Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

January 31, 2008
Hanging with Coop

I spent a couple of hours with Jarrod Cooper down at the Oakland Animal Shelter, where he spends a lot of his time.

I'll be writing more about that later, but here two things you'd be interested to know from today.

First, Coop's rehab is going great at the team facility. He tore is ACL in November is about nine weeks removed from surgery. He's able to run and is looking good and expects to be resigned and back with the team for workouts in late March.

He also is behind Lane Kiffin and the coaching staff. Any disgruntled players are in the minority, he said, because the change from year's past to last season was drastic, even if hasn't shown up in wins yet.

Just so you know, Cooper will be at the shelter (1101 29th Street in Oakland) on Feb. 9 helping give tours. Coop is a volunteer for what I learned today is an extremely good cause.

For more information on what's going on at the shelter click here.

--Jason Jones

January 31, 2008
The latest on Lofton

Just got off the phone (literally) with John Herrera from the Raiders.

There was a report that James Lofton had been hired to coach wide receivers and the move had been made without Lane Kiffin's knowledge.

That would fall in line with reports Kiffin was stripped of power in personnel and staffing decisions, something I haven't been able to verify.

Herrera said that's untrue and that Lofton had already been hired or that he would have no knowledge of the decision.

Kiffin and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp interviewed Lofton on Monday and it was understood talks would continue.

Herrera said the team is in talks with Lofton and that Charles Coe, last year's receivers coach would be reassigned.

Owner Al Davis takes over when it's time to discuss contracts.

"Mr. Davis and James are still trying to finalize it," Herrera said. "Lane has been kept abreast of it."

--Jason Jones

January 30, 2008
It's all about JaMarcus

With my colleague Paul Gutierrez looking back at Doug Williams and his Super Bowl win 20 years ago, why not take a look at the quarterbacks the Raiders have returning.

There’s JaMarcus Russell, the starter and future of the franchise.

Al Davis loves him. He was the first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Even after signing with the Raiders after camp, he played enough at the end of the season to show there are good things to come.

And there’s Andrew Walter, who desperately would love an opportunity to play elsewhere after being labeled the quarterback of the future, then seeing that future obliterated in a stagnant offense and behind a shoddy offensive line.

Before looking at Russell, I’ll look at the turn Walter’s turn has taken with the Raiders.

He’s now in the Marques Tuiasosopo Zone. It’s when you’re a young quarterback for the Raiders, you don’t fit the scheme the coach wants to run, but the team is holding on to you even do want to trade for you.

Walter unfairly took the brunt of the disastrous 2006 season. From Al Davis intimating he should have drafted Matt Leinart in 2006 to watching Russell arrive, there isn’t much Walter can do except bide his time.

He wanted to be traded before last October’s trading deadline. But Josh McCown was injured at the time and Lane Kiffin wasn’t comfortable with making JaMarcus Russell the backup with only about a month with the team.

Walter does have trade value. If the Raiders resign McCown or bring in another veteran, dealing Walter wouldn’t’ be out of the question assuming the team finds a young quarterback in the draft it can use as it’s third quarterback.

With the Raiders have already dealt two draft picks and with many holes to fill, dealing Walter for second-day draft pick (fourth, fifth round?) might not be a bad idea.

As for Russell, the Raiders are his team. Teammates like him and it didn’t take long for players to see why the Raiders did last April.

This offseason will be critical as it will be used to make up for time lost during his contract stalemate that kept him unsigned until Week 2.

It was hard to gauge exactly what to expect from Russell because of his limited playing time. That was until his 32-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Porter in season finale that showed off his mobility and strong arm.

The key will be if Kiffin’s offense will be opened up enough to allow Russell to make plays downfield and if the Raiders surround him with enough talent to make those plays.

Of the other two quarterbacks, McCown is most likely return, assuming there are no major coaching changes.

McCown likes playing for Kiffin and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. Kiffin trusts him, which is also important.

He’d come back understanding he’s the backup and has already developed a good and supportive relationship with Russell.

Daunte Culpepper was only expected to be around for a year. He still wants to be a starting quarterback and showed enough to prove he can still play.

Heading into the 2008 season he’ll be almost three years removed from the knee injury that ended his time in Minnesota and he’ll go out looking for a team he can start for.

Culpepper’s biggest impact on the season won’t be the role he had in three of the Raiders wins, but the influence he had on Russell.

After all, 2007 was all about getting Russell ready. Even though that process was delayed, it's his time.

--Jason Jones

January 29, 2008
Not nearly as offensive

One of the most important hires last year for the Raiders was offensive line coach Tom Cable.

He came in and helped build the self-esteem of an offensive line that was largely responsible for allowing a league-high 72 sacks in 2006.

Under Cable’s watch, the offensive line went from horrid to an average unit.

The Raiders allowed 41 sacks, 11th most in the NFL and still way too many. Not all of those sacks are the fault of the line, but it’s an area the group still needs to improve in.

One reason the sack total decreased was Lane Kiffin’s playcalling. The Raiders ran 508 times, fourth most in the NFL. Their 260 pass attempts were the fourth fewest in the NFL.

If the offense is to become more proficient and balance, the team can't allow a sack every 6.3 attempts.

The offensive line helped the Raiders accomplish a key goal – to finish in the top-10 in rushing. The Raiders were sixth at 130.4 yards a game.

Robert Gallery may have found a home at guard. Kiffin and Cable often praised the aggressiveness he played with, but want to see improvement in pass blocking and few penalties.

Another young offensive lineman that came on late and might have earned a starting spot heading into the 2008 season was Paul McQuistan.

Art Shell’s staff played McQuistan at guard as a rookie. In his second season, McQuistan was a player Kiffin said fit at guard and tackle in the team’s zone-blocking scheme.

McQuistan started six games at right tackle in place of Cornell Green. After a couple of rough outings as an injury replacement for Green, McQuistan settled in and had a decent finish to the season.

But if McQuistan can stay at right tackle, that leaves what the Raiders do at left tackle. Barry Sims returned to left tackle and had moments where he played well, but was still plagued by too many false start penalties.

Sims is also 33. So the Raiders need to consider who might be his replacement in waiting.

A logical choice would be Mario Henderson, a third-round pick last year. But the coaching staff didn’t show much confidence in him. Cable said Henderson needed to be pushed and Kiffin also noted he needed to play with more confidence.

Cooper Carlisle played right guard and figures to remain there next season. The Raiders need to figure out what to do at center, too.

Jeremy Newberry started 14 games after knee injuries limited him in recent years. But he’ll be 32 this year and he has to decide if he wants to keep playing.

Jake Grove’s season was done in by a knee injury that eventually sent him to injured reserve. He was a second-round pick in 2005, but Newberry’s size and strength gave him the advantage over Grove.

If the Raiders don’t find someone in free agency they’d like to add to help the offensive line, look for the staff to look at Mark Wilson, who was on the practice squad until the final game of the season, to provide depth at tackle.

Chris Morris is another backup guard. The team also added Jonathan Palmer from Pittsburgh’s practice squad late in the season to have him around for the offseason.

Finding a solid young left tackle and center would appear to be the Raiders’ biggest needs up front.

Improvement in pass protection also needs to be a focus for the Raiders to become a good offense.

--Jason Jones

January 28, 2008
Lofton's visit

Former San Diego receivers coach James Lofton met with Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp today.

He wasn't hired today, but will continue talks with the Raiders.

Kiffin wasn't happy with the play of the receivers this season, which is why Charles Coe's role could change in 2008. Lofton is a former Raider, Hall of Fame receiver, and did a good job with the Chargers' receivers, I thought.

That he's been a candidate for the head job with the Raiders apparently wasn't an issue for Kiffin.

How this plays out remains to be seen. Will Kiffin quit? Will he be fired? Is Lofton the coach in waiting? Who really knows.

As of now, Kiffin is still the coach.

If you're interested in some other Raiders-related links, you might want to check out Peter King's take on the the last five years of Raiders football.

Also checkout Bucky Brooks, a former Raider that has a take that makes sense.

Al Davis feels betrayed.

I'd reported at the end of the season defensive line coach Keith Millard might be a target of Kiffin if he got to revamp the staff.

If you believe this report from the Senior Bowl, Kiffin told Millard to find a new job last week.

Considering all the drama that's surrounding Kiffin vs. Ryan, it would appear foolish for Kiffin to pull such a stunt.

Also, my boss is at the Super Bowl festivities.

I still haven't finished my position reviews. Provided no one fires anyone or no quits, I'll get back to my overview this week.

--Jason Jones

January 28, 2008
Saunders update

I spoke with Al Saunders' agent Bob LaMonte and he said he'd heard nothing from the Raiders as far as interviewing his client.

A source familiar with all the details said Saunders was scheduled to meet with the Raiders today.

Saunders was most recently the Redskins' offensive coordinator.

The Raiders expressed interest in Saunders before hiring Art Shell.

Saunders has also drawn interest from St. Louis.

--Jason Jones

January 28, 2008
Lane's losing his grip?

The Raiders will interview James Lofton and Al Saunders today.

Al Davis hasn't fired Lane Kiffin and he won't resign. So Davis is looking to add people to the staff that could step in as head coaches if and when Kiffin is gone.

Lofton has twice interviewed for the head job and Saunders was the offensive coordinator in Washington.

Kiffin's less than proactive approach to getting JaMarcus Russell on the field didn't win him any points with Davis.

Kiffin not only wanted to fire Rob Ryan. He also wanted to get rid of defensive line coach Keith Millard, linebackers coach Don Martindale and defensive backs coach Darren Perry.

What's the common thread among them? They're all popular with the players. It makes Kiffin look as if he's running off anyone that might have more influence than he does.

And now players have begun calling Davis to express their displeasure with Kiffin.

As word has gotten out that Kiffin pursued jobs at Arkansas and Michigan, the players must feel like they've got a Bobby Petrino among them.

Stay tuned.

--Jason Jones

January 27, 2008
The waiting game

I was able to catch up with a member of the Raiders coaching staff today.

He said he didn't know much about what's gone on between Al Davis and Lane Kiffin and that he relied on ESPN to fill him in on the details.

It's a tough position for the coaches to be in. It's late in the game to try to find a new job.

James Lofton will be interviewing for a n unspecified job tomorrow, which doesn't figure to make Charles Coe, the current receivers coach, comfortable.

