Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

August 28, 2007
Gabriel, Morant among latest cuts

ALAMEDA - Here are the latest cuts:

Two familiar faces - Doug Gabriel and Johnnie Morant - are gone.

Gabriel was a starting receiver this time a year ago. Then his career was thrown a lifeline when he was traded to New England. But he ended up cut by the Patriots during the season and back with the Raiders.

In fairness, had it not been for Art Shell vs. Jerry Porter, Gabriel is the team's third or fourth receiver last year, so it's no shock he's gone.

The team actually cut Gabriel on Monday night, severing ties again with a fifth-round pick from 2003.

Morant was a fifth-round draft choice in 2004, but never did anything of note as a pro.

The other cuts were Kevin Huntley and Jeff Otis.

Huntley was in line to be a starter at defensive end in minicamp but fell out of favor during training camp. Otis was the team's fourth quarterback.

- Jason Jones

August 27, 2007
Walter's days numbered?

ALAMEDA - Lane Kiffin recalled the Andrew Walter he met when he was hired and his first time on the field.

It wasn't pretty.

"He went first with that group out here and I think he completed about three balls in that first 7-on-7 we had," Kiffin said. "He was all over the place. He's improved a lot."

Obviously, Walter hasn't improved enough. Daunte Culpepper and Josh McCown will be the two between whom Kiffin decides for the starting quarterback job.

This really isn't Walter's fault. He is what he is - a strong-armed kid who's not fleet of foot. He was put in a tough situation last year that no quarterback could have survived.

The Raiders then drafted JaMarcus Russell. And unless the Raiders plan to carry four quarterbacks if and when Russell arrives, Walter continues to be on the outside looking in at a quarterback job that won't be his unless disaster strikes.

Kiffin said the other two quarterbacks give him the best chance to win, which is true. But Walter never really had a chance to win.

I believe in a new situation, where he can be freed of the stench that was the 2006 season, Walter can be a decent quarterback for another team.

Atlanta needs a quarterback with Joey Harrington and Chris Redman as their top two. If Russell gets here sometime in the next couple of weeks, could Walter be traded?

It's a good possibility, but it lessens with each day Russell misses because even in a pinch, the Raiders might not want to turn to a rookie without even a training camp practice.

• In other news, Tommy Kelly is officially the starting right defensive end and Terdell Sands will start at defensive tackle next to Warren Sapp. Derrick Burgess holds down left defensive end.

It means Kevin Huntley, who was a leading candidate to start at right end, is in jeopardy of not making the team if it keeps rookies Quentin Moses (of course) and Jay Richardson (probably, but he's not convinced).

If we use Warren Sapp's top-eight analogy, the defensive linemen are:

1. Sapp

2. Burgess

3. Sands

4. Kelly

5. Moses

6. Richardson

7-8. Tyler Brayton? Gerard Warren? Anttaj Hawthorne? Huntley? Chris Clemons?

• Receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins' trip to the hospital Sunday with pain in his side turned out fine. He was at practice today.

• John Madsen (hamstring) didn't practice, but it's not a serious injury. Donovin Darius (calf) still is out.

- Jason Jones

August 26, 2007
First cuts made

ALAMEDA - The Raiders announced their first cuts today.

Colin Branch, the younger brother of Raiders scout and former safety Calvin Branch; receivers Rich Parson and Lauren Williams; offensive lineman Albert Toeaina; defensive tackle Jared Clauss; and cornerback Levonne Rowen were cut. All were absent from Sunday's practice.

In his explanation, coach Lane Kiffin again showed he is refreshingly honest.

He admitted the Raiders didn't want players to get hurt and leave the team having to pay them as a reason to cut a player before Tuesday's deadline to reduce rosters to 75.

Kiffin's honesty and non-coach talk has made him enjoyable to be around.

He added he would like to be in position to be cutting really good players, but said the Raiders aren't in that position.

If you're looking for an honest opinion on a player, Kiffin doesn't hold back.

• Johnnie Lee Higgins was taken to the hospital with pain in his side he felt during a meeting before practice.

• Linebacker Thomas Howard still was ticked by his "MBPO" - missed big play opportunity - when he dropped an interception against the Rams on Friday.

