Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

June 20, 2007
Don't work too hard

Checking in for the first time since the Raiders had the last week of their offseason program nixed by the NFL Players Association last Friday.

Apparently, you can't let linemen block each other in organized team activities.

New NFL media polices mandate teams open up OTAs, and now there are reports the New York Jets will be disciplined for working too hard in the offseason.

See what a peek from the outside gets you?

Missing this week won't hurt the Raiders, as it was just going to be weightlifting. But can you blame a coaching staff for working a 2-14 team too hard?

I didn't think so. But on to your questions ...

June 20, 2007
Where does Boothe fit in?

Question: I've been following the Raiders all offseason. There has been a lot of word on the offensive line and certain members of the o-line (Robert Gallery, Barry Sims, Paul McQuistan and Jake Grove.) My question is, where is Kevin Boothe? Has he not picked up the scheme well? I haven't heard one peep on the guy. I didn't think he had that bad of a rookie campaign to not to be mentioned as a possible starter. Any word on Boothe and how he's been doing would be great.

Jorge, Flagstaff, Ariz.

Answer: Ah, the forgotten man up front. I spoke with Boothe briefly at the end of last week's minicamp. He's in good spirits. After starting 14 games as a rookie at right guard, he has been playing left and right guard. The Raiders signed Cooper Carlise from Denver as a free agent, and he took most of the snaps at right guard during the offseason.

Boothe appears to be caught in a numbers game right now. The Raiders will give Gallery every chance to win a starting job, even if that means playing him at left guard. Coach Lane Kiffin has said no one has locked up a starting job. So Boothe will have to wait his turn, but Boothe believes once the team gets on the field in training camp in July, he'll show he can start. I think he can operate in the new scheme and look forward to seeing if he can get with it the first time in Napa.

- Jason Jones

June 20, 2007
Lighter Sapp shouldn't be less effective

Question: Hi, Jason. I heard Warren Sapp lost 74 pounds. Will that make him less of a defensive tackle? I like Sapp a lot. Is this his last year in football?

Ron, Woodbridge

Answer: As of the Raiders' mandatory minicamp in May, Sapp had dropped 49 pounds from 334 to 285. I doubt he's down to 260 because he then would be in contention to play defensive end or linebacker. He might even move to tight end at that weight. But at 285, Sapp isn't too small at defensive tackle. His game always has been built on quickness and athleticism, not girth. In conversations I've had with Sapp, I don't think this is his last season. I expect him to play at least the next two years. He still loves playing.

- Jason Jones

June 13, 2007
Time for a breather

ALAMEDA - The players are free to roam, so I guess that means I can take a little time off, too.

Today's minicamp ended on-field team workouts until July 27, when training camp begins in Napa.

If there were a "star" today, I'd vote for Ronald Curry. The receiver made an acrobatic catch on a pass from JaMarcus Russell in front of Chris Carr. He finished the play by spinning away from Carr and stretching to get the ball over the goal line.

Later in practice, Curry made a leaping catch on a Josh McCown pass along the sidelines.

And no, I don't think those were on third down. Of course, if this were last season, Curry would have been promptly removed after making such plays, when he was used mainly on third down most of the season.

• Mike Williams worked out with the training staff today. That means he practiced just once after being acquired from Detroit with Josh McCown in a trade during this year's NFL draft. He injured his hamstring during his first practice.

• Rookie running back Michael Bush also took part in drills. He said he would be ready for training camp, though the team is expected to give him plenty of rest. He broke his right leg at the start of last season at Louisville, which is why he slipped to the fourth round.

- Jason Jones

June 12, 2007
Ryan's chatter adds to fun quotient

ALAMEDA - One thing I've learned to enjoy about practice at minicamp is listening to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's banter with the players - especially on offense.

If anyone has really bought into Lane Kiffin's call to compete everyday, it's Ryan who enjoys playing the role of heckler.

How could you not like someone who once declared last month it was "make the offense cry day."

Ryan followed that up by playing the role of official in a scrimmage, declaring everything was a two or three-yard loss for the offense.

Today, Ryan congratulated linebacker Kirk Morrison for his ability to "(mess)" with quarterback JaMarcus Russell when he showed a blitz and forced the young quarterback to think quickly.