Lofton was the Chargers receivers coach and has interviewed for the head job with the Raiders twice.

There are now reports the Raiders would like to talk to recently fired Redskins offensive coordinator Al Saunders.

If that's true, that can't make Greg Knapp or Kiffin comfortable. Saunders would figure to take over a large part of their duties or replace them outright.

--Jason Jones

January 26, 2008
Is there hope?

Lane Kiffin didn't speak directly to the revelation owner Al Davis asked him to resign this month following the Senior Bowl.

When asked if he'd be the coach this season, Kiffin said, "I hope so" according to an Associated Press report.

By saying he hoped to return, Kiffin laid the foundation if he's not back.

He can say it was Davis who ran him out and that he wanted to coach the Raiders.

The Raiders need to consider the big picture.

They just drafted a quarterback last year in JaMarcus Russell.

A sure way to stunt the development of a young QB is to start changing coaches every year.

Then again, it's also the way to stunt the growth of an entire team.

Then again, you knew that.

--Jason Jones

January 25, 2008
Still working ...

Just spoke with John Herrera from the Raiders again.

I wanted to clarify if the Raiders were denying the entire report after I was told by a very reliable source that hasn't been wrong once that Al Davis did send Kiffin a letter asking for his resignation.

Herrera said Davis was bothered when he saw reports that Kiffin was a candidate for the Arkansas job, as I'd been told.

The Raiders' spin is that like the Rob Ryan situation, this is all speculation. Kiffin is their coach and he hasn't been stripped of any duties as reported by other outlets.

It's been reported Kiffin and Mark Jackson, who was hired at the request of Kiffin to assist him, had been banned from meetings and making any decisions.

Jackson's title is the director of football development, but he's known around other circles as the man that caused JaMarcus Russell's development to be stalled with his inexperience trying to negotiate the deal.

I've already missed most of Friday Night Smackdown chasing this story. Then the Lakers lost (I'm paging Lamar Odom. Can you score in double figures?).

Stay tuned. I'll be back with more tomorrow. I plan on going to see Cal play Stanford in Berkeley and just hope this story doesn't ruin my time rooting against the Furd.

--Jason Jones

January 25, 2008
For more on the saga

I told a radio show earlier today I thought Kiffin would be the Raiders coach seven days from now.

But the more I hear about the dysfunction in Raiderland, I'm convinced Al Davis will do everything he can to get rid of Kiffin.

The Raiders deny all of this. But these things don't fall out of the sky.

From what I hear from The Bee's Matt Barrow's, the friction between Kiffin and Rob Ryan was obvious at the Senior Bowl.

According to SI's Don Banks and the Chronicle's Nancy Gay , Kiffin has been exiled by Davis.

This situation has gotten ugly fast. Al is doing all he can to make Kiffin's life hell.

With James Lofton in town on Monday, don't be surprised if he somehow ends up as the new head coach.

The Raiders say he's in to interview with Lane for a coaching position, but my bet is he's coming to interview for Lane's job with Al.

You never know with the Raiders.

But how can Davis bring back Kiffin after all the mess that' gone on?

He wouldn't let Kiffin fire any defensive coaches, so the defenders know they can disregard Kiffin.

The offensive players would know Kiffin isn't really in charge.

What a mess. Can the Raiders fix it?

Based on their recent history, I doubt it.

--Jason Jones

January 25, 2008
Sign here, please

I spoke with someone familiar with the Raiders’ situation within the last hour that confirmed ESPN’s report that Al Davis sent Lane Kiffin a letter of resignation to sign.

Apparently Al Davis’ frustration started back in November when Kiffin’s name was leaked as a candidate for the Arkansas job.

I know, Kiffin said he didn’t know how his name came up. Then again, Kiffin also said he didn’t know there were any rumors he was going to fire Rob Ryan.

As Richard Pryor famously said, “Who you gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes?”

From what I’m told, Kiffin indeed was interested in the job, even if he didn’t talk to the school himself.

Kiffin’s frustrations seem to stem from his belief he was promised things by Davis – namely a big say in personnel and the coaching staff – and Davis hasn’t delivered.

Here’s the deal. How naïve was Kiffin to believe Davis wouldn’t have a heavy hand in decisions. Kiffin wanted to fire Rob Ryan, but Davis didn’t let him fire Ryan or any other holdovers on the staff.

And did he really think he could inquire about college jobs, directly or indirectly, and it wouldn’t get back to Davis?

I’d like to know if the Raiders protected themselves with a convenient buyout clause. That would be only civil way to solve this.

Kiffin isn’t going to quit and leave $4 million. Davis isn’t going to fire him and pay Kiffin $4 million.

But as long as Davis is in charge, things will continue to be wacky around the Raiders.

I wonder if Kiffin could have changed the defensive staff if all of this would have been avoided.

The only recourse Davis seems to have is to make things so bad on Kiffin that he’d quit at the risk of sabotaging the season and having to pay another top-5 pick a lot of money.

I watch WWE because I enjoy a good soap opera mixed with some action.

But it looks like all I have to do is look at the Raiders for something like that.

Obviously Kiffin never mixed in any Mary J. Blige for his practice music.

You’d think Al, Lane, Rob-O and the crew would be sick of all the hateration in the Raider Nation by now.

--Jason Jones

January 25, 2008
Raiders say there is some truth to the report

I spoke with team executive John Herrera about an hour ago. He said there's nothing to the report by ESPN except that James Lofton will interview with Lane Kiffin on Monday about a job as an assistant coach when he returns from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Lofton was fired by San Diego and interviewed to be the team's head coach the last two years, losing out to Art Shell and Kiffin.

Herrera said the status of Kiffin and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan are "non-issues" and that Dennis Green has not been contacted by the team.

This becomes a question of who do you believe.

It's not impossible that Davis, noted for his frugal ways, would ask Kiffin to resign to save paying him about $4 million.

Davis didn't like hearing Kiffin's name mentioned for the Arkansas job, though Kiffin said he was never interested in it. Davis might feel if Kiffin wants to be a college coach, he should go ahead and leave now.

I could also see Kiffin telling Davis to fire him. He talked about making changes and hasn't been allowed to make them. The proof is the staff he took the Senior Bowl is the staff he ended the season with.

Kiffin said he'd make changes quickly.

Meanwhile, Kiffin won't comment on anything that's happened the last three weeks.

But didn't Kiffin say he knew of no rumors from the last few weeks?

This is threatening to ruin all the goodwill Kiffin built this season. And if it keeps up, the Raiders will find themselves in a familiar position in January 2009, with a top-10 draft choice.

Several fans have emailed me calling the situation embarrassing. It truly is.

Fans are fearful of losing another good coach (that Gruden for Tyler Brayton trade didn't work out too well).

I guess this gives us all a reason to watch the Senior Bowl. Rob-O's dad, Buddy Ryan did punch a coach on the sidelines once.

Who knows what will happen this weekend?

--Jason Jones

January 25, 2008
More drama

According to ESPN, Raiders owner Al Davis has drafted a letter of resignation for Lane Kiffin to sign, but Kiffin won't and told Davis to fire him.

--Jason Jones

January 25, 2008
The questions keep coming

I still have to review the linebackers, offensive line, tight ends, quarterbacks and key special teams players.

Before I get to that, I wanted to get to some of the many questions that have filled the inbox lately.

Question: Do you think the Raiders would really take a shot on Shaun Rogers? He may have already peaked in his career. On another note, doesn't Rogers look exactly like DJ Biz Markie? A while ago, Biz was a guest on NFL Total Access and both me and my brother thought it was Shaun Rogers.
Adam, Pittsburgh

Answer: I think the Raiders would definitely take a chance on Rogers. He’s talented and the kind of player the Raiders need in terms of ability.

He’s apparently fallen out of favor in Detroit and is still under contract. If the price is low, the Raiders would be wise to investigate making a deal.

His play tailed off in the second half of the season and there were reportedly concerns about his conditioning. Perhaps a new team would motivate him.

The Raiders did the same thing in trading for Gerard Warren last year and I think Rogers is a better player than Warren.

And you’re right, the Biz (the first pic for those unfamiliar with The Biz) and Rogers (second pic) do look a like. But as a colleague pointed out to me during the season, Warren Sapp (the third pic) also bears a close resemblance to the Biz (and no, I don’t know why Biz seems to always have his tongue out).

The Vapors is still one of my favorite songs of all time and I loved Biz’s appearance in the Jay-Z video for “Girls, Girls, Girls” rocking that tight Vikings Culpepper jersey.

Nobody beats the Biz, nobody beat the Biz!!!

Question: Now that is a cool picture. Well done!

Jason, You haven't talked for awhile on the Raiders' front office. Who do you think Al leans on most these days? Do you see any changes or staff movements between now and this summer? Just curious to know if the Autumn Winds are blowing a little early around the Raiduz exec offices.

Take care, and again - good pic

John in Afghaistan

Answer: I bet you didn’t know I had a neck from the other pic. I was about 40 pounds heavier when I took the old one.

As for the Raiders’ front office, Al’s primary point of expertise is himself. He spends a lot of time talking to friends around the league, but ultimately Al leans on Al.

And I don’t forsee that changing. That’s why there’s no one with the Raiders that has clear job description when it comes to the front office.

As one Raiders employee once told me, “Al is the owner, president of football operations, general manager and head of scouting.”

Al certainly wouldn’t lean on Lane Kiffin for big decisions. He said Kiffin was hired to help evaluate talent, but Al has the final say on that, as he also does on coaching hires.

So unless Mr. Davis were to fall ill, there’s not going to be any change in that.

Question: I've seen a lot of questions asked about McFadden, WRs and DTs. Have you heard anything lately about our situation in the defensive back field? Is Nnamdi coming back for sure? What's gonna happen with Fabian and Routt, it seemed they were getting burned for big gains often this year since no one will throw #21's way. And how about Stu, he couldn't make an open field tackle to save his life and seemed pretty upset at the end of the year for being benched in favor of Hiram?
Robert, Quartz Hill, Ca

Answer: I assume that’s a nice town. One of my all-time favorite Cal football players – Jacob Waasdorp – hailed from those parts.

If the Raiders don’t reach an agreement on a long-term deal by March, when players officially become free agents, Nnamdi Asomugha will get the franchise tag. He’s not expecting to go anywhere and there’s almost no chance he will.