Kiffin wants to see the defense stop dropping picks. And even though he hasn't been plagued by dropped picks, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha already has resumed his habit of catching passes after practice to hone his ball skills.

Kiffin wouldn't mind if some of Asomugha's teammates joined him.

- Jason Jones

August 26, 2007
Cuts always sting

ALAMEDA - It's the time of the year when the locker room gets a little quiet.

It's time for NFL teams to start trimming their rosters, leaving 30 or so guys without jobs by Sept. 1 and scrambling to find work elsewhere or hoping for an injury to free up a spot.

The teams have to be at 75 by Tuesday and the Raiders look as if they've started whittling down the roster.

The Raiders haven't officially announced anyone's release, though there were some players missing at practice today.

No name players were gone unless you count Colin Branch, the younger brother of Raiders scout Calvin Branch, a former Raiders safety.

A couple of receivers (Rich Parson, Lauren Williams), offensive lineman Albert Toeaina, defensive tackle Jared Clauss and cornerback Levonne Rowen were the other missing players who haven't been confirmed as having been let go.

None of the players except Branch played in Friday night's exhibition game.

Johnnie Lee Higgins wasn't at practice, but he definitely didn't get cut.

Jeremy Newberry also wasn't on the practice field, but he's probably just resting his knees. He still has a chance to the Raiders starting center.

One player who definitely was let go was offensive lineman Torrin Tucker. Brought in at the end of training camp, he never had a chance to make the team. A little after 11:30 a.m., Tucker was sitting outside the players' entrance to team headquarters with a black trash bag of his belongings.

He was on his cell phone lamenting, "They could have left me at home for this" and "they never gave me a chance."

There will be a lot of players feeling the same way across the NFL over the next week.

- Jason Jones

August 22, 2007
Culpepper will start Friday

ALAMEDA - No shocker here.

Daunte Culpepper will start at quarterback Friday night against the St. Louis Rams.

With the Raiders in the mode of tailoring the playbook for an opponent, knowing the playbook won't be an issue.

Culpepper hasn't played with the starters this preseason. Jake Grove will start at center, so we'll have to see if the exchange goes better than it has with Jeremy Newberry. Newberry and Culpepper have had three fumbled snaps.

• Being back in Alameda, media aren't watching all of practice. But there was enough time for a laugh.

Offensive line coach Tom Cable was putting the linemen through a cut-blocking drill.

The players aim low at a black pad that Cable moves to simulate a defensive player, and land on a large yellow pad.

Kicker Sebastian Janikowski decided to show he could cut, too. With Tyler Fredrickson acting as Cable and moving the black pad, Janikowski took his turns at cut blocking.

Could he be the lead blocker on a fake field goal for Shane Lechler?

• Stanford Routt is back on the practice field. He had been out all of August with a knee injury.

Assuming he can play in the next two exhibitions and Donovin Darius is healthy, it'll be interesting to see how the secondary looks.

The Raiders have a package in which safety Michael Huff plays more like a corner while Darius and Stuart Schweigert are at safety.

When Routt plays, will he be the nickel back with one of the three safeties on the bench?

I would love to tell you, but I didn't see all of practice.

- Jason Jones

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

August 20, 2007
Warren trade prompts numbers game

ALAMEDA - Warren Sapp isn't all that excited about Gerard Warren.

He said Warren's impact is "irrelevant" to the defense because Warren isn't in his top eight Raider defensive linemen.

Sapp's point is well taken. The season isn't too far away and Warren has to mesh with a group that believes it's one of the best in the NFL and doesn't need any help.

Then again, Sapp was just being Sapp.

So who are the Raiders' top eight without Warren? I'll take a guess:

1. Sapp: He has to be in his own top eight, right?

2. Derrick Burgess: Sapp's partner in crime.

3. Tommy Kelly: Sapp calls him a "monster."

4. Terdell Sands: Big contract in the offseason makes him top four.

5. Quentin Moses: Rookie can rush the passer

6. Anttaj Hawthorne: I think he's in.

7. Jay Richardson: Impressive rookie who's not convinced he has made the team.

Here's where it gets tough for me. I like Kevin Huntley, but you have to assume this spot goes to Brayton since he is a first-round pick. I guess that makes this like an 8a and 8b. But if Lane Kiffin can have a depth chart with three starting QBs, I can do this:

8. Tyler Brayton/Kevin Huntley/Chris Clemons

Go ahead and send me your top eight. Maybe I'll forward it to Sapp.

