this is a case where stats don't tell the whole story.

I wouldn't say teams ran at will on the Raiders. They ran because they knew with the defense on the field much of the game because of a horrendous offense, the defense would eventually wear down. Teams ran on the Raiders more than any other team in the NFL.

The Raiders held LaDainian Tomlinson of the Chargers in check for much of their game in San Diego before he broke through for a big run late, which was the case a lot of the season.

But there was also the game in which Houston's Ron Dayne had a flashback to his Heisman Trophy days at Wisconsin and ran where most teams had their success against the Raiders - up the middle.

The Raiders didn't sign or draft a nose tackle to eat up space. It looks like Terdell Sands, whom the Raiders re-signed, will be the answer to improving that position.

Tommy Kelly started most of the season at nose, but Sands (6-foot-7, 335 pounds and looks bigger) has the size and strength to eat up space in the middle to free up the linebackers to make plays.

So yes, it will essentially be the same group from last season. If they can eliminate some missed tackles and being out of position, the run defense should improve.

But if the offense isn't much better, the run-defense could rank near the bottom of the NFL again, just because teams will run, run, run.

- Jason Jones

Q: Don't you think Al Davis, gives coaches a say in the team? Last year he let (then coach) Art Shell take defensive back Michael Huff when he wanted Matt Leinart. Don't get me wrong, JaMarcus Russell is the future, hopefully a year out though.

- Mike, Calif.

A: Al Davis does give coaches some say, but don't be mistaken, he makes the final call on draft picks. Sure, he liked Matt Leinart, but if he really wanted him, he would have drafted him. Shell was hired knowing the team planned to take Huff.

The notion of Davis letting someone who hadn't been a head coach in more than a decade run his draft is about as crazy as the notion of Davis not having the final say on the draft pick.

- Jason Jones

Q: I've been trying to get an idea of how Johnnie Lee Higgins is performing as a wide receiver out there in mini camp and now in OTAs. Where do you see him fitting in to the receivers corp this season?

- Stephen McBride, Sacramento

A: Higgins looks like he could compete for time as a slot receiver. Outside of Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry, it looks like a battle to get on the field as a third or fourth receiver. Higgins also takes snaps as a punt returner.

It's tough to gauge sometimes in these workouts because I believe in practices that aren't full contact, the offense has a greater advantage.

Check back in August when I've seen how he does when the defense can put a hit on him over the middle and see how he reacts.

- Jason Jones

Q: The Raiders' Web site lists J.J. Milan, Kurt Campbell, Kyle Shotwell as new acquisitions at linebacker, as well as returnee Ricky Brown. Then there is Robert Thomas. It would seem the only linebacker job that might actually be up for grabs is Sam Williams' spot. If he loses out one would think it would be to Thomas. But I am interested in what you have seen and think of the new guys, who is lining up where, who has a chance at a starting job. I know its still really early, but what are your thoughts about this position?

- docmayhew, Ft. Bragg

A: Milan has actually been playing defensive end so we can take him out of the discussion.

When it comes to Williams' starting job, he will get pushed by Thomas, who his smaller and might be the most versatile linebacker on the roster. He practices at all three spots and believes he can start at any of them.

Ricky Brown is a special teams stalwart and he looks a lot more confident during workouts. I can't say I've paid a ton of attention to Campbell, but I have looked at Shotwell.

He was the Division I-AA Defensive Player of the Year at Cal Poly and seems to have good instincts. If he can prove to be effective on special teams and against the run - the area the Raiders defense needs to improve the most - I could see him backing up a couple of spots.

Also, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan loves to mix up packages to put players in the best position to make plays, so there's no telling what linebacker groupings we might see.

- Jason Jones

May 23, 2007
Notes from the OTA

A few jottings from today's organized team activities:

*Cal football coach Jeff Tedford watched today's practice. He coached Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin at Fresno State and got him started in coaching.

As a Cal grad, it's always nice to chat with the guy that saved my alma mater's football program.

He's done such a good job I can play the role of angry alum if the Bears aren't in the Rose Bowl in 2008.