Routt and Fabian Washington figure to battle for the starting corner spot opposite Asomugha. Both will be picked on until one establishes himself as an elite corner. Even then, teams will take their shots and avoid Asomugha.

As for Schweigert, it’s hard to say. By the end of the season, he said coaches really weren’t even talking to him anymore. He also grew frustrated with the Raiders never allowing him to be the guy at free safety last year.

The team started by trying to give B.J. Ward time at his spot and eventually benched Stu in favor of Hiram Eugene, relegating Schweigert to special teams.

He knew his tackling wasn’t up to par, but in fairness, a lot of Raiders couldn’t tackle last season. And some of those missed plays can be attributed to the scheme the Raiders played. If you know your safety can’t cover ground the way you like, you have to adjust.

I like Stu. We both collect jerseys (I told him he should give me his Sandy Koufax considering he’s a Detroit fan and I’m a lifelong Dodger fan) but that aside, I’m not sure he’ll be back next season.

If the Raiders play Michael Huff at free safety, Stu might have to either play strong safety to get on the field or accept a backup role and play special teams where’s still a big contributor.

Question: In your "Finally ... Kiffin on Ryan" update you have a link to the pro football talk rumor section. They cite a "league source". I'm wondering, what constitutes a league source? In my mind that would be someone working full time for the NFL or any one of the teams. Do you know any reporters that would call another reporter or radio host a "league source"?
Thanks...keep up the good work
Robert, San Diego

Answer: What makes someone a league source depends on the reporter. That could range from a GM to the guy that does the laundry. Every organization has its own definition.

I’m sure there are reporters that depend on the word of other reporters in such cases. I wouldn’t do that and I’m sure my bosses wouldn’t let me in the first place.

Question: JASON,

Answer: First off, I was disgusted with how my Lakers came out against the Spurs in the third quarter on Wednesday They fell into give the ball to Kobe and stare mode…not good. And my man Lamar Odom has to be more aggressive on offense.

But back to football before get angry.

Bing was cut before training camp, which told me Kiffin just didn’t think much of him. Considering he knew him from USC, I assumed Darnell would get a real chance to shine under Kiffin.

He was on injured reserve all of 2006 after being told he had a neck injury in his only season with the Raiders. He spent 2007 on the 49ers practice squad and signed with the New York Jets this month.

Being a Long Beach Poly grad like Bing, I definitely hope he does well out there.

Meanwhile, the Raiders continue to search for another safety.

Question: Jason, I don’t know of a way to pass ideas on to the Raiders coaching staff, so I will ask you, and see what you think. Why are they not looking at Jon Alston for SS? He is too small at 6' 225 lbs for LB. He is fast, ask Kiffin about the time Alston ran down Reggie Bush. He can hit, and is a sure tackler. Sometimes it takes someone else to show you what is right under your nose, so pass that on if you can, and let me know what you think. Thanks.
Robert, Walnut Creek

Answer: The Raiders did use Alston like a safety sometimes last year in their 4-4 look. That’s when Huff moved to free and the Raiders used four linebackers. That was to stop the run and even then, that didn’t work.

I know the Raiders like Alston and that he enjoyed being able to get on the field for more than special teams.

In pregame warmups, Alston was often playing safety against the starting offense, so it’s not unrealistic that he might be given a chance at safety next season.

--Jason Jones

January 24, 2008
Kiffin wants out?

That's what the NFL Network's Adam Schefter said today on the radio today. The part about the Raiders is about eight minutes in.

Thanks to Seth for passing this along to me.

Of course, it's all speculation, in part because the Raiders never go out of their way to clarify things.

The most interesting part was Schefter basically saying Al Davis is daring Kiffin to quit while Kiffin is daring Davis to fire him.

The two have contradicted each other publicly on other issues. The most notable being Kiffin saying Randy Moss told him he wouldn't play for the Raiders again while Davis said the coaching staff said Moss couldn't play at a high level anymore.

Kiffin also believed he'd be given latitude, especially with the roster, when hired.

He had a lot more say than others, but that didn't mean Kiffin got all that he wanted.

Sure, "scholarship" players like Alvis Whitted, Carlos Francis, Johnnie Morant and Chad Slaughter were gone. But Kififn would have liked to do more, like get rid of LaMont Jordan and play Michael Bush.

And don't be fooled by Kiffin claiming he had no idea about any rumored discord between he and Rob Ryan.

I think Kiffin will be back next season. He knows if he can win with the Raiders, he can get a job anywhere and succeed.

Don't forget that he does know Jon Gruden.

--Jason Jones

January 24, 2008
More Ryan-Kiffin

Thanks to an old friend in Chicago, the Chronicle's David White found out Rob Ryan believes some reporters don't know "s***" and that he and Lane Kiffin have always been cool.

And much like he did with the Bee's Matt Barrows, Kiffin claimed ignorance to any reports he wanted to fire Ryan.

Trust me. Kiffin knows everything that's written. Why else would he praise players for not complaining to "you guys" in the paper during the season.

But on the surface, the two appear ready to be a part of the happy Raider family.

--Jason Jones

January 24, 2008
Sorting out the secondary

The Franchise wears No. 21.

The big question about the secondary is whether Nnamdi Asomugha will be back for the 2008 season. Barring an unseen change of plans from the Raiders’ front office (such as a long-term deal), Asomugha will receive the franchise tag and be back.

He’s not expecting to play for another team after emerging as one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. And the Raiders would be foolish to let him go.

At least one-fourth of the secondary is settled.

What the Raiders do with the rest of the defensive backfield is uncertain.

The closest thing a certainty beyond Asomugha is that Stanford Routt will be the other starting cornerback.

Yes, he gave up some long touchdowns (against Green Bay and Houston) but with the Raiders almost exclusively in man coverage, that’s going to happen from time to time.

He replaced Fabian Washington in Week 3 and never gave up the starting job. He’s bigger than Fabian and also has good speed.

Washington’s season was among the more disappointing parts of the 2007 season. There was only one game in 2006 (at Cincinnati against Chad Johnson) in which he looked overmatched.

That happened a lot more in 2007 with team going after him in three-receiver sets.

Some of the problems Washington had can’t be fixed. He’s the shortest of the three and teams used big receivers against him. Overall, he didn’t have a horrible season, but it was definitely a step back.

Chris Johnson and Chris Carr were the other cornerbacks that played a lot. Johnson was primarily a special teams player.

In many ways, Carr is the glue of the secondary. He can play cornerback and safety. Besides Asomugha, he was the only other defensive back that you could count on to make an open-field tackle.

He’s a restricted free agent I expect will be back.

I think the Raiders are fine at cornerback. As far as safety, there’s work.

First off, the Raiders need to figure out what they’re going to do with Michael Huff.

The plan was to use him in multiple ways. He would cover receivers. He would blitz. He’d play deep in coverage.

But he ended up spending most of his time covering tight ends.

Huff is about 6-foot and around 200 pounds at the most. He’s not the first smallish strong safety in the NFL, but how the Raiders used him was puzzling.

They didn’t take advantage of his speed or mix up coverages involving him nearly enough.

Lane Kiffin intimated a move to free safety might be in order for 2008. Kiffin said Huff became more aggressive as the season progressed. I don’t think Huff had a bad season. He got better from his rookie season. Now it’s time to take advantage of his athletic ability like a Bob Sanders, Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu is used.

Huff moving to free safety would mean Stuart Schweigert isn’t getting his job back. He lost it after 13 games to Hiram Eugene after being the subject of scorn for missed tackles in the run game.

Schweigert was far from the only offender in that department. It’s one of the reasons Washington was benched. But Schweigert was phased out and only played when Eugene needed a break.

Whether he or Eugene can play strong safety will determine their roles in 2008, assuming they make the team. Both are good on special teams.

The other safety that played was Jarrod Cooper, another special teams star that Kiffin wants the team to resign.

Rashad Baker was claimed off waivers at the end of the season from New England because Kiffin wanted to give him a look at safety for 2008.

If the Raiders can solidify their safety play, it would help in the run game and the passing defense will be fine.

That will start once the Raiders figure out what they’re going to do with Huff. They’ll also look in the draft and free agency for help.

The best safety that would have been available – Sanders – is already locked up.

Oshiomoge Atogwe is a restricted free agent from St. Louis the Raiders should look at.

--Jason Jones

January 23, 2008
Help in the middle?

The Raiders have a history of taking talented players discarded by other teams and finding something left in them.

Perhaps they can do that again this offseason by making another deal with Detroit Lions.

Shaun Rogers, the immensely talented but inconsistent defensive tackle looks like he'll be available at some point this offseason.

If you remember, Rogers dominated the Raiders in the 2007 season opener.

He'd be worth a middle round choice if the Raiders could make a deal. Or they could wait to see if the Lions release him.

--Jason Jones

January 23, 2008
Finally ... Kiffin on Ryan

Thanks to Sac Bee 49ers beat writer Matt Barrows for this from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Here’s Lane Kiffin on the beef he allegedly has with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the man he reportedly want to fire.

"I didn’t really know about those rumors until you told me. Obviously there are no issues there. We’re just looking forward to having a really good week and playing well.”

Kiffin defintely knew of the rumors.

And they haven't stopped because Kiffin and Ryan are in Mobile together. There are still rumors that all isn't well.

But at least someone finally said something.

--Jason Jones

January 22, 2008
So you want McFadden? Gotta deal with Fargas first

Hope all you NFL fans are enjoying Matt Barrows’ coverage from the Senior Bowl.

He’s the 49ers beat writer so his coverage is going to focus on the Niners. If there’s anything related to the Raiders I can use, I’ve already ask that he pass it along.

So on this one, there’s no anti-Raider conspiracy.

Of the nine Trojans Lane Kiffin and his staff are coaching the North Senior Bowl team, I still believe offensive tackle Sam Baker has the best chance of becoming a Raider, assuming the Raiders trade down and Kiffin snags one of his former players

But all the buzz I’m hearing from fans surrounds Darren McFadden.

The Arkansas running back is apparently popular among Raider fans who believe he is the star running back the team has lacked since Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen ran with the Los Angeles Raiders.

With that in mind, here’s my look at the running backs (and fullbacks) from the 2007 season and what the Raiders can do to upgrade.

The story of the 2007 season centers on Justin Fargas and his emergence as a competent tailback. He started seven games and finished with 1,009 yards and four touchdowns – both career highs.

His season ended after 14 games when he sprained his MCL.