- Jason Jones

August 20, 2007
No Tank, but a Gerard

ALAMEDA - Maybe we can put the Tank Johnson talk to rest.

The Raiders acquired Denver (yes Denver) defensive tackle Gerard Warren for an undisclosed 2008 draft choice.

The Raiders were looking really thin at defensive tackle with Tommy Kelly spending time at defensive end.

Warren should give the Raiders a nice three-man rotation along with Warren Sapp and Terdell Sands if Kelly continues to play a lot of defensive end.

Warren was said to be miscast in the Broncos new scheme, which requires plodding defensive tackles, not one-gap players like Warren.

If healthy, Warren along with Sapp gives the Raiders a nice interior pass rushing tandem.

--Jason Jones

August 16, 2007
That's a wrap on camp

NAPA - Training camp is over.

Tonight's final practice had plenty of funny moments. The best was defensive line coach Keith Millard throwing passes to the linemen.

Warren Sapp can catch. Derrick Burgess isn't bad, either.

Terdell Sands blamed the quarterback for his not making the catch.

Then there's poor Anttaj Hawthorne.

He ran a slant route and went to catch the ball and missed. The ball hit him below the belt, leaving him hunched over in pain and everyone laughing at him.

Fans in attendance, players and coaches laughed while Hawthorne looked pained. Sapp then picked up a ball and threw it at Hawthorne's head as he leaned over in pain.

The only person not laughing was Hawthorne.

The defensive backs played hot potato, but it didn't top Hawthorne's pain.

• The players also decided to trade jerseys since it was the last practice of camp.

Sapp squeezed into safety Stuart Schweigert's jersey only to take it off minutes later. Sapp is slimmed down, but not that much.

The best was Jerry Porter, wearing tackle Chad Slaughter's No. 78. It looked like a toddler wearing his father's work uniform.

• Leaving camp, no position battles really were decided. There's still no starting quarterback and still no JaMarcus Russell.

But with how Lane Kiffin runs things, we're at least a good week-plus from having a good idea who the starters are.

Jake Grove still is the starting center, though Jeremy Newberry could wrest the job away.

Who starts at defensive end opposite Derrick Burgess is anyone's guess. Rookie Quentin Moses, Kevin Huntley or sliding Tommy Kelly from tackle to end are possibilities.

• Some things are clear: Robert Gallery is a guard, and Zach Miller is the team's best tight end.

- Jason Jones

August 16, 2007
Early release is a kick

NAPA - Lane Kiffin ended practice about 30 minutes early this morning and had an idea of how to cut tonight's practice short.

He decided to let a field goal decide it.

First up wasn't kicker Sebastian Janikowski or backup Tyler Fredrickson.

Warren Sapp got the first shot from about 20 yards and missed wide right.

Quarterback Josh McCown missed wide left from 25 yards.

Then Kiffin picked rookie tackle Mario Henderson to be the man to slash time off tonight's practice.

He came up short from 15 yards out.

Sapp eventually bounced back with a 45-yard make, his career long.

Kiffin is letting the Raiders get their kicks in because Friday the team breaks camp and players are free to go back to their own beds.

For the rookies who don't have a place yet, that might mean another move to a hotel.

• Andrew Walter will start at quarterback against the 49ers, followed by Daunte Culpepper and Josh McCown.

Walter wasn't too enthused by the news. He's sticking to the "it's just the preseason" mantra, which isn't a bad idea.

• Kiffin said he hasn't spoken to JaMarcus Russell in a while. It'll probably be awhile before Russell signs.

• Kiffin promised change after the last exhibition, and some change came: The team released William Buchanon. The receiver was a training camp surprise last year. But he dropped a pass against Arizona and was let go by Kiffin, his former college position coach.

• Sapp had been relatively quiet lately, but he found someone to crack on this morning.

I've never seen rookie cornerback John Bowie's teeth, but Sapp apparently has.

"You better take advantage of that dental program," he yelled at Bowie. "It's 80/20."