Oh, how soon we forget Cal was 1-10 in 2001.

*Mike Williams and Ronald Curry didn't practice. Williams still is out with the hamstring injury suffered in minicamp. Curry is resting a sore hamstring, nothing serious.

But is Travis Taylor's presence a message to Williams?

"You'd have to ask Mike," Kiffin said. "I would think so."

*There was no mention of the death row inmate in Arizona whose last words were "Go Raiders." check out the link:

*Quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 overall pick, will have his wisdom teeth pulled this week

*Center Jeremy Newberry has not been with the team because he is with his ailing grandmother.

- Jason Jones

May 23, 2007
Taylor fitted for Raiders

Receiver Travis Taylor signed with the Raiders on Tuesday and was at practice today. He was the 10th overall pick in 2000 by Baltimore and spent the past two seasons with Minnesota.

"Yesterday they threw me into the fire," Taylor said. "I said, 'Man, give me some time to relax and kick back a little bit.' I signed a contract and 10 minutes later I was out on the field. It just shows how much they wanted me here."

He'll compete with a group that includes Mike Williams, Alvis Whitted, Johnnie Morant and rookie Johnnie Lee Higgins behind projected starters Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry.

Taylor had 57 catches for 651 yards and three touchdowns last season. His best season was 2002, when he had career highs of 61 catches for 869 yards and six touchdowns.

The Raiders haven't had players with legal troubles, but Taylor and running back Dominic Rhodes came to them after scrapes with the law in the offseason.

Rhodes situation was settled and it looks like Taylor won't have to meet the principal ... er, Commissioner Roger Goodell about his conduct.

Taylor pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct after a scuffle outside a downtown Minneapolis nightclub early on New Year's Day. He was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and $75 in administrative fees, and perform 48 hours of community service. His 90-day jail sentence will be avoided if Taylor doesn't commit the same or a similar offense in the next year.

The other new addition on the field was rookie running back Curtis Brown, a free-agent pickup from BYU.

-- Jason Jones

May 23, 2007
This Sims is still on line

ALAMEDA - Could Barry Sims do it again?

Sims joined the Raiders as an undrafted rookie in 1999. The team drafted tackle Matt Stinchcomb in the first round the same year. A year earlier, the Raiders drafted tackle Mo Collins in the first round.

By 2001, Sims was the regular left tackle and not Stinchcomb, whose career was stalled by injuries. Collins proved to be a better guard than tackle.

So the Raiders tried again, taking Robert Gallery second overall in the 2004 draft. But Sims beat him out at left tackle.

Sims was moved to guard last year without competing at left tackle. With competition back in vogue, Sims is playing left tackle and Gallery was at left guard today at practice.

If Sims wins the job - and there's plenty of time to lose it - it would speak highly of his competitive nature and desire. A lot of veterans concede their jobs with high draft choices waiting in the wings.

Sims seems to use that as motivation to keep his job and prove a high pick doesn't guarantee big-time results.

Sims hasn't been to the Pro Bowl and might always be remembered as one of the guys getting worked over in the Super Bowl by Tampa Bay.

But until someone takes the job from him, he could be the Raiders' left tackle again. It's a job he won't give up without a fight.

May 21, 2007
An ambiguous hire

The Raiders on Monday officially announced Rich Snead's hiring to work in their player personnel department.

What exactly his job is is anyone's guess. The statement announcing the move didn't give Snead a title, stating only the "veteran pro player personnel evaluator" was back with the franchise.

Snead was a scout for the Los Angeles Raiders from 1990 to '93 before he joined the then-Houston Oilers as director of pro personnel.

Snead was the Tennessee Titans' director of player personnel for the past nine seasons. He worked closely with former Titans general manager Floyd Reese.

Snead likely will assume the role of the fired Mike Lombardi, who was the Raiders' senior personnel executive. Lombardi negotiated contracts, a task director of football development Mark Jackson has taken an active role in.

Snead will work in that regard in addition to working with Jackson and coach Lane Kiffin in scouting.