But whether Fargas returns is unknown.

He’s an unrestricted free agent. Kiffin is on record as wanting Fargas back. Fargas wants to return, based on conversations I had with him toward the end of the season.

Bringing Fargas back almost guarantees the Raiders won’t draft McFadden – the top back in the draft – if he’s available.

But the Raiders won’t break the bank to keep Fargas. If another team wants to throw a lot of money at Fargas, he’d be crazy to pass it up.

This situation is cloudy because the Raiders never played Michael Bush. I believe it was one of the biggest mistakes of the 2007 season.

Even though LaMont Jordan had already been benched and Dominic Rhodes was available, the Raiders didn’t cut Jordan (who asked to be released) which would have created a roster spot for Bush.

Bush was rated a first-round pick before breaking his leg in 2006 at Louisville. If Bush could have played and shown he’s indeed as good as advertised, it would have done a lot.

If he showed he could be a starting tailback, the Raiders might know they don’t have to pay Fargas a lot of money.

Right now, Fargas has a lot of leverage. He’s popular among teammates, had a good season and as of right now, he’s the only sure thing at running back.

Bush hasn’t played. Jordan will probably be cut and the team has to decide if it wants to pay Rhodes a lot of money to be a backup.

Before McFadden can become a reality, the Raiders have to decide if Fargas and Bush is a tandem worth investing in.

If it is, don’t expect McFadden to be a Raider.

Then again, it’s always been said Al Davis likes his stars …

The Raiders are fine at fullback. Justin Griffith is a veteran with receiving ability. Oren O’Neal is coming off a rookie season in which he proved to be a punishing run blocker.

Based on questions I’ve received lately, there are a lot of questions about the offensive line. So that’s what I’ll touch on in the next couple of days while I mix in some time off while waiting to hear from Kiffin.

--Jason Jones

January 20, 2008
I'm happy for...

Kevin Boothe. He was truly one of the nicest guys around the Raiders that was cut before the season.

Now he's going to the Super Bowl as a backup offensive lineman for the Giants.

He only appeared in one regular season game because the Giants, who seemed to be hit with a rash of injuries on their line every year, were remarkably healthy in 2007.

Boothe was thought to be the Raiders' best lineman in 2006 by many, but Lane Kiffin didn't think he was athletic enough to play for him.

I know Kevin would like to be playing more, but I also know he'll enjoy the next two weeks and seeing what it's like to go from being on the worst team in the NFL to being on one of the final two teams.

The same goes for Dave Tollefson, the Giants defensive end that was picked up from the Raiders' practice squad.

He was telling me all about playing Halo 3 before he left for New York. And I got the game after he was gone and never finished the tutorial he started with me.

And for those you that seem to care so much (and I'm not sure why), I have taken a new photo for the blog. One in which I don't look so sad/angry to have my job. It should be up sometime in the next few days.

I'll be enjoying the MLK holiday tomorrow and imagine most of you will too. I'll be back Tuesday answering more questions and taking a look at the Raiders' options at running back (at least that's the plan for now).

But if there's something of note to get out there (perhaps Kiffin speaks at the Senior Bowl) I might check in sooner.

I did try to get him on the phone before this weekend and that didn't happen.

--Jason Jones

January 19, 2008
You ask and I try to answer

Question: I thought you made a great point about tying up too much money in one position (RB) when we have other positions to fill. I think Jerry Jones, an Arkansas Alumni, would be interested in RUN DMc.

My questions are what would they have to give up to get McFadden? If we get both the first rounders, (we would end up with 3 top 35 prospects) do we have the money to do sign them?
I believe this would give us a number 1 receiver, a good DT and a good safety. Thank you for taking time to answer
Answer: No problem, JD. Anything I can do for someone from Long Beach, I will.

There’s been plenty of talk about what Dallas might be willing to do to get Darren McFadden.

The Cowboys own the 22nd and either the 28th or 29th picks in the first round. Two first round picks would be enticing, but would the Raiders want to move that far down in the draft?

The Raiders have approximately $26 million in cap space (the salary cap is projected to be about $116 million) before having cut high-priced players like LaMont Jordan, having restructured any contracts or resigned any players.

Trading down makes economic sense, but the Raiders shouldn’t trade down so far they can’t land an impact player or players.

But there’s something people tend to forget. The Cowboys have a very good running back already in Marion Barber. He’ll be a restricted free agent. Julius Jones was the starter, but Barber did the heavy lifting and was named to the Pro Bowl.

If the Cowboys reward Barber with a big contract, the Cowboys might elect to keep their picks. But that doesn’t mean there’s a team willing to move up and grab McFadden if the Raiders don’t select him.

State: Ca
Question: Hey what's up Jason. I have a quick question and hopefully you have an answer. Even though the Raiders kept Rob Ryan,is there any truth that they will be switching to the cover 2 defense? Please keep up the good work.
JD, Salinas

Answer: I haven’t heard that one. Funny thing is the Raiders have some personnel in place that would make them a good cover 2 team.

They’ve got a dominant pass rusher (Derrick Burgess) and three linebackers that can run. The problem the Raiders have is that scheme requires a secondary full of good tacklers. That’s one area the Raiders need to improve, regardless of their scheme.

Question: Hey Jason,

What’s up with all of the hating on Jerry Porter? He has the ability of an elite WR, but just hasn't had the benefit of having consistent p.t. with a good QB. His best season as a Raider,2004 he had 998yds and 8 td's just 7 yards less and 1 more touchdown than Randy Moss' best season as a Raider. Pre-Shell he had back to back 950yds plus seasons. He is 6'2" 220, has ok speed, good hands and body control, and will go over the middle. Marginal effort is due to lackluster QB play. Nation, stop hating!!!!
Tyler, Los Angeles

Answer: Tyler, I’ve never quite understood the mass hatred of Porter (and yes, I know that statement will solicit emails of why you all hate him). He was by far the team’s most consistent receiver in 2007 after his banishment by Art Shell in 2006. This, even though he went stretches where Raider quarterbacks didn’t throw to him even though he was the only receiver on the team that could beat man coverage with any consistency.

When it comes to media bashing, I can tell you some of that has to do with some just not liking him as a person. Is that fair? No. But it happens with the media.

Lane Kiffin loved Porter. He’d heard that Porter was basically a malcontent that didn’t want to work and found him to be the opposite of that.

I’m not convinced Porter won’t be back next season. But I know he’s going to see if there’s an opportunity on a winning team that fits him.

Question: Your thoughts, if time allows:
The defense changes (back) to the 3-4 alignment. If Ryan is really staying, you know that's what he prefers. Draft a nose tackle in the 1st round. Start Clemons at ILB as a "rush backer".
4 years ago, the Raiders best DL was Sapp, who couldn't play either DE or NT. And they kept on trying to convert ends into LBs. Clemons has played LB before & they've got Morrison, Howard & Thomas + Ricky Brown.
It should be easier to find 1 good DT than 2. And there's several other holes to fill.
Will, Sacramento’

Answer: I’ve thought of the notion of Ryan going back to a 3-4, but I’m not sure if the personnel fits that.

The Raiders linebackers are perfect for a 4-3. But the bigger concern would be what to do with Burgess.

He’s too small to do what’s asked of a 3-4 defensive end. And I don’t know if he has the ability to drop into coverage as a linebacker. Teams would figure out he’s always rushing and take advantage with quick passes to his side.

Sam Williams would be a good 3-4 outside backer. Though I like Morrison, Howard and Thomas in a 4-3, they could play in a 3-4 if Morrison and Thomas were the inside guys.

But Burgess is too good at what he does to mess with. And I think Ryan learned his lesson with the Sapp experiment.

Question: Mr. Jones,
I dunno about this whole need thing at DL. It’s a need, but if an LT, A.Peterson, E. Dickerson type player is available; you have to take him. Have you seen Darren McFadden'shiglight reel ? It’s disgusting..... We will put up points and then teams won’t be able run on us all afternoon. Run defense is not just DT, Its gaps, its overpursuit, its a SS we lack, and its the fact that we don’t put up points. We need explosive playmakers that go win a game for us, not guys that slow down the inevitable loss.
Morgan, Santa Barbara

Answer: I’ve seen a lot of McFadden highlights. Before Justin Fargas emerged, I was convinced the Raiders would draft him if he were available.

If the Raiders don’t resign Fargas, they almost have to take McFadden, especially if they cut Jordan and Dominic Rhodes.

You’re right that fixing the run defense is more than plugging in a new defensive tackle. But it’s where the team should start if it’s going to build the defense.

The team does need explosive playmakers, but as the Raiders showed more than once, with our without the lead, an inability to stop the run leads to losses.

Question: Has there been any thought to trading down and selecting Kenny Phillips from Miami to play alongside Michael Huff? There seems to be a lot of interest from Dallas in McFadden, and with their two first rounders a defensive tackle we can live with would likely be on the board as well... I realize that if Dorsey is available we take him, no question, but if he's not?

Also, do you think Max Starks (Steelers free agent LT) would be a good fit for us?
John, Boise, Idaho

Answer: Safety is a position the Raiders are looking to upgrade, even if there’s no trade with Dallas.

Don’t be surprised if Huff is moved to free safety and the Raiders move to bring in another strong safety.

The Raiders have wanted to do this for some time.

As for Starks, I’m not sure. He’d fit in coming from a running team, but I’m not sure what kind of salary he’d command.

He played right tackle and lost his starting job before moving to the left side as an injury replacement.

Paul McQuistan might have done enough to keep the right tackle job, so Starks, 26, would have to come in to replace Barry Sims.

Question: I'm on board with you when it comes to using the first pick on the defensive line. However, if Long is there, they should and will take him. The Raiders love pass rushing defensive ends and Tommy Kelly is probably a little too slow for an end. With that said, he won't be there at #3, so they'll pick a DT. By the way, you joked about Sands simply sticking out his arm to make a tackle on a RB, did you see the arm tackle he made on LaDainian in week 17? Unbelievable. Still, he’s a huge disappointment.

Answer: I think Chris Long will be gone, too.

And I saw that play Sands made. It startled me not only because of what he did, but also because I wasn’t used to hearing his name much during the season.

Joking aside, I spoke with a scout that said the problem with Sands is he struggles when he comes in and out of games and that after losing his starting job, it was tough for Sands to find a groove again.