He also found time to poke fun at defensive tackle Anttaj Hawthorne, who has been put on his back more than once in training camp.

"O.G. Taj Mahal on the ground again," Sapp yelled.

- Jason Jones

August 15, 2007
Kiffin returns, and other Wednesday nuggets

NAPA - Lane Kiffin is all about football.

He returned to the practice field today and began his media session talking about the offense not committing turnovers and the fumbled snap in last week's preseason game.

Of course, everyone wanted to know how the coach was doing physically, not about turnovers.

It's not often a 32-year-old who works out the way Kiffin normally does is in the hospital.

Kiffin said doctors believe he had mononucleosis. Kiffin tried to watch practice film on DVD from the hospital, but found that too taxing.

He was back and the victim of heckling from players about needing to wear medical masks and asking if he needed a nurse with him.

But it's a credit to the job Kiffin already has done that he was gone and the team didn't missed a beat.

Greg Knapp knew what to do with the offense. Rob Ryan was in charge of the defense.

In a few days, Kiffin will be back to raising his voice in practice. Then his illness will be a footnote to the start of his coaching career.

Then he can talk about football all he wants and I won't have to ask about his temperature.

• The team didn't practice in pads today and probably won't again anytime soon with an exhibition Saturday.

• Today was one of the highlights of training camp. The Raiders' fieldhouse interns played the office interns in a game of flag football.

The game usually becomes pretty rough with the flags being nothing more than decoration. I didn't stick around to see who won, but with $8,000 to $10,000 in the pot contributed by players, I don't blame the kids for getting physical.

• Buddy Ryan, the former coach and father of Rob Ryan, was at practice for a third day in a row. Owner Al Davis also was on hand.

- Jason Jones

August 14, 2007
No Sands at practice

NAPA - One of the Raiders biggest players was missing from tonight's practice.

Defensive tackle Terdell Sands was held for undisclosed reasons. No explanation as to whether he's injured or just in trouble. He practiced this morning.

Maybe its just coincidence, but the Raiders signed defensive tackle Jared Clauss. Clauss is from Iowan and in his third pro season after time with the Titans and Redskins. He practiced tonight and easily beat Paul McQuistan in a pass blocking drill in his first work against the offense.

With defensive tackle Josh Shaw still out with a knee injury and Sands not practicing, Clauss saw a lot of action tonight.

Besides drills, he played a lot in the goal line package.

*There was finally some hitting following Saturday's preseason game. The players were in shoulder pads and shorts and did had some one-on-one pass blocking drills.

There were some good match ups. Among the high lights were linebacker Ricky Brown using a swim move to dismiss Dominic Rhodes block.

Sam Williams vs. LaMont Jordan made for a loud collision.

No one could really block Thomas Howard.

In offensive line vs. defensive line drills, Tyler Brayton got to yapping again after getting beat by the offensive line.

The drill called for two offensive lineman to block two defenders. Tackle Mario Henderson blocked his man (Quentin Moses) down and then knocked Brayton down.

I don't think Brayton liked getting pushed in the back, but all is fair in the trenches.

*In team scrimmaging, the offense started off with nice plays with catches by Zach Miller and Mike Williams from Andrew Walter.

Then the defense took over the rest of the way.

*And finally, Lane Kiffin will spend tonight in the hospital with a viral infection is the latest words from the Raiders.

They are "optimistic" he will be back soon.

No one knows when soon is.

--Jason Jones

August 14, 2007
Kiffin still absent, but he leaves prints

NAPA - Still no Lane Kiffin.

He stayed in the hospital Monday night with a viral infection and was having tests run today. Kiffin hopes to return soon, but no one know when "soon" is.

The infection didn't stop him from watching game tape Sunday night, but it has kept him out of the last two practices, including this morning's.

But he already has made an impression on the team. Even some of the coaches are talking like Kiffin.

Tight end Tony Stewart committed a false start during team session. If Kiffin were around, he would've yelled, "Get me a new tight end."

Someone did yell that: offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.

• I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to playing "Madden 08" today. I'm doing the honorable thing and working and not calling in sick or going home before the 7 p.m. practice to play the game.