It's easy to see why defenders love playing for Ryan, who went old school Al Davis with an all-white sweat suit with a touch of black on the side at today's practice.

As long as Ryan's yelling, it's always "make the reporter laugh" day.

Other minicamp observations:

• The players are really having fun. By the end of last season, it was obvious many of them were frustrated, for a variety of reasons.

It's only June, but the high attendance at voluntary minicamp indicates players are happy to be around the facility.

• With LaMont Jordan on the East Coast and ReShard Lee recovering from knee surgery, Dominic Rhodes is getting a lot of looks at tailback with Adimchinobe Echemandu and Justin Fargas.

• Receiver Jerry Porter had family issues to take care of and wasn't at practice. It was just the second workout he has missed this offseason. Offensive lineman Jeremy Newberry also was off dealing with personal matters.

- Jason Jones

June 11, 2007
Slimmer Russell cools concerns

ALAMEDA - Four pounds.

That's how much weight Lane Kiffin today said JaMarcus Russell has lost since his first minicamp last month with the Raiders.

As the late, great Richard Pryor might so say, "Who you going to believe, him or my lying eyes?"

I know I've used that line in print one other time, but it definitely applies here.

Russell looks a lot slimmer at this minicamp than he did when he arrived after the draft. If all he has lost is four pounds, those are four big pounds.

One of the knocks on Russell before the draft was he might end up looking more like a tackle than a quarterback if he wasn't up on his conditioning. He doesn't appear headed down that road.

Russell did have his wisdom teeth pulled a couple of weeks back, but I doubt he's on a liquid diet now.

Unless he binges on Everett and Jones barbecue before training camp, I think there's a good chance Russell will be considerably lighter than the 255 pounds he is listed at on the Raiders' roster.

Other minicamp observations:

• One rookie to watch will be linebacker Kurt Shotwell.

He was the Division I-AA Defensive Player of the Year for Cal Poly but went undrafted. The Raiders picked him up, and he has a real chance of making the team, especially if he can play special teams.

He intercepted a pass, which allowed him to show off his athleticism and his sense of humor. After the play, he pretended to sign the ball before handing it to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who loudly declared "He's putting it on the mantle."

• Ready for your weekly offensive line shuffle update?

Today's first team o-line was Barry Sims at left tackle, McQuistan at left guard, Jake Grove at center, Carlisle at right guard and Robert Gallery at right tackle.

Carlisle played right tackle when Jeremy Newberry took reps at right guard. Gallery played left guard, too. McQuistan was a right tackle last week - or was that two weeks ago?

The constant has been Jake Grove at center, which means tomorrow he'll be playing guard. Sims hasn't moved from left tackle in a while, which means he'll trade places with Grove for the fun of it.

• Receiver Mike Williams (hamstring) worked out with the training staff today. It's looking as if the next chance to see the "dominant" Williams of his first (and only) practice as a Raider will be in training camp.

• Rookie tailback Michael Bush and offensive lineman Adam Treu joined Williams with the training staff.

- Jason Jones

June 7, 2007
Front-office changes are important, too

The Raiders new look won't be limited to the field.

George Streeter was the latest addition to the personnel department. He joins Rich Snead and Mark Jackson as additions with the biggest subtraction being the fired Mike Lombardi.

That doesn't included Lane Kiffin, hired in part because of his background recruiting players and evaluating talent at USC.

Owner Al Davis appears serious about revamping this part of the Raiders operation. Firing coaches has been the norm lately, but addressing who brings in the talent has a lot to do with a coach's success.

Doing a better job of assessing talent (especially on offense) will save the Raiders money in the long run. Instead of trading for someone like Randy Moss, the Raiders would be best served drafting better offensive skill players.

That's what the best teams do. One player in free agency won't save a franchise, but a new player added to a solid crop of young talent can put a team over the top.

It'll be interesting to see in a few years how these changes upstairs translate onto the field. If the Raiders still are picking in the top-10 regularly, we'll know the answer.

In other Raiders tidbits:

* Hey kids, really big words can get you into a Raiders game.