If he found it, Darren McFadden would be a lock for the Raiders.
--Jason Jones

January 17, 2008
Review of the rececivers

I’ve received a lot of input from fans on the Raiders need at defensive tackle and whether they’d pass on Darren McFadden if he’s available when the Raiders select.

As of now, I know the Raiders want to retain Justin Fargas. And while he won’t command the salary of a LaDainian Tomlinson, Fargas won’t come cheap.

This is further complicated by the Raiders mistake of not getting Michael Bush on the field to see if he is a potential franchise running back.

So unless Fargas isn’t resigned and Dominic Rhodes and LaMont Jordan are both released, I can’t see the Raiders going running back right now.

They would appear to be in a good position to trade down if McFadden is available when they select and save a lot of money.

Whether the Raiders pursue McFadden is a good question. However, there’s no debating the team needs to look at adding receivers.

Question: Jason, first off I read your blog daily, keep up the good job. I won’t hate on you about the "Al" thing.

My Question is about WR, In my opinion Porter is not and never has been a viable option at the #1 slot, Curry is a good #2 and great number #3, and beyond those two I don’t see anything good, So what are the Raiders to do? Draft one in the first two rounds, or pick up/trade for a proven Veteran? i.e. Chad Johnson or Roy Williams? I would love to see Williams in S&B (proven work ethic.) Thanks again
Jim, Mackinney, Tex.

Question: The only legitimate starting WR on our roster is Ronald Curry. How is it wide-receiver isn't the area of biggest need for the Raiders? We at least have some bodies on the defensive line.
Chris, Rocklin

Answer: I’ll address Chris’ question first. I’d say the defensive line is a bigger need because it’s the foundation of building a good defense, similar to an offense needing a good line.

And until the defensive line is addressed, the Raiders will continue to struggle stopping the run.

Now on to Jim’s question.

The coaching staff expected a big year from Curry that didn’t materialize. His 55 catches for 717 yards were both below his 2006 numbers.

That’s not all on Curry. The Raiders started three different quarterbacks. So that’s a big reason the passing game struggled at times and ranked 31st in the NFL.

Curry did have a number of uncharacteristic drops and false starts this season, too. But he’ll be the focus of the offense unless the Raiders acquire a player like Chad Johnson in a trade.

But if you believe Bengals coach Marvin Lewis Mr. Ocho Cinco isn’t going anywhere.

Also, the problem with that is the Raiders are short on draft picks, having dealt this year’s third round pick (to draft Mario Henderson) and a fifth round pick (to acquire Gerard Warren).

Also trading for a big name receiver means taking on a big contract and Kiffin is big on having salary flexibility.

I agree with Jim's assessment of Roy Williams. Al Davis nearly drafted him in 2004 when he picked Robert Gallery.

Making a deal for Williams makes more sense than Johnson.

Williams will be entering the final year of his contract and the Lions have a lot of money invested in Calvin Johnson. So if the Raiders can trade for him and agree to a new contract, not inherit one, it would be a wise move.

Jerry Porter is likely gone in free agency. Kiffin (admirably, I think) took blame along with the coaching staff for the lack of development in Johnnie Lee Higgins.

I think the Raiders hurt themselves by giving time to Tim Dwight, an aging vet that isn't likely to return in 2008, that could have been used to develop Higgins during his rookie season.

I fully expect Chris McFoy, a receiver from USC that was promoted to the active roster late in the season to be given a chance to make the 2008 team. Kiffin likes big receivers and McFoy is a physical player.

The Raiders need an impact receiver, so much so, I think it trumps the offensive line in order of need for the offense.

As far as the draft, the mock drafts I’ve seen have Cal and former Long Beach Poly star DeSean Jackson as the top receiver, but the Raiders wouldn’t take him at No. 3 or No. 4.

Others like Oklahoma’s Malcolm Kelly, Michigan’s Mario Manningham, Texas’ Limas Sweed and LSU’s Early Doucet are potential first-rounders if the Raiders trade down.

If one were to slip to the second round, they could step in and possibly start.

In free agency, Chicago’s Bernard Berrian, Jacksonville’s Ernest Wilford and Arizona’s Bryant Johnson are realistic targets. Players like New England’s Donte’ Stallworth could become available if their teams opt not to pay them large bonuses this spring.

The biggest free agent will be a certain receiver from New England with ties to Oakland.

But don’t look for Randy Moss to be back.

--Jason Jones

January 16, 2008
More questions

Before moving on another immediate area of need, wide receiver, I’ll address some more questions about the defensive line.

And by the way, for those of you that hate me for having a little fun with the Al Davis deal today, it’s all good.

For those of you who liked it, congrats on having a sense of humor. I don't hate Al Davis. As I've stated before, I grew up a BIG Raider fan.

I know Randy (I'm in a good mood) Moss had to be traded and Norv Turner was 9-23. But you have to admit you never thought it would be Norv standing in between Randy’s quest for a Super Bowl ring.

Question: Why do you think we need to take a DT high in the first round? History proves that ones line can be addressed in the middle of the draft. Rod Coleman, Grady Jackson, and Richardson all were drafted by the Raiders in the middle rounds. If the Raiders have a shot to take McFadden at 3 or 4, they better jump on it. Smart Raider fan says we were 4-12 last year, and that we are building for the next 5 years, not reloading for 2008. We have our QB now it is time to get our RB in round 1 and WR in round 2.
Michael, Honolulu
Answer: Because it’s the Raiders biggest need and it hasn’t been addressed in a long time. Coleman and Jackson were drafted several years ago.

Also history would show you can find a running back, especially one for the Raiders’ system, later in the draft. Also the Raiders will probably resign Justin Fargas and they already have Michael Bush and possibly Dominic Rhodes returning.

Drafting Darren McFadden would tie up a lot of money in one position when the Raiders need help in a lot of areas.

So you have your running backs to go with the quarterback. Drafting a receiver in the second round wouldn’t be a bad idea. But after watching the Raiders be continually gashed in the run game, they can’t ignore the defensive line.

The only way I see them not taking a defensive tackle in the first round is they trade down and take a receiver and follow that up with a defensive tackle in the second round or if they find a DT in free agency.

Question: What is the purpose that Brayton is on the football field, any field for that matter???
Jeremy, Hollywood, Fla.
Answer: I once had a Raiders employee ask the same question. I had no answer then and still don’t. The coaches say he’s a hard worker.

Question: What's up Jason; In regards to the Defensive Tackles and the DEFINITE NEED for more isn't Jonathan Lewis on the practice squad? He's a kid out of Virginia Tech that was drafted in the 6th round by the Cardinals. Another question would be have you heard the coaching staff speak of him in terms of making an impact in 2008
Jeff, Los Angeles
Answer: Lewis did finish the season on the practice squad. I never heard the coaching staff say much about him, but I’m sure Lane Kiffin will take a look at him in the offseason.

--Jason Jones

January 15, 2008
On to the defensive tackles

Yesterday, I looked at the Raiders needs at defensive end. Now it's time to examine who the Raiders might have back at defensive tackle.

Many of the Raiders problems stopping the run had to do with their inability to control the middle of the line of scrimmage.

That’s why Lane Kiffin will address the middle of the defense, probably in the first round, of the NFL Draft in April.

One area the Raiders defensive tackles were especially bad at were occupying blockers. Too often opposing offensive linemen ran freely and blocked linebackers and even safeties.

This is an ongoing problem the Raiders figured they solved by retaining Terdell Sands last year.

At 6-foot-7 and listed at 335 pounds (but if he’s that light, I’m 100 pounds), Sands was going to be the answer to teams gashing the Raiders in the middle.

Sands showed flashes in 2006 (a contract year) that he could do that. And as teammates joked, he was so big that all he needed to do was stick an arm out to knock down a running back.

But after signing a four-year deal with $4 million guaranteed, Sands lost his starting job by Week 3. Only an injury to Gerard Warren got Sands back in the starting lineup.

There were times (really) when Sands was effective. It just wasn’t often enough. Lane Kiffin said the problem with Sands is he didn’t play with good pad level, too often standing tall and becoming an easy target for blockers.

Gerard Warren was acquired just before the regular season and at times was disruptive, particularly in the passing game. He came at a bargain because Denver had paid most of salary in bonuses before the trade.

He wouldn’t be a bad player to bring back at the right price, especially if the Raiders draft Glenn Dorsey or Sedrick Ellis and use Warren in a rotation along with Sands.

The Raiders have neglected the positon for too long, looking for free agents like Ted Washington and Warren Sapp or finding undrafted players to fill the void.

Kiffin intends to draft a player that can start immediately in the first round. So either Sands or Warren would be a backup next year if the Raiders draft a defensive tackle.

That would favor Warren being gone considering the Raiders have made a nice investment in Sands and Davis hates the notion of wasting money.

The Raiders will have to decide if they want to pay Warren the remainder of the six-year, $36 million deal he signed in 2006.

Outside of these two, the Raiders are thin at defensive tackle. Warren Sapp retired. Josh Shaw was a practice squad player that ended up inactive most of the time after being called up.

Tommy Kelly and Tyler Brayton both played defensive tackle. Both also might be better suited at defensive end.

--Jason Jones

January 14, 2008
The means to an end

Norv Turner, that man noted for his inability to inspire anything other than boredom, beat the defending Super Bowl Champions with a drive led by Billy Volek.


Now he'll go against the Patriots and Randy Moss, who famously dismissed Turner as a coach in an ESPN interview back in 2005.

But I won't pour salt in the wounds of Raider fans who've dealt with seeing the happy Moss set records in New England.

I try to be a man of my word so today I begin y look at the Raiders biggest needs with the help of some reader questions.

I’ll begin with area that needs the most help, the defensive line.

Question: With the first round pick in this up coming draft would you see Glenn Dorsey as a better fit then Chris Long? I like both players don't get me wrong but Chris was born to be a Raiders player based on his father. Do you think the Raiders may just trade down pick up some picks and get an OL. Let me know. P.S. I read your blogs almost everyday.
John, Post Falls, Idaho

Answer: Thanks for the question, John.

From what I’ve seen in nearly three seasons following the Raiders, I’d say Dorsey, the massive defensive tackle from LSU is the best fit.

I love Chris Long. His dad was my favorite player growing up. Because I couldn’t wear No. 75 (Long Beach Poly didn’t have one) I wore 57 in honor of Howie Long. The Raiders will probably resign Tommy Kelly and play him at defensive end, meaning there won’t be as big a need at the position.