Too bad Jarrod Cooper isn't here. Last year, Cooper said he benched Jerry Porter on "Madden 07" because Art Shell benched Porter in real life.

I wonder if Cooper would have signed Daunte Culpepper and cut JaMarcus Russell until he signed with the team.

The only way to see Russell with the Raiders is on the video game.

• Josh McCown and Andrew Walter still are splitting first-team snaps while Daunte Culpepper catches up on the playbook.

• Derrick Burgess looks healthy. He has one of the best first steps at defensive end in the NFL. If the Raiders could win more games, he'd get a lot more praise nationally.

- Jason Jones

August 13, 2007
I'm a hack, all right

NAPA - Disclaimer: I don't play baseball. Never did growing up.

I never played softball, except for a brief summer stint at King Park in Long Beach.

But that didn't stop me from embarrassing myself by taking some swings during the Home Run Derby headed up by Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

It was a lot of fun. Warren Sapp pitched to me. I swung for the fence (about 200 feet away) and missed just about every time.

I wasn't being selective, just trying to hit the ball hard. Instead, I hacked air pretty good.

It's just another thing about this year's Raiders that makes the mood light around training camp. The players don't feel bogged. They practice hard, have some fun, and then get back to work.

They worked today without coach Lane Kiffin, who was taken to the hospital with a viral infection.

Without Kiffin to get things going, practice seemed to drag a bit. Kiffin, if he's not out of the hospital already, probably will fight to get out to watch film.

Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp ran the offense and Ryan, as usual, was in charge of the defense.

Knapp said Kiffin probably caught a bug that has been going around during camp.

Knapp said practice is laid out for the next couple of days already, so things should run smoothly.

The quarterbacks still are rotating, getting even reps. No starter has been named for Saturday's exhibition against the 49ers.

Regardless, Kiffin will hear it from the players when he returns.

- Jason Jones

August 8, 2007
Tuesday night practice

NAPA - Tonight's practice was a lot like this morning's, which meant a lot of time was spent preparing for the Cardinals.

The players are ready to hit someone other than teammates.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is motivtated because Arizona "fired the whole family" when he was a coach on his father, Buddy Ryan's staff.

*Special teams coordinator Brian Schneider was catching passes from the quarterbacks during a drill tonight. Then Daunte Culpepper drilled him with a pass, forcing Schneider to catch passes with his right hand or just knock the ball down.

Afterward he was seen talking to team trainer Rod Martin. I don't think he's injured.

Media had a chance to speak with Schneider earlier today.

He's a nice guy that players seem to like.

Then again, they all seemed to hate Ted Daisher, last year's special teams coach. So if I showed up in the meeting room, I'd been more popular than Daisher.

I do like the idea of using a linebacker (Jon Condo) to snap on punts. That should help the coverage team.

*LaMont Jordan spent a lot of time stretching his back in between drills for injured players tonight.

He hasn't practiced the last five days and won't play Saturday.

--Jason Jones

August 8, 2007
McCown will start exhibition opener

Josh McCown will start the preseason opener Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals at the Coliseum.

Lane Kiffin made the announcement after this morning's practice.

That's not shocking.

McCown has been the most consistent quarterback. Andrew Walter still throws too many interceptions. Daunte Culpepper is still catching up on the playbook.

He was the favorite to start before Culpepper arrived and is still probably leading the race because he's familiarized himself with the offense since May.

Kiffin still plans to give the quarterbacks equal reps, but McCown will have the advantage of playing with the first-team offense, which should cut down on some of the mistakes around him.

And with the starting offensive line, McCown has the best chance of escaping the game not battered.

It's not that the group has proven it can pass block. But if the first-team struggles, imagine what Culpepper and Walter will endure behind their backups.

Thankfully for McCown, he can run.

--Jason Jones

August 7, 2007
Training camp observations, Aug. 7

Practice was nothing special. Defense dominates offense. It's the same old story.

What was interesting was the Raiders released the unofficial depth chart.

And it's very unofficial.

Five spots on offense have two players listed as starters.

Center (Jake Grove and Jeremy Newberry), tight end (Zach Miller and John Madsen), fullback (Zack Crockett and Justin Grifftih) and tailback (LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes) are the spots that don't have one starter.