At least that's what we think.

- Jason Jones

May 16, 2007
Williams up and running

ALAMEDA - Mike Williams ran off the field Wednesday afternoon as the Raiders wrapped practice.

That's progress.

The receiver injured his hamstring the first day of minicamp May 4. He made it almost through the entire first practice before limping of the field.

He ran past quickly but did mention he hoped to be back on the field by the end of the week.

"At least I'm running now," he said.

Williams' work has been limited to the training and weight rooms.

"We don't want to push him back too fast, but obviously we're looking forward to getting him back when he's ready," coach Lane Kiffin said.

That's the way to do it. Nothing is won or lost in May. And after two tough years in Detroit, the last thing the collegiate All-American needs is a nagging injury dogging him in training camp.

• Rookie Johnathan Holland's bad luck with injuries just won't stop.

He dislocated his shoulder at minicamp. He was on the field today but later departed with a left knee injury.

Running back Adimchinobe Echemandu injured his ankle during the workout and was taken off the field on a cart.

• Nearly the entire roster was present for the first day of organized team activities, something veterans usually skip.

Notable exceptions were defensive linemen Warren Sapp, Derrick Burgess and Terdell Sands. Offensive lineman Jeremy Newberry was absent, but with his injury history, he's expected to take some time off.

There's really no need to panic about who is around for voluntary workouts, unless someone like JaMarcus Russell skips out (he didn't).

Kiffin was pleased with the turnout. But unlike a lot of coaches who demand everyone attend regardless, Kiffin acknowledges there has to be a reason players want to be at team headquarters.

"We hope what we're doing out here, they feel like they're getting better so we create an atmosphere where they want to come back, they feel like they're getting coached, they feel like they're better and it's worth being here as opposed to being at home on the East Coast," Kiffin said.

- Jason Jones

May 16, 2007
Three quality backs a good problem to have

Question: If Michael Bush comes up big for the Raiders, then with LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes that will give them three quality backs. Would the Raiders carry all three or maybe trade LaMont Jordan for some offensive line help?

- Steven Dooley, Bloomington, Ill.

Answer: The Raiders would keep all three. Trading player for player is rare in the NFL. And most teams wouldn't surrender a quality lineman for a well-paid running back who has been injured the last two seasons.

Bush, Rhodes and Jordan all will make the team. A player whose role is in jeopardy is Justin Fargas. He was injured a lot early in his career but played through injuries last season. But his straight-ahead style might not be the best fit for the new offense. A lot of of the Raiders' running plays looked a lot like Denver Broncos plays (zone blocking, cutback runs) and Jordan and Rhodes fit that mold. And when Bush is 100 percent, he is a better fit than Fargas.

- Jason Jones

May 16, 2007
Ricky Williams last thing Raiders need

Question: What do you feel about trading LaMont Jordan for Ricky Williams or just getting Ricky in for a look? I think he's still at this point better than Jordan and with this new blocking scheme, his ability to catch and that he lives in and has said in the past he would like to play in California, this might be a good change. We would have a two-headed monster with Dominic Rhodes and Michael Bush getting healthy and learning from two good backs.

- Bronson, Honolulu

Answer: Jordan is better than Williams right now because Jordan relieves stress by watching World Wrestling Entertainment (of which I'm also a big fan) and following Maryland women's basketball. Williams prefers to find the nearest distributor of marijuana so he can "medicate" himself.

This question was submitted before news leaked that Williams had failed another drug test for marijuana, but fans always want to know if and when Williams ever would be a Raider.

The Raiders have been a haven for the NFL's outcasts in the past, but those players still wanted to play football. It's questionable if Williams still wants to play. And for all the losing, the Raiders haven't had problems with players being arrested, failed drug tests and the like recently.

Bringing in Williams wouldn't make sense unless the Raiders want a distraction. But before they could have him in, he has to be reinstated by the NFL. And with Commissioner Roger Goodell's stance on player conduct, Williams' chance of playing in the NFL again take another hit with each failed test.