The Raiders were dominated by the opposition on runs up the middle this year. And the team has not done a good job developing any young defensive tackles. The closest thing would be Terdell Sands, who was wildly inconsistent in 2007 after receiving a four-year, $17 million contract.

They’ve opted for free agents like Warren Sapp and Ted Washington or trading for the likes of Gerard Warren to fill the void in the middle.

Unless the Raiders find another stopgap via free agency, the Raiders need to address defensive tackle early.

Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris Long goes first overall. If Dorsey is available when the Raiders’ pick comes up, expect him to be a Raider.

The Raiders could trade down, but I’d still expect them to select a defensive lineman if they do. Paul McQuistan did well enough that he will probably remain the starting right tackle. Guards Robert Gallery and Cooper Carlisle should be fine.

The question is if the Raiders look for an upgrade at left tackle with Barry Sims getting older and the status of Jeremy Newberry unknown at center. Jake Grove, Newberry’s backup, will be returning but missed much of the season with a knee injury.


Before the Raiders draft, there will be a lot of examining the defensive line in 2007.

Some things went right.

Defensive ends

That Jay Richardson was able to start at both defensive end spots as a rookie means at the very least, the Raiders have better depth at the position.

After being disappointed in how Derrick Burgess was playing against the run, Kiffin came away a fan of his effort and his role as a leader by the end of the season.

Burgess didn’t have Warren Sapp playing at the same level he was at in 2006 so teams were able to focus on him more. And with teams running at the Raiders consistently, there were fewer pass rush chances for him.

The Raiders also need to resign Kiffin favorite Chris Clemons.

He’s undersized for a defensive end (6-3, 240), but he’s the kind of player the Raiders need more of. He doesn’t pass the eyeball test (he looks like a linebacker) but he finished tied with Burgess for the team-lead with eight sacks.

Clemons is a film junkie that spent a couple of hours every Tuesday, the players’ off days, trying to find ways to improve.

Tommy Kelly played end and tackle. If he’s going to be a tackle, the Raiders could look to lure a free agent end to Oakland to play opposite Burgess or draft Long if he’s available.

Of the defensive ends I’ve seen in college, Long is the only one worthy of going so high.

If Kelly is resigned and healthy, he could still play end, making Dorsey or Sedrick Ellis, bigger priorities to draft at defensive tackle.

Tyler Brayton played end and tackle. That just leaves middle linebacker and the secondary as the only areas of the field the Raiders haven’t tried him at.

He can be become a free agent that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Raiders resigned him.

I’ll look at defensive tackles tomorrow.

--Jason Jones

January 13, 2008
Casserly's cap casualties

But of course, LaMont Jordan was on Charley Casserly's list of players likely to be cut for salary cap reasons.

In the case of Jordan, the Raiders have $6.1 million reasons not to bring Jordan back for the 2008 season.

It shouldn't be forgotten the Raiders were willing to cut Jordan last spring if he hadn't agreed to a pay cut.

Jordan did. He grumbled about it. Then he played well for four weeks before a back injury and he eventually lost his job to Justin Fargas.

But more than his salary, I think Lane Kiffin isn't a fan of Jordan's attitude.

I think it's no coincidence a few days after Jordan talked to the media at the end of the season that Kiffin praised Fargas as a player that waited his turn instead of complaining to the media.

Jordan didn't say anything crazy, but I imagine Kiffin didn't like Jordan saying he wasn't sure how to stay warm and ready on the sidelines even though he'd been a backup for the New York Jets.

I'm guessing Jordan with sweat pants over his game pants didn't go over well with Kiffin, either.

Kiffin also said the great start Jordan could be attributed to playing teams that were "soft" in the middle of their defenses.


I'll miss Jordan. We're both big pro wrestling fans and he was always good for a discussion on what happened on Monday Night Raw.

But I think even if he were due to make $6.10, Kiffin wouldn't have him back.

Have fun watching the playoff games today.

--Jason Jones

January 11, 2008
Ryan talk has the Nation stirred

Ah, the joys of the offseason.

I’ve received more questions in the last few days than I did over the course of a month at times this season.

Again, I am the target of some of the anger, which I can take. As long as the Lakers keep winning, I’ll be just fine.

There are more questions about the draft and free agency, which I’ll begin addressing next week via postings that examine what the Raiders need, who they should keep and who might be wise to go after.

Before I get to that, the Raider Nation can’t get enough of the Rob Ryan saga, that has really died down in the last few days.

Question: Over this season it has been reported that, "according to a team source," Kiffin is so intimidated by his own youth that he will cut every player over the age of 31; Kiffin is planning to take the HC job in Arkansas; Kiffin was so upset being passed over by Arkansas that he was cursing, slamming doors, and throwing things; Kiffin is going to fire SOB and hire his dad; Kiffin hates SOB and wants him gone; Davis loves SOB and wants him to be HC.

And, according to you, it's all true until denied.
Jim H., Mountain View

Answer: First, I assume the SOB you speak of is the Son of Buddy (Ryan).

If you check my files, none of the things mentioned were reported by me. I said Kiffin might look to bring in his own defensive coordinator, but never said he was going to hire his dad. In fact, I stated more than once that Kiffin hiring his dad made little, if any, sense. I’ve said if Kiffin were to quit, Ryan would be a candidate to coach the team, but I’ve never said Kiffin was leaving. That was in response to another report on television. And we all know if it’s said on television, it’s true.

One problem readers and players have sometimes is they confuse who is saying what and just blame the media as a whole for starting rumors.

In closing, it’s not all true until denied. Some of it’s not true at all. And believe it or not, I laughed at the Kiffin slamming doors deal.

Question: Are you just on the outside looking in or what? It is clear from the information I have received that Kiffin is just fine with the direction of the Organization as outlined by Al Davis in their end of the season meetings. In fact Davis, Kiffin & Ryan have been spotted together and the word is they are working towards a common goal for the 2008 season. In addition the contract Kiffin signed is for 3 years and two additional team options, so why must you trash a good thing? Stand up Tyrone's bro or lose your pass....
Paul, Temecula

Answer: Would you mind passing along your source to me? I obviously could use some help.

And what good thing have I trashed? The team was 4-12. Kiffin wouldn’t tell you he has a good thing going and won’t until the Raiders are contenders.

Well, I’ll stop being cynical for a moment.

I don’t doubt the Raiders are working toward the common goal of winning games in 2008. I’ve only questioned if they share the same vision on what’s the best way to get that done.

I hope I don’t get my pass revoked for that.

Question: About the Kiffin/Ryan and Shell/Walsh comment, Walsh was the OC not DC. Kiffin was allowed to bring his own offensive staff, as was Shell.
Al, Chicago

Answer: That is true. My point was Davis has the final say on all coaching staff hires. He somehow saw no problem allowing Shell to hire a coordinator that had been out of the NFL for more than a decade.

On the other hand, Davis apparently won’t allow his coach to hire a new defensive coordinator after the team hasn’t been able to stop the run over the last few seasons.

And let’s not even get into Davis saying Art Shell made him draft Michael Huff.

Davis is the man. He runs the show. So if he gets credit when the team does well, he deserves criticism, too.

But he might be right in the end. The defense could end up being good. But if it’s not, Kiffin has the right to be upset.

Question: I read the criticisms of you and I disagree with them. I believe you write the truth even though it may hurt yourself to say it and us loyal fans.

My question is... Do the players begin to feel torn, like children in between fighting parents, or do they treat this as a profession and ignore all the supposed fighting amongst the ranks of our leadership?

I for one refuse to take a side in the quarrels because Al built our Raiders and sometimes needs help but may not trust the people to care as much as he does. Thanks
Max, Sinclairville, NY

Answer: Players tend not to feel torn because they learn quickly they have no say over what happens with management.

Players on defense love Rob Ryan. But they understood based on their performance, there was a good chance Ryan wouldn’t be back and didn’t expect him back.

I believe the Raiders need a strong general manager to help run things. But until further notice, Al Davis has that job.

--Jason Jones

January 9, 2008
Second to Lee?

Shane Lechler beat out 49ers punter Andy Lee for the NFL punting crown this season, but was a second-team All-Pro behind Lee.

I've read numerous All-Pro teams that cite Lee's 42 punts that were downed inside the 20, compared to Lechler's 25.

But Lee also had 32 more punts than Lechler and 13 touchbacks compared to seven by Lechler.

Lechler also had a better average and net average than Lee.

Not to say Lee is undeserving of accolades, I just think Shane should have been on the first team.

Then again, what to do a bunch of writers voting on these things really know?

Just a thought for those you you angry at Al Davis for making Lane Kiffin keep Rob Ryan as his defensive coordinator.

Davis allowed Art Shell to bring in Tom Walsh, but won't let Kiffin get rid of Ryan?

Weird, huh?

--Jason Jones

January 8, 2008
You can't buy (or trade for) Ryan

I'm borrowing this from Jerry McDonald, the Oakland Tribune's NFL writer, who posted this on his blog today:

“Draft choices and/or cash can be used to only to acquire head coaches or president/GMs, not assistant coaches or any other club employees,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said via e-mail Tuesday.

There goes the theory Davis is holding on to Ryan for compensation.

--Jason Jones

January 8, 2008
Dorsey is the man

First off, as an alum of a Pac-10 school, I will boycott the BCS title game if Ohio State gets in again by winning the Big Ten (err, 11) and beating three other colleges in Ohio.

But since it’s almost impossible for me to watch college football without seeing which players might fit with the Raiders, that’s what I did last night.

If Glenn Dorsey is available, the Raiders have to draft him.

I’d advocate trading up to get him, but chances are that would mean giving up high picks in this year’s draft, and possibly next year’s No. 1 pick.

The Raiders already don’t have their third round pick, having traded it to acquire Mario Henderson last year in the third round.

Then the Raiders didn’t come close to playing Mario Henderson. Go figure.

And with the Raiders not likely to be 12-4 next season, that would be an awfully high pick to give up next year.

I love how Dorsey plays along the line of scrimmage against the run. He doesn’t avoid blockers, rather he controls them and makes plays in the run game. Dorsey did this while facing constant double teams.

I was disappointed not to be able to watch more of Craig Steltz, the LSU safety that was injured during the game.