Quarterback is even better. All three quarterbacks, Daunte Culpepper, Josh McCown and Andrew Walter could all claim to be starters.

There's no confusion on the second team. It's Jeff Otis at quarterback.

The only split starters on defense are at right defensive end between (Quentin Moses and Kevin Huntley) and defensive tackle (Terdell Sands and Tommy Kelly).

Besides Tyler Brayton not playing defensive end, the defense from last year will start the game.

Lane Kiffin will announce the starting quarterback for the preseason opener tomorrow after breaking the news to two-thirds of the starting quarterback trio that they'll come off the bench.

For those who are interested, on offense:

• Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry are your starting receivers (no surprise).

• Barry Sims is at left tackle, Robert Gallery at left guard, Cooper Carlisle is the right guard and Cornell Green is at right tackle.

• Doug Gabriel is listed as a third-team receiver. He was a starter before being traded last year.

-- Jason Jones

August 6, 2007
No practice Monday night

NAPA - Tonight's practice has been cancelled.

No complaints here. It's been unusually cold around these parts.

And the players, who are still in a pretty upbeat mood for the most part, will probably on smile at the notion of not practicing tonight.

That's another point for Lane Kiffin in the keep-the-team-happy category.

I expect there to be a new tight end in camp tomorrow now that there are only three healthy players at the position.

The Raiders wouldn't want to play Zach Miller, John Madsen and Tony Stewart an entire preseason game and could use a healthy James Adkisson and another body to help out in time for Saturday's exhibition game with the Arizona Cardinals.

Kiffin said all three quarterbacks will play, but won't reveal in what order or exactly who will be the starters at other positions.

Players might not like the rotation on Saturday, but at least Kiffin is popular tonight.

--Jason Jones

August 6, 2007
Three tight ends still standing

NAPA - There are three standing on healthy legs.

The Raiders began training camp with six tight ends.

They are down to three after Fred Wakefield went down with what looked like a serious knee injury during special teams drills this morning.

He was taken off the field on a cart with an air cast on his right leg. Teammates came by and patted him on the shoulder, which usually means they know a guy's season is probably over.

James Adkisson is out with a hamstring injury. Randal Williams was released on Aug. 3.

That leaves rookie Zach Miller, second-year player John Madsen and free agent Tony Stewart as the only tight ends left.

The Raiders cut former starter Courtney Anderson before the start of training camp.

A viable tight end is essential for the Raiders if they want to run the West Coast offense.

Miller looks good. Madsen is up to 240 pounds after playing receiver in college. Stewart is a career backup.

A position that was a question mark is now screaming for help and depth. If Miller goes down, the Raiders' tight end situation looks bleaker than it did last year.

--Jason Jones

August 5, 2007
Sunday's practice report

NAPA - LaMont Jordan's status with the Raiders was a question mark much of the spring until he agreed to a pay cut to stay with the team.

Then the Raiders drafted Michael Bush. They also signed Dominic Rhodes.

And during training camp, Adimchinobe Echemandu has been the surprise of camp, according to coach Lane Kiffin. Echemandu has looked the best among all the backs in camp.

But Jordan, he's been in and out of practice with a bad back. It bothered him last season, too.

Jordan sat out Saturday's practice and was out today. Kiffin said there's still the preseason to evaluate veterans, but one has to wonder what Kiffin is thinking about Jordan.

Kiffin loves to say "everything you do counts" and right now there isn't a lot on the field that counts for Jordan during training camp.

The team would take a cap hit letting Jordan go. Also, there's Rhodes four-game suspension to start the season.

Would Kiffin be comfortable with Echemandu and Justin Fargas as his top-2 tailbacks going into the season?

I wouldn't put it past him.

As of now, Jordan hasn't done enough things that count on the field to be the unquestioned No. 1 running back. Jordan would tell you he is the starter.

Kiffin said if there was a game to be played, Jordan could play, balky back withstanding.

There's a game coming up - the preseason opener at home against Arizona this Saturday.

That would be a nice time for Jordan to show Kiffin he can show up when it counts.

--Jason Jones

August 4, 2007
Training camp observations, Aug. 4

Today was scrimmage day.

Or as defensive coordinator Rob Ryan might call it, make the offense cry day.