- Jason Jones

May 15, 2007
Shell now in free speech zone

What a difference not working for the Raiders makes.

No longer employed by the team, former coach Art Shell and ex-offensive coordinator Tom Walsh shed light on their feelings about Randy Moss in a Boston Globe article published Sunday.

Shell said Moss was "becoming an old man fast." It was a feeling shared privately by many with the Raiders but never expressed publicly, likely for fear of further alienating the unhappy receiver who now is a New England Patriot.

The thinking was age and injuries had slowed Moss' freakish speed. But saying that would only further anger Moss. Shell said Moss couldn't practice hard or he would be unable to deliver on game day.

Walsh said Moss busted plays routinely by changing his pass routes or failing to properly read coverage, which hurt the Raiders' effectiveness when quarterback Andrew Walter looked for Moss to be somewhere he wasn't.

Shell said during the season Moss wasn't supposed to change his routes, though he did go to Walter at times and do just that.

Had Shell called out Moss during the season, would it have made a difference in wins? Not likely. But had something such as "If Randy continues to change plays on his own, he won't play," been said, it would have sent a message to the rest of the team that the coaching staff was being tough on everyone, not just Jerry Porter.

While the locker room wasn't fractured in an offense-vs.-defense way, there was a lot of disillusionment about why decisions were being made, especially when they didn't seem to be football related.

By the way, Porter couldn't be accused of dogging it in his brief appearances last year.

- Jason Jones

May 15, 2007
Why hire another puppet?

Reports have the Raiders possibly replacing fired personnel executive Mike Lombardi with NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock or a young personnel assistant.

I would still expect director of football operations Mark Jackson to take on a bigger role, considering he already was doing a lot of Lombardi's work.

Why hire someone when we all know Al Davis is the owner/general manager/director of player personnel and in charge of whatever else he deems fit?

Davis might want another voice in the fold to better assess talent, but isn't Lane Kiffin's talent evaluation one of the reasons he was hired?

I'd be surprised if someone was hired to replace Lombardi.

- Jason Jones

May 9, 2007
What's Shell thinking?

Art Shell would never publicly gloat about someone losing his or her job.

But I have to believe deep down inside he had to at least crack a smile with the word senior personnel executive Michael Lombardi was fired by the Raiders.

When Shell lashed out at Lombardi last fall without naming him, he surely knew talking about Lombardi would do little to change his fate as head coach. But he got the message out: Lombardi wasn't to be trusted.

Shell said Lombardi had been downing his coaching staff from the start by talking to media as an unnamed source. It got back to Shell it was Lombardi that trashed offensive coordinator Tom Walsh before the season.

Shell also said Lombardi had taken shots at Raiders owner Al Davis.

To Shell, that meant Walsh never had a chance because players were already hearing what an outdated playbook they had before they ever saw it. Lombardi was eventually barred from practices.

Shell's words could make it hard for Lombardi to get hired by another NFL team.

Teams know there are always going to be leaks to media. But what no owner wants is someone willing to dog them while they're paying them, especially someone in an administrative capacity.

Imagine the disgust of the Maloofs if they found out negative publicity from an unnamed source was coming from Geoff Petrie?

Lombardi's firing is only surprising in that took this long. Mark Jackson, hired in February, had already assumed many of Lombardi's duties.

Lombardi was believed to be interested in the Tennessee Titans general manager job that went to Mike Reinfeldt.

He might be better off trying to land a TV gig, where he used to work as an analyst.

I don't know how an owner could hire someone that would be the first person they'd look at when a "front office source" is mentioned in a story that is critical of his franchise.

There are disagreements in every team, but when someone is accused of working against the team, they make it difficult for anyone to want to read their resume.

It's hard to hire someone you can't trust.

--Jason Jones

May 7, 2007
There's palpable pep now

Question: I believe that effective coaching means everything to how well or how poorly the Raiders will do this year. I would be interested in your observations of on-the-field coaching compared with efforts by other previous coaching staffs - particularly offensive positional coaching. Also, what new wrinkles is the defensive coaching staff throwing in this year and maybe other coaching observations like player coach interaction and staff/head coach interaction. Who seem to be the informal leaders among the coaching staff? Who seems to have Kiffin's ear?