The team will honor Evan O'Dorney this season and have invited him and his family to a game this coming season.

O'Dorney is the 13-year old Danville native who won the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

* The team signed safety Colin Branch today. He spent the last four seasons with Carolina.

He's also the brother of former Raider defensive back Calvin Branch, who now works in the Raiders front office.

- Jason Jones

June 7, 2007
Use care in preparing Russell

Question: Jason, I read the sports section of The Bee every morning. I'm a die-hard Raider fan, and I am very intrigued with JaMarcus Russell. I've been reading a lot of blogs that are saying that Josh McCown or Andrew Walter very well could get the starting job, but do you really think that the Raiders would pay JaMarcus all that money, take him first overall, and start him on the bench? If so, do you think that we'll see any of JaMarcus this year at all? Thanks.

- Vince Roche, Folsom

Answer: I think there is a very good chance the Raiders could leave Russell on the bench to start the season. Remember, Carson Palmer didn't play at all as a rookie.

But whether Russell starts also depends around players around him. I don't believe the Raiders will put him on the field if the offensive line is shaky and let him take a beating. That could hinder his growth and shatter his confidence (see David Carr).

I believe Russell will play this season. McCown's experience and mobility make him an ideal starter to begin the season, but the Raiders should work Russell in and give him the chance to see some real action. If the Raiders enter the last month or so of the season with no chance of making the playoffs, I wouldn't be surprised to see Russell finish out the season as the starter.

- Jason Jones

Question: I am a lifelong Raider fan. I started in Pensacola, Fla. I'm currently located in Austin, Texas, and I am making my way to Oakland, slowly but surely. My question, unfortunately, is regarding a rumor. Is it true that the offensive line is crumbling without even wearing pads, and regardless, what are your observations of the )-line thus far?

- Ian Lynch, Austin, Texas

Answer: Crumbling? I wouldn't go that far. Because they aren't in pads, it's hard to assess the line in the run game. In the passing game, you can get a feel for a player's quickness and footwork. There have been times when the defense gets the best of the offense in pass blocking - particularly defensive end Kevin Huntley, who could surprise a lot of people in 2007.

But I wouldn't say the offensive line is a failure right now (but I don't see them every day, so they might crumble when I'm not around). The group seems happy with position coach Tom Cable. The new run-blocking scheme looks a lot like the Denver Broncos, which excels without high draft choices up front.

Overall, the best thing I've seen from the line so far is Cable. The guys up front will be prepared to play or they'll have Cable in their face.

- Jason Jones

June 6, 2007
Huff needs new-look role

ALAMEDA - It was quite the mismatch.

It was Raiders ultra-buff receiver Jerry Porter in a pose-down with safety Michael Huff.

Porter looked the part of a professional wrestler, whereas a voice reminded Huff he needed to get in the weight room.

Last year's first-round pick weighs 198 pounds after playing much of the season at strong safety, despite weighing in the 180s last season.

That's why it makes sense to move Huff around in the secondary rather than keep him strictly around the line of scrimmage.

Huff's speed is neutralized when his main task is covering tight ends in passing defense. I like the idea of moving him around and adding the element of surprise.

I felt bad for Huff when the Raiders' need to draft JaMarcus Russell was pinned on the team having taken Huff last year instead of a quarterback.

It wasn't Huff's fault the offense stunk last year.

I'm not supposed to "root" for anyone, but it would be nice to see Huff have a big year and quiet the "what if we had Matt Leinart?" talk I hear from time to time.

Leinart wouldn't have done much better than Andrew Walter last year. And I think in the long run, Russell will be better.

Other OTA musings

* I still love hearing Tom Cable yell at players. Tight end James Adkisson was the latest target of some of the new offensive line coach's venom for "(expletive) up his whole drill." Quite the contrast from last season when you wondered if someone would ever get angry over what was going on with the offense.

* Defensive lineman Tyler Brayton, however, committed the mortal sin of the day by knocking down Russell. Don't touch the future of the franchise!

* LaMont Jordan didn't practice today because he's ill.

* Coach Lane Kiffin said Mike Williams is working out but hadn't done team work yet. He wasn't on the field today but could be ready for the three-day voluntary minicamp that starts Monday.