The offense didn't look good most of the scrimmage. It's hard to gauge because the offensive line's schemes calls for cut blocking and you don't cut your teammates.

But some of the problems were familiar, cut or not cut blocking:

• Robert Gallery was called for holding while pass blocking.

• There was a botched snap between Andrew Walter and center Jeremy Newberry. Walter nearly mishandled a snap earlier on the same drive. Coach Lane Kiffin yelled, "how about picking the ball off the ground" as the offense left the field after the bad snap.

• Walter also threw an interception.

• The defensive line was able to dominate the line of scrimmage.

Coach Lane Kiffin said his playcalling was limited in running by the inability to cut block, but he wasn't pleased with two turnovers by the offense.

But there were some positives, just not many.

• Daunte Culpepper had the only touchdown pass - a 20-yard strike to Carlos Francis.

• The longest run was by Adimchinobe Echemandu, a 15-yard scamper along the right sideline.

• Sebastian Janikowski made a 58-yard field goal that cleared the uprights by at least 10 yards.

But the defense had its way, as expected.

A more accurate assessment of the offense will come next Saturday in the Raiders' first exhibition game against the visiting Arizona Cardinals.

--Jason Jones

August 3, 2007
Brayton's world


NAPA - There’s perception. There’s reality.

Then there’s Tyler Brayton.

He had one of the funnier moments of Friday night’s practice. In one-on-one pass rush drills, he was worked over pretty good by Robert Gallery. At the end of the play, Brayton wouldn’t let go of Gallery’s leg after being put on the grass.

A scuffle ensued with Gallery the aggressor before teammates pulled them apart.

Brayton emerged from the fray, lifted his arms above his head and declared “victory!”

Yeah, right.

*Tomorrow’s scrimmage will be the last day officials will be at practice. And Warren Sapp probably can’t wait to usher them out.

After a few penalties and calls, Sapp couldn’t resist speaking his mind. He called the officials blind when a catch by Zach Miller looked to hit the ground.

A pass interference call on safety Stuart Schweigert also had him ticked.

“Where are the refs?” he wondered aloud. “They’re not doing (anything). Just like on Sundays.”

*The Raiders released tight end Randal Williams, two days after giving his number to Tony Stewart. Williams returned from a leave of absence for personal reasons. He hadn’t practiced since last Saturday.

*The Raiders signed linebacker Kurt Campbell, who the team had cut last month before training camp. He practiced tonight.

--Jason Jones

August 3, 2007
Training camp observations, Aug. 3

Everyone wants to know who looks good in training camp.

With a scrimmage planned for Saturday, I'll run down some players that have jumped thus far.

I'll focus on players who aren't established and could earn a roster spot, rookies that could be starters or major contributors and free agent additions.

• Running back Adimchinobe Echemandu looks like a perfect fit for the Raiders new zone-blocking scheme. He makes quick and decisive cuts at the line of scrimmage and has the vision to cut against the grain for big gains.

• Tight end Zach Miller is the Raiders' best tight end. The rookie from Arizona State routinely makes tough catches. He's big enough to help in the run offense with his blocking. He'll be an impact player in the red zone.

• Defensive end Quentin Moses is sharing time with Kevin Huntley at right defensive end. The rookie from Georgia is impressive with his speed and pass rushing skills. There's still work to be done with his run defense, but Moses should contribute as a situational pass rusher early this season.

• The addition of safety B.J. Ward wasn't heralded, but he could help out in the secondary and special teams. He plays physically and could fill roles on special teams that were held by Jarrod Cooper.

--Jason Jones

August 3, 2007
Some things will never change it seems

The media had it's annual meeting with the officials in Napa this afternoon, when we were made aware of rules changes and points of emphasis.

First off, the Vincent Jackson rule won't be changed. When the Raiders lost in San Diego last season, Jackson caught a pass and wasn't touched down. He jumped up and spun the ball forward. That's still a forward pass, not a fumble.

Another interesting rule change involves illegal touching by offensive linemen. The penalty will only be called if a lineman is trying to catch the ball. In the past, it was a penalty if the quarterback drilled an offensive lineman in the back.

Not only would that hurt, it would also draw a penalty.