- John Powell, Atlanta

Answer: There's definitely a lot more energy in this coaching staff. The defense seemed to have it last year under Rob Ryan, but the pep was missing on offense.

The offensive line likes having Tom Cable as its coach after essentially have three line coaches last year.

As for leaders among the coaching staff, it's hard to say. Defensively, the players like Rob Ryan, linebackers coach Don Martindale and defensive line coach Keith Millard. Darren Perry is new, but I've heard positive reviews of his work as defensive backs coach.

When it comes to offense, Kiffin is in charge. He takes the time to monitor all aspects of the team, but he's putting his stamp on the offense he was hired to fix.

He'll work closely with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, who will help run things, though Kiffin plans to call plays on offense.

- Jason Jones

May 7, 2007
Expect Bing to return to safety

Question: With Lane Kiffin now coaching this team, do you see Darnell Bing moving back to safety? I think Bing definitely makes sense as a strong safety and Michael Huff could play free safety. Stuart Schweigert can't tackle and can't intercept a pass. I hope I never have to see Derrick Gibson on the field again. Bing in the box and Huff roaming the secondary would be fun to watch.

What do you think?

Take care,

- Adrian, Toronto

Answer: Darnell Bing is a safety again. Kiffin said moving him from linebacker was Bing's best chance to make the team this season.

Bing worked out in Southern California doing defensive back drills in hopes the change would be made. Now he has to prove he has the speed (the big question about him in the draft last year) to play in the secondary.

I don't agree with your assessment of Schweigert. I wouldn't say he can't tackle. He has just two interceptions in three seasons (both in 2005), but in the role he was used last season, interceptions weren't going to be easy to come by. He was there to roam and help over the top. And as the last line of defense, it wouldn't be wise for him to take unnecessary chances and risk receivers getting by him. But we can agree to disagree.

And for now, the Raiders like Huff at strong safety and Schweigert at free safety. But I wouldn't rule out Huff playing free at some point.

And don't worry, Derrick Gibson won't be on the field. He wasn't re-signed and fullback Justin Griffith has been given his number. Bind is a likely candidate to take over Gibson's role as a big safety, especially in short yardage.

- Jason Jones

May 7, 2007
Kiffin's work is from ground up

Lane Kiffin knows there's a lot of work to do and he's focusing on the basics.

That was illustrated Sunday morning during the last minicamp practice.

Tight end John Madsen caught a pass during a period emphasizing red-zone plays.

For those of you who forgot after watching the Raiders' offense last season, that's the area from the opponent's 20-yard line to the goal line.

But I digress. Madsen caught the ball and secured it with his left arm as he crossed the goal line running toward the right front corner of the end zone.

That when offensive coordinator Greg Knapp stepped in to inform Madsen the ball should be in his right arm.

The ball would be closer to the end zone and cross the plane easier.

You have to forgive Madsen for the mistake. The Raiders had only 12 offensive touchdowns in 2006, so the red-zone offense was used about as often as Oscar De La Hoya's jab against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

But Madsen was one of the lucky Raiders to score a touchdown, having scored at San Diego last year.

Other minicamp observations:

• I like JaMarcus Russell's confidence. That Brady Quinn got a haircut and apologized just because Joe Theismann didn't like his hair or gum chewing was proof enough for me the Raiders made the right choice. You don't want a quarterback that worried about what others think of him.

• Warren Sapp is a lot smaller. It'll be interesting to see if he drops below the 285 pounds he checked in at last week.

• LaMont Jordan ran hard. His knee must be feeling better, but will it hold up once he starts taking hits in training camp?

• Kiffin said he hadn't spoken to Al Davis during minicamp, but would give his assesment after practices were over. Art Shell said he spoke with Davis regulary.

• Though allowed at practice, senior personnel executive Mike Lombardi wasn't visible over the weekend. Director of football operations Mark Jackson, however, was present.