* Cornell Green worked with the first team at right tackle instead of Paul McQuistan. I'm sure there will be a new look by next week.

* Russell and Josh McCown split reps at quarterback with Andrew Walter absent because of knee surgery. Walter should be ready for training camp.

* The Raiders hired George Streeter to work in their personnel department. He came to the Raiders highly recommended by former Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf, a friend of owner Al Davis.

Streeter has 12 years experience as a pro and college scout.

Streeter played three years in the NFL as a defensive back after being a three-year starter at Notre Dame. He played for Chicago and Indianapolis.

- Jason Jones

June 5, 2007
A little early to prognosticate, but 6 wins realistic

Question: Hi, Jason, I'm a Raiders faithful fan for over 30 years, but I'm not particularly optimistic this season. I see quality backups being signed and better coaching, but not championship-level people. Better, yes. I think we basically took the best athlete at No. 1 in the draft, but the subtle elements of quarterbacking are three years away, i.e, reading complex defenses and looking off NFL-level defensive backs and linebackers. I also view the lack of youth and speed on the defensive line as a potential issue. Realistically, can this team win 6-8 games, or are we looking at another transitional staff and season?

Jim, Providence, R.I.

Answer: Nothing like returning from some time off and predicting how the Raiders will do with almost two months before training camp.

In all seriousness, it's not too early to review the offseason pickups and look ahead to camp.

The offseason pickups definitely lacked sizzle, but this year's free-agent crop wasn't deep. I doubt signing Cooper Carlisle to play right guard convinced anyone to buy season tickets. But the team needs bodies, even if they look like backups. The good teams in the NFL are good because they pick up players who don't look like a big deal but prove to be.

But the Raiders are a rebuilding project. There's no other way to describe a team with four consecutive losing seasons. Can the Raiders win six games? Yes. If the Raiders can score 20 points a game (and win an AFC West game or two), six wins would be a step in the right direction.

- Jason Jones

June 5, 2007
Greater role for Huff; jury out on o-line

Question: With one year under his belt, do you see a bigger role for Michael Huff this season? When we drafted Huff last year, I envisioned him to be a disruptive force much like Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed. What impact do you think he will have this year? Also, who has impressed you the most on the offensive line so far in the OTAs?

Ken Wise, Bend, Ore.

Answer: As for the first question: definitely. Huff has played free safety and worked as a cornerback in the offseason. I think the key to guys like Reed is their versatility and it looks as if the Raiders will take advantage of that. It will allow the defense the flexibility to try new things and disguise defenses because Stuart Schweigert is bigger than Huff and can play like a strong safety. Also, with Darnell Bing playing strong safety, Huff could be on the field with Schweigert and Bing as a corner/safety and use his experience as a strong safety to blitz and create problem.

I can't say I'm impressed with anyone on the offensive line because they aren't hitting yet. But Cooper Carlisle looks comfortable in the new running and blocking scheme. I think it will be good for center Jake Grove, too.

But I don't want to say I'm impressed yet. Not until I at least see how the new stuff works in a game situation.

- Jason Jones

June 5, 2007
Williams must show and prove

Question: You have answered questions about receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins' performance, but what about Mike Williams? Although he is MIA, when he was able to participate I read that he more or less dominated. How do you see the Williams scenario unfolding? Could the starting lineup be Williams/Porter, Porter/Curry ...?

Keith Washington, Wilmington, Del.

Answer: Right now, the starting receivers are Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry.

Williams is going to be comfortable being in an offense he knows from his college days, but he still has to prove he can dominate when it matters.

Coach Lane Kiffin raved about Williams' one practice before he injured his hamstring, but anyone can have a good practice. I want to see him dominate consistently before any talk of him being a starter.

Because Porter and Curry do similar things well such as running short routes and being tough over the middle.

If Williams can dominate on the outside, he can give the receiving group a needed different look. If he does that, I expect Williams, Porter and Curry to play a lot together. Also, because of his size, Williams should be a force in the red zone - provided the team can get near the goal line.

Now, if he can get back on the field, the Williams scenarios can unfold. Maybe I'll see him practicing tomorrow.

- 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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