For the second year in a row, Warren Sapp was highlighted for something you can't do to a quarterback. His late hit on Cincinnati's Carson Palmer was shown in a video

Also, the Raiders cut tackle Adrian Klemm, who joined the team Wednesday.

Free agent rookie J.J. Milan, a defensive end, was also cut.

Lane Kiffin said tight end Randal Williams is still dealing with undisclosed personal issues, which is why he hasn't been practicing though he has returned to the team.

-- Jason Jones

August 2, 2007
Training camp observations, Aug. 2

It's Day 7 of training camp and Warren Sapp is in midseason form.

He was yapping it up with officials and poking fun at teammates at practice today.

Today's main target was Tony Stewart.

Not the NASCAR driver. Tony Stewart, the tight end the Raiders signed in the offseason from Cincinnati.

If you've never heard of Tony Stewart, don't worry, neither had Sapp.

So imagine his confusion when Stewart introduced himself as "T-Stew."

And Sapp was relentless. He asked where was "T-Stew" when the Raiders played the Bengals last season.

Sapp is as smart a football player you'll ever meet. He studies the game intently.

And he just didn't remember ever scouting "T-Stew."

He also rode Mike Williams about his weight.

Sapp told Williams if he's going to weigh 250, he might as well run block. He added he knew the trick Williams used on the scale - slightly lean against a wall - to make his weight lighter.

Sapp can have fun about weight, having dropped down to 282 from 334 last season.

There's never a boring moment in practice if Sapp is within earshot.

Other tidbits from Thursday's practice:

• Zach Miller is catching everything. That's your starting tight end.

• Daunte Culpepper is almost ready to take equal reps with Andrew Walter and Josh McCown. That's just a step closer to taking all the first-team reps.

• Randal Williams rejoined the team after leaving on Sunday for personal reasons. His number has been given to "T-Stew", so Williams has no idea what the team's plans are for him.

I'd be worried too, if "T-Stew" had my number.

-- Jason Jones

August 1, 2007
When Al Davis speaks, people listen

Al Davis spoke at the Raiders’ training camp in Napa today.
Too many subjects to hit because he spoke for an hour, but here are some interesting points:
* Money isn’t holding up the contract talks with JaMarcus Russell (don’t believe that).
* He believes receiver Randy Moss (now with New England) can still play when healthy. Davis said the Raiders’ coaching staff disagreed.
* He admitted to acquiring players like Moss with the thinking of how he’d coach a team, which might be why Moss didn’t work out.
* He definitely wanted Daunte Culpepper, but coach Lane Kiffin had the final say.
-- Jason Jones

August 1, 2007
Camp observations, Aug. 1

More from Napa.…
No need to ask again anytime soon.
Robert Gallery is a guard.
Barry Sims is out with a buttocks injury. The Raiders kept Gallery at guard and moved Gallery’s backup, Paul McQuistan, to left tackle.
* Coach Lane Kiffin is trying to put some mental pressure on his quarterbacks by adding Daunte Culpepper. He said he wants to see who responds to adversity well – or if anyone pouts.
In case you’re wondering, that’s a message to Andrew Walter.
* The offense didn’t look good today. In addition to Walter’s struggles, Josh McCown threw a couple of picks.
* Defensive tackle Josh Shaw declared today, “Sack Wednesday.” After Kiffin told this to the offense, McQuistan said it would be “No Sack Wednesday.”
I lost count of how many sacks the Raiders would have given up if it were a game.
--Jason Jones

August 1, 2007
Culpepper looks rusty in silver and black

There’s a lot going on in Napa.
Daunte Culpepper practiced this morning. He’s not wearing a brace on his right knee. He’s a little rusty, as expected. A few passes floated on receivers, but that should all come together as he continues to work with the Raiders.
Andrew Walter had his worst practice of camp. He threw four interceptions this morning and defenders dropped at least two more.
Walter’s time with the Raiders lately hasn’t been pleasant. He was a piñata last season. Now the Raiders have brought in two veterans and drafted JaMarcus Russell.
His best bet might be with another team. After the beating he took in 2006, the Raiders have made it clear where he stands.
That would be with a clipboard, on the sidelines and wearing a baseball cap.
More on Al Davis speaking, and other musings from the morning practice and Russell’s contract status.
--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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