-Jason Jones

May 5, 2007
Speeding up the tempo

Like a lot of folks, I loathe the notion of “learning” a lot from watching football in jerseys and shorts. You can see things like quickness and footwork. Coaches can see how players are picking up the system.

But something I can see about these practices is the pace Lane Kiffin is working the players at. It’s pretty physical considering the players aren’t in pads.

I’ve seen a few bodies go down hard around the line of scrimmage. Defenders have obviously been told to try to force fumbles because they’re going after the ball even after the running back’s knee has hit the grass.

“We’re trying to teach them our tempo right now, this tempo we practice at,” Kiffin said. “A lot of them aren’t used to it, especially when you throw college kids in at that tempo. They don’t understand how to practice at that tempo at the highest safety. … Mostly in college when the pads weren’t on they were in walk through mode.”

Intensity was pretty high by the end of the evening session. Warren Sapp was fired up when a blown assignment left Jerry Porter open for a touchdown.

And the defense celebrated mightily when an incomplete pass from Andrew Walter to Doug Gabriel ended practice.

No one has been hurt yet with one practice to go. So maybe Kiffin has taught me you can learn something from football in shorts - you can at least practice fast and physically in shorts.
--Jason Jones

May 5, 2007
Like watching a defensive end throw a football

The crowd out here at Raiders headquarters isn't nearly as big with the buzz of JaMarcus Russell's first day over.

But it's still hard to take your eyes off him. It's hard to ignore someone with the size of a defensive end throwing the ball at high speed.

Russell showed all the physical reasons the Raiders drafted him on one play this morning.

He rolled to his right and rifled the ball accurately by the outstretched hands of at least two defenders with a chance at the ball and hit Jerry Porter right in stride on a crossing route.

Accuracy in the pocket is one thing. Accuracy on the move would give the Raiders a dimension they haven't had since Rich Gannon.

Besides being in awe of Russell, there were other things to see:

** New offensive line coach Tom Cable is fun to watch. Aside from his colorful language, he's really into what he does and the players seem to respond to him. But it is only May and if what he's selling doesn't work, they'll tune him out like any other coach.

It looks like there will be more cut-blocking this season, which will make the preseason especially important.

Most coaches don't want their own players cut in practices, so the offensive linemen are practicing on taking out large pads low. It'll be interesting to see if they can get low and master the technique that makes just about every Denver Broncos running back into a Pro Bowler.

But that's me thinking way too far ahead.

** The Raiders incorporated football and fútbol into Saturday's morning's practice.

During the special teams session, players worked on downing the ball near the goal line using a soccer ball before using a football in the same drill.

** Receiver Mike Williams is still limping with a hamstring injury. Coach Lane Kiffin said Williams had been dominant in his first practice. Too bad we can't see more. I hadn't noticed the dominance yet, because the offense always has the advantage without pads on.

--Jason Jones

May 4, 2007
Wake up, it's camp time

Random observations from this morning's minicamp practice:

*Jarrod Cooper said the players refer to last season as "Fight Club" because the first rule of Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club.

*Newly acquired receiver Mike Williams was last seen leaving practice early with medical staff. It's not believed he has a serious injury, but not the way you want to leave your first practice

*JaMarcus Russell can throw the ball really, really hard. If you catch one of his passes your hands might hurt. If you don't wear pads, your chest might get caved in.

*Lane Kiffin is really into a fast tempo. He's got guys running all over the place, even the coaches.

*Tyler Brayton spent a lot of time at defensive tackle, which would give him three different positions the last three years. He was a defensive end last year and was experimented with at linebacker in 2005.

And for all of you anxiously waiting, here's the latest first team offensive line:

Left tackle: Robert Gallery

Left guard: Paul McQuistan

Center: Jake Grove

Right guard: Cooper Carlisle

Right tackle: Barry Sims

Still to earl to get caught up in who belongs where, but it's worth noting Carlisle, a free agent pickup from Denver, was ahead of Kevin Boothe, who started the last 15 games last season.