The Raiders need another safety and I wanted to see him play. Early Doucet wouldn't look bad as a Raider, but he'd probably have to fall to the second round for the Raiders to take him. They wouldn't take him high in the first round.

--Jason Jones

January 8, 2008
More questions

Lane Kiffin vs. Al Davis. Lane Kiffin vs. Rob Ryan. Raiders fans vs. me.

The questions about the Raiders’ continue to pour in.

Question: Jason,
Is Kiffin on the way out? Brian Billick or Rob Ryan in as head coach? No, I do not use drugs or drink!
Pat, Lodi
Answer: Kiffin is out if he decides he wants to not coach next season, but I don’t’ think that will happen. If by some strange happenings Kiffin were gone, Ryan would be a logical replacement as Davis as shown a lot of faith I him. As for Billick, all I have to say is have you seen what he’d done with offenses in Baltimore? Didn’t think you’d want that to happen to JaMarcus Russell.

Question: How is that you, Peter King King, and the rest of the media know for sure that Kiffin doesn't want Ryan around? Can you please show me a quote from Kiffin saying this? All I remember Kiffin saying, is in the offseason, he will evaluate the players as well as the staff. Nowhere did he say he wants Ryan gone. All these claims are just speculation by an obviously biased media. This is getting to the point of irresponsible journalism.
Dave, Newport News, Va.

Answer: Dave, you’re right. I can’t show you one quote from Kiffin saying he doesn’t want Ryan around. That’s because Kiffin can’t say that because of what’s happening now. He would have looked stupid to say “I’m firing Rob Ryan” only to be told he couldn’t. But I also can’t show you a quote where Kiffin said he wanted Ryan back. And he was asked point blank if Ryan had coached his last game. If he’d said “no” that would end all the speculation.

And on my part there isn’t any bias against the Raiders. I like Kiffin. I like Ryan. I can’t speak for national writers such as King, but I can assure you most don’t have time to be biased against a team that has lost at least 11 games that last five seasons.

By the way, I’m still waiting for Kiffin to endorse Ryan as his guy. I’m not holding my breath, though. That would be irresponsible.

Question: Jason,
Is there a requirement, that the teams who take on the coaching responsibilities at the Senior Bowl, come equipped with a FULL staff?

And, is there any reason to speculate from the above that we are retaining Kiffin, but not Ryan? Since the Raiders released their statement in regards to Ryan on the 4th, the day before we were awarded the Senior Bowl.

Just seems too fishy that either Kiffin or Davis would be this heated as Adam Schefter has proclaimed, instead they are playing the waiting game in my opinion.
Chris, Las Crces, NM

Answer: A full staff is needed at the Senior Bowl. The staff is responsible for coaching an entire team so position coaches would be needed for that.

There’s talk Davis is holding out on compensation for Ryan (not likely he’d get any) and that Davis simply wouldn’t pay Ryan if he weren’t coaching for the Raiders (very likely).

There’s still a chance Ryan wouldn’t return. But the longer this drags out, the less likely his departure is.

Question: I don't understand your criticism of Kiffin and/or Davis making a statement about Ryan one way or the other. My understanding is that Kiffin and Davis have yet to have their coaching evaluation meeting. I would think it highly bad form, and bad for business to make a statement prior to that meeting. Also, as the media speculation regarding Ryan and the Jets and Lane and Monte Kiffin require tampering in order to be true, isn't it just possible that unjustifiably accusing Kiffin and/or Ryan of tampering might be a tad "irresponsible" and the basis for Taylor's complaint? Or is that just old school thinking, and no longer applicable to today's press?

Answer: The Raiders began meeting to evaluate the 2007 season last week. My only critique of the statement from the Raiders was that it wasn’t attributed to Kiffin or Davis, but from the “organization” through PR director Mike Taylor.

True, he is a team spokesman. But with so many questions about the situation that have gone unanswered, it merited something attributed to either Davis or Kiffin.

And you’re right about the tampering issue. Had the Jets contacted Ryan without the Raiders permission that would be tampering. It would be the same for the Raiders if they hadn’t waited until the end of the season to talk to Monte Kiffin.

I never wrote Kiffin planned to hire his father or that Ryan had a job lined up with the Jets. I mentioned there were reports along those lines, but also mentioned Monte Kiffin had a playoff game to coach and that the Jets hadn’t fired their defensive coordinator.

But don’t’ think these discussions don’t happen between coaches that believe they might lose their jobs and are looking for a new one.

January 7, 2008
A take on King's take

Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King continued the Lane Kiffin might not return banter in his column posted today on

It started at the end of NBC’s playoff coverage on Saturday when he said Kiffin wasn't a lock to be back in 2008.

I didn’t hear the comment then as I’d turned off the game to commence playing Xbox with the games over.

Kiffin's frustrations are justified. He doesn’t want Rob Ryan running his defense so Al Davis should let him fire Ryan.

Do I think Kiffin would resign? It's possible. He wouldn't be out of work long.

King noted Davis could fire Kiffin. If he does that, good luck finding someone other than Ryan to take the job.

Davis’ hands-on approach is why the Raiders job is one of the least attractive in the NFL. Kiffin thought he had assurances things would be different. Perhaps he should have taken a cue when his good friend and former Raiders assistant coach Steve Sarkisian backed out of taking the job last year.

I’m still not convinced Ryan will be back, in spite of the Raiders request on Friday that media speculation stops in regards to Ryan.

The facts are the facts. Outside of 2006, the Raiders have not been a good defense under Ryan. The Raiders have consistently been one of the worst teams against the run under Ryan.

Kiffin has done a lot to fix the Raiders’ dysfunctional locker room. This situation will set it back.

And unless Davis wants to see the Raiders remain at the bottom of the AFC West and continue drafting in the top-5, he needs to let Kiffin do his job and fire Ryan.

--Jason Jones

January 6, 2008
Senior moments

The Senior Bowl is sure to test Lane Kiffin.

He’ll be there, presumably with Rob Ryan as his defensive coordinator. And how Kiffin works with someone he’d like to replace is something to watch later this month.

Ryan might be there coaching while Kiffin interviews his possible replacement as the Senior Bowl is where coaches looking for work congregate.

That’s where Kiffin courted offensive line coach Tom Cable last year.

The responses I’ve seen about the Ryan situation suggests many fans are upset with Al Davis over this. I can’t I disagree.

Kiffin has been undermined and this will eventually create a problem with the team. It began with some questionable roster moves during the season (holding on to LaMont Jordan, not putting Jarrod Cooper on injured reserve to get a look at younger players, etc.).

Now Kiffin’s work to fix the locker room chemistry could be shot if players that are loyal to Ryan (even if the defense hasn’t been great under him) feel Kiffin doesn’t want their guy around.

Then again, the players know who’s really in charge.

--Jason Jones

January 4, 2008
Ryan's still a Raider

It’s not going to happen, apparently:

It had been reported Rob Ryan was already fired as Raiders defensive coordinator.

Here is the team’s statement:

“The recent conjecture regarding the removal of Rob Ryan is incorrect and the constant barrage of rumors is irresponsible. The Raider Organization — through spokesman Mike Taylor — stated that the speculation that Rob Ryan will be relieved of his duties should stop.”

OK. That means the Raiders want the media to stop saying Ryan has been fired or might be fired.

Fair enough. So when will Lane Kiffin come out and say Ryan is his guy?

Of course the speculation is incorrect if it hasn't happened yet. But isn't that the point of speculation?

Remember, the Raiders resorted to name-calling when the NFL Network reported Art Shell would be fired during the 2006 season.

Then he was fired.

The speculation won't stop until Kiffin says Ryan won't be fired.

Kiffin hasn’t said anything positive about the defensive staff in a while.

He’s called the defense a disappointment, but didn’t blame the defense entirely for the 4-12 season.

I’ve contended all the problems on defense weren’t Ryan’s alone, but if Kiffin wanted his own defensive coordinator that was only fair.

Al Davis likes Ryan in large part because Ryan is willing to run a scheme he favors—little blitzing and man coverage.

Because of that I knew it would be hard for Kiffin to fire Ryan. Ryan also has the support of several players, and that’s always something Davis weighs in coaching decisions.

It’ll be interesting to see what Kiffin says about Ryan whenever he speaks publicly again.

--Jason Jones

January 4, 2008
Figuring out the offseason

Rob Ryan's fate is unknown and the coin flip to decide if the Raiders pick third or fourth in the first round hasn't happened.

But that hasn't stopped questions about the 2008 NFL Draft and free agency.

Question: Jason, I too hail from Long Beach, I attended Poly and Jordan and having been used to so many winning seasons in football, what is it that makes the Raiders consistently inconsistent? As an avid fan, I just don't get it. I'm not saying we're playoff material, but we are always beating ourselves. Do you think kid Kiff can get us back on track in the next 3 years? Also being a Cal man I think we should draft DeSean Jackson, sign a free agent LT to protect J-Russ and try to get DT's and a safety that can hit?
Rick, Pine Grove

Answer: Hold up. You went to Jordan and experienced winning football? Just kidding. I was on the last Poly team that lost a Moore League game (28-0) to Jordan back in 1994 as a junior.

What has made the Raiders so inconsistent lately is a combination of poor drafting, and inconsistency in coaching since Jon Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay.

As a Cal and Poly grad, I’d love to see DeSean Jackson with the Raiders. Not only would it add some LBC flavor to the locker room, he would fill a need for a playmaker at receiver. The problem is if Jackson leaves school for the draft, the Raiders would have to trade down to take him as they wouldn’t use the third or fourth pick on him. Most projections have Jackson as a mid to late first round pick.

The Raiders should be in good position to trade down. If Darren McFadden is sitting at their spot and after the success Adrian Peterson had, teams might want to move up to get him or a quarterback.

A lot of that will have to do with free agency The Raiders will need a strong safety if Michael Huff is moved to free safety. With $4 million invested in Terdell Sands, the team will do all it can to make him its run-stuffing defensive tackle, though I expect the Raiders to add another defensive tackle.

Kiffin will look to upgrade the offensive line, too. If he’s able to have more say in personnel, I think Kiffin will have the Raiders winning more than they lose in the next couple of years.

Question: Hi Jason,
With all the talk about the draft, why don’t we get McFadden with our pick and let Justin Fargas go elsewhere? Or should we go after Chris Long, Howie’s boy or Jake Long? What is your take on this?
Ron, Woodbridge

Answer: The Raiders overall lack of foresight makes this tough. The team (notably Davis) was worried about cutting LaMont Jordan and letting him go to the Broncos or Chiefs. I ask if he’s not good enough to play for you, who cares where he ends up. It’s not like Jordan’s departure would have put another team in the playoffs ahead of the Raiders.