*Darnell Bing, a safety at USC that was drafted and moved to linebacker by the Raiders, is back at safety. Kiffin is still looking out for the Trojans.

--Jason Jones

May 3, 2007
Wake me when it matters

Minicamp opens tomorrow, and there's nothing harder to watch than football in jerseys and shorts.

Some fans love to watch it, but they don't have to watch it for hours and days at a time. I'll wait until the guys start hitting before deciding anything about the team.

It will be interesting to see where players line up. Is Jake Grove still at center? Has Robert Gallery changed positions again? Of course, none of it matters now, and Lane Kiffin will emphasize as much.

I'll check in with any interesting tidbits - at least what I find interesting. That's when I'll get to more of your questions, too. A lot of them can't be answered until I at least get a peek at what the team is doing.

- Jason Jones

May 2, 2007
Free-agent signings

For those of you wondering, here’s the list of rookie free agents signed by the Raiders. You probably found some of these names if you bothered to search the web because you were dying to know who the Raiders will bring to training camp.

Larry Brown, DT, Oklahoma State, 6-foot-3, 295 pounds. An area of need the Raiders didn’t address in the draft.

Kyle Shotwell, LB, Cal Poly SLO, 6-foot-1, 230 pounds. Won the Buck Buchanan Award as the top defensive player in Division I-AA football.

Marquis Cole, CB, Northwestern, 5-foot-10, 195 pounds. Touted as the Wildcats fastest player with a sub 4.3 second 40-yard dash time.

Kenny Patton, CB, Hawaii, 6-foot, 184 pounds. Played receiver and cornerback for the Warriors, but was injured much of last season.

Chris McFoy, WR, USC, 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. I know you’re shocked Lane Kiffin would give one of his old USC receivers a look.

J.J. Milan, LS/LB, 6-foot-5, 270 pounds. Played defensive line in college, but might find his niche on special teams.

Eddie Keele, T, Brigham Young, 6-foot-6, 314 pounds. No surprise, another offensive lineman. He missed nine games with a knee injury.

My (very) early guess, Shotwell and Milan could be the finds of this bunch. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan loves to mix and match lineups and both could provide the Raiders different looks.
--Jason Jones

May 1, 2007
If there's action, Jackson has a hand in it

Lane Kiffin didn't want to go into what role Mark Jackson played in the Raiders' draft moves.

Who is Mark Jackson, you ask? The team's web site summarizes Jackson's role, noting he works with Kiffin "... on all operational aspects of the football team, Jackson will be involved in a number of areas including personnel evaluation, coaching staff decisions, media relations and overall administrative functions of the football team."

Jackson has taken over some of the duties of Mike Lombardi, the senior personnel executive who clashed with Art Shell last season.

Shell is gone, but it's apparent Lombardi wasn't restored to his full duties with Shell gone.

Not only was Jackson working the phones this weekend pursuing trades, he also works on player contracts, an area that was Lombardi's charge.

Kiffin credited Jackson as one of the staffers who was patient and didn't force the Raiders to give up too much to acquire Mike Williams and Josh McCown from Detroit.

"He was really strong in the last two days, and really helped us with a lot of stuff happening on the phone with other teams," Kiffin said of Jackson. "But this isn't about Mark, or Al (Davis), or me, or any of that. This is about the Raiders. We thought we had two great days, and just like this is a team that comes in this same room we're sitting in now, this is a great team upstairs as well."

When Jackson was hired in February, it wasn't earth-shattering news. He knew Kiffin from his time as director of football operations/assistant athletic director at USC (2001 to '05) and figured to provide administrative support.

He had worked as a coaching assistant with the Patriots (1998 to 2000) helping with running backs and special teams in addition to some small-college coaching.

Shake-ups in the Raiders' front office have been rumored for months. Jackson's work is evidence Kiffin is having some say upstairs.

It would make sense for Lombardi to leave if the Raiders allow Jackson to take over his duties. But after Shell called out Lombardi as someone who would work against the organization that employs him, it's unlikely teams would line up to hire him.

- Jason Jones

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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