That decision meant the Raiders didn’t get to see Michael Bush activated from the physically unable to perform list. So the team has no idea if letting Fargas leave or drafting another back would make sense because Bush might be a star in waiting. He might not. The Raiders have no idea and would be crazy to draft another back if they truly believe Michael Bush was a back that would have been a first-round pick if not for breaking his leg.

I think the pick should be Chris Long, Jake Long or the best defensive tackle available and the team should resign Fargas.

Question: What’s the chance of the Raiders going after Chad Johnson to fill the WR position putting Ronald Curry at the #2 where he belongs and letting go the OVERRATED Jerry Porter. Then keep Fargas if they can’t get a hold of McFadden, and go after some defensive line help...Look for some depth in the O line later in the draft.
David, Sacramento

Answer: Chad Johnson is a big name and Al Davis loves having big names on the roster. So if he is available, I’d be shocked if the Raiders didn’t make a pitch to trade for him.

Lane Kiffin seemed to like Jerry Porter, I don’t think Porter wants to come back. A lot will depend on what’s out there for him and if there’s a playoff team that wants him. I expect the defensive line to be the first area the team addresses in the draft, but they shouldn’t ignore the offensive line too long.

Question: Jason, Hope you are back next season as I enjoy your Raider coverage. Quick questions: 1. McQuistan: is he a legit NFL OL? 2. Huff: Bust or slow developer? (Nnamdi took till his 4th season to make any impact). 3. Higgins: He looked slower to me as the season went on. Any potential, in your opinion? 4. Curry: took vicious hits during October on 2-3 occasions and seemed to lose interest after that. Your opinion on this? 5. Mario Henderson: any hope here? BTW, I see your boy Q. Moses got a sack! Thanks for your time.
Pat, Lodi

Answer: McQuistan is a legit offensive lineman, but he might be better suited at guard. Kiffin thinks he can play tackle or guard in the Raiders system. I like that he plays with a mean streak. And he actually wasn’t bad at right tackle toward the end of the season. I’m not saying his on his way to the Pro Bowl next season, but left tackle is a bigger concern for the Raiders.

Huff isn’t a bust. I think he played better in 2007, but his skills are not being used properly. Huff should be moved around, playing in space to use his speed and blitzing. He’s not a big safety so keeping him on tight ends all the times doesn’t make sense. What good is all his speed if it’s never used? If he’s moved to free safety in 2008, I think Huff’s breakout season is on the way.

I think Johnnie Lee Higgins has potential to help the Raiders. One of the mistakes of the 2007 season was not playing him more to develop him. He finally had a long punt return in the season finale, but he also fumbled. That’s why he lost his job a returner during the season. But rookies are going to make mistakes and I think the Raiders should have stuck with him. His speed would have been a help on offense and Kiffin admitted some of Higgins lack of development at receiver is the coaching staff’s fault.

I don’t think any hard hits impacted Curry’s play. But the team was disappointed in his overall performance. I would have said he had the best hands on the team before the season, but he dropped a lot of passes. Meanwhile, Porter (who Raider fans love to hate for some reason) ended up becoming the most reliable receiver the Raiders had. Kiffin expects a lot more from Curry next season.

Henderson, I honestly can’t say what’s up with him. Coaches believe he’s never been pushed and has problems with his confidence (which begs the question why trade a third-round pick in this year’s draft to get him, which the Raiders did). Kiffin had no intention of playing him this season, even signing Seth Wand when Cornell Green went down. I haven’t seen enough to say he’s a bust, but he’s definitely going to be a long-term project.

And Moses finished the season with 1 ½ sacks.

Question: Hey Jason do you think that Randy Moss would be a good fit for JaMarcus for next year or some else? What about Donte Stallworth, a Sacramento native or someone in the draft
Jonathan, Philadelphia
Answer: Randy Moss is the last person that needs to be around JaMarcus Russell. Moss is good in a locker room with established leaders, which the Raiders don’t have. And it would never happen because there’s no way Moss would come back to Oakland.

Stallworth is still under contact with New England and I don’t see him asking out to head west.

Any help the Raiders get at receiver will be in free agency or the draft.

--Jason Jones

January 4, 2008
Waiting on Ryan's two-minute drill

I’d hate to be Rob Ryan right now.

He was supposed to have been fired by now and free to prove he could get a job in “two minutes.”

Instead, he’s still officially employed by the Raiders. Lane Kiffin might want him gone, but Al Davis stands in the way of any coaching decision.

This is a reason many coaches don’t want to coach the Raiders.

A coach wanting his own coordinators isn’t an unusual request. But if you work for the Raiders, you work for Davis, who wants a say in the matter.

Along with Ryan, the fate of assistants Kiffin inherited is unknown.

But these are the Raiders. Expecting a speedy resolution, which would be fair to all involved, was expecting too much.

--Jason Jones

January 3, 2008
Sapp says goodbye

The QB Killa will slay no more quarterbacks.

Warren Sapp told Raiders owner Al Davis he’s retiring, according to a Medianews report on Thursday.

Sapp had already told teammates he was retiring but wanted to wait before making an announcement.

Sapp wasn’t the player of his heyday in 2007, but he was better than anything else the Raiders have on their roster.

His retirement makes defensive tackle, already a priority in free agency and the draft, a bigger hole to fill.

There’s still no official word on Rob Ryan’s status. Ryan’s fate rests with Davis, who just might not want to part with him, regardless of what Lane Kiffin wants.

--Jason Jones

January 3, 2008
The axe hasn't fallen (yet)

So much for Lane Kiffin’s quick resolution regarding his defensive staff.

Kiffin is learning that things are rarely resolved quickly with the Raiders. While other coaches have already made moves to fire coordinators, the expected dismissal of Rob Ryan hasn’t happened.

This could change in a matter of minutes, but the Raiders aren’t going to rush to announce a decision because as we all know, it isn’t up to Kiffin in the end.

Al Davis has to sign off on the decision and he’s fond of Ryan.

Kiffin will probably get his way (sort of) and assistants retained from previous staffs like linebackers coach Don Martindale and defensive line coach Keith Millard if Davis refuses to let him fire Ryan.

I think it’s only fair Kiffin is allowed to bring in his own coordinator. If the fate of the Raiders ultimately rests with Kiffin, he should have the people around him he wants.

Davis loves the approach that doesn’t favor blitzing and man-to-man coverage. But how’s that worked out?

If Ryan overcomes the odds and is retained, which is still highly unlikely, there needs to be a change in philosophy.

I never thought one of Buddy Ryan’s kids would ever be known for having a passive approach, but that’s how the Raiders looked last season.

By the way, Kiffin’s father, Monte, told media in Tampa yesterday he’d like to stay in Tampa. So at least for now, maybe the talk of hiring his dad will die down.

But once Tampa’s season is over, it will spark up again.

--Jason Jones

January 2, 2008
Waiting on the official word

While nothing official has come out of the Raiders, Rob Ryan is expected to be fired by the end of the week

Also look for holdovers from previous staffs, defensive line coach Keith Millard and linebackers coach Don Martindale to be let go.

Lane Kiffin’s purge is also expected to go through the personnel department with George Streeter, who joined the team before last season, a likely casualty.

--Jason Jones

January 2, 2008
Still nothing official

Rob Ryan has not been fired – yet.

There are reports that he’s been fired and already taken a job as defensive coordinator with the New York Jets.

Here’s the problem. The Jets haven’t fired defensive coordinator Bob Sutton – yet.

This story will continue to develop today. Lane Kiffin has begun meeting today with coaches as part of his evaluation of the 2007 season.

Kiffin said he would decide on coaches that would be let go quickly. So expect word on that soon.

As for Kiffin hiring his dad, Monte, as his defensive coordinator, let’s not etch that in stone yet.

Lane’s poppa is a little busy this week. He has a playoff game to coach with Tampa Bay.

--Jason Jones

January 1, 2008
Awaiting the official word on Ryan

The NFL Network is reporting Rob Ryan has already been fired as Raiders defensive coordinator.

Nothing official came out from the team today, but that should come tomorrow.

Ryan was hugging his players on the sidelines Sunday and the way players spoke about him, they all know what’s coming.

Rumors have Ryan reuniting with an old friend from his New England days, Eric Mangini, and becoming the New York Jets defensive coordinator. That would put Ryan back running the 3-4 defense he was successful with in New England as linebackers coach, but flopped when he tried to install it in Oakland.

I’m supposed to be “off” today, but I checked out the Bowl games with an eye on what impact they could have on the Raiders.

I wanted to get another look at Jake Long, the top-rated offensive lineman from Michigan. He appears to be a better athlete that Robert Gallery, the last Big Ten tackle the Raiders drafted.

I also watched some of the Gator Bowl to see Chris Long, better known to Raider fans as Howie’s kid, from Virginia. He’d be a great fit with the Raiders. He’s an every down defensive end, which the Raiders need. But I think the Raiders need a defensive tackle more so…

I watched the Rose Bowl until I couldn’t stand the lopsided game anymore. I wanted to see if USC’s Sedrick Ellis might be Warren Sapp’s replacement at defensive tackle next season. He’s strong and looks like the kind of tackle that can occupy blockers, though he’s on the short side. But so was Sapp coming out of college.

I also wanted to see the USC defense to get an idea of what Lane Kiffin might want to run defensively.

The Trojans blitz (which the Raiders rarely did) and apply constant pressure. The Raiders have the athletes at linebacker and in the secondary to run something similar to what USC runs.

It was mentioned during the telecast that USC linebackers coach Ken Norton could end up the UCLA defensive coordinator.

Don’t be surprised if Kiffin makes a move for him to help mold his young linebackers. I’m not sure if Norton is ready to be an NFL defensive coordinator, but it’s the type of move Kiffin might want to make. After all, his quarterbacks coach, John DeFillippo, is only 29.

Norton would be a longshot, but worth a thought. I think Kiffin’s mentor, Pete Carroll, would rather see Norton in the NFL than helping the cross-town rival.

Ed Orgeron, another former USC defensive coordinator out of a job is another name that will surface, along with Kiffin’s father, Monte.

--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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