Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

May 27, 2008
Backup plan

"What's wrong with the Raiders?"

You have no idea how many time I'm asked that.

For those that don't believe me when I say the problem starts up top with player personnel decisions, I finally have a public ally not a part of the media.

I caught part of a radio interview with former Raiders receivers coach and Hall of Fame player Fred Biletnikoff on KHTK 1140 (Sacramento) in the car while on the way back from the store.

Biletnikoff said the Raiders simply have played with too many "backups" in the starting lineup.

He should know after having to coach the likes of Alvis Whitted as a starter.

Raiders owner Al Davis has stated the Raiders have the talent to win. But the 19-61 record since the Super Bowl season of 2002 indicates otherwise.

it's not as if teams were fighting to get a hold of former Raiders in recent years. Charles Woodson is doing well. Langston Walker (from what I hear) had a decent season in Buffalo.

But teams weren't lining up to sign Johnnie Morant.

Freddie B is also "sick" of hearing what a great athlete someone is.

That's another flaw of the Raiders personnel department.

The Raiders draft numbers (height, weight, 40 time). The good teams in the NFL (New England, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, New York Giants) draft football players.

When asked about former player personnel employee Mike Lombardi, Biletnikoff was blunt:

"If you're not good at what you do you ask other people about players," he said.

Lombardi feuded with Art Shell before being fired last year. Some in the organization felt he received way too much credit for good decisions and not enough blame for bad decisions.

Biletnikoff said the team has made strides to purge the backups from starting roles.

(That means the so-called scholarship players are being removed).

Biletnikoff said the danger is when talent level is low, an organization can "accept mediocrity" based on what it sees good in offseason workouts.

That's definitely happened lately.

So the next time someone brags about all the "talent" the Raiders have had, ask yourself, we're they talented players or just talented backups?

--Jason Jones

May 27, 2008
Friends and competitors

The business of the NFL can be weird.

When Andrew Walter was buried on the bench last year and wanted to be traded, he spoke with someone that understood his situation.

Marques Tuiasosopo.

Now Walter's friend is a competitor again after having careers in Oakland that were very similar.

Walter would have loved to have been traded last year.

He knows the franchise quarterback is JaMarcus Russell and his only future in Oakland is that of a backup.

Tuiasosopo knows that story, too. He was a backup, who like Walter, didn't fit the offense of the coaching staff.

But Tui stayed with the Raiders, even though at least one team (Cleveland) confirmed it tried to trade for him.

So when Walter was sitting last year knowing team's inquiries about him wouldn't get him out of Oakland, he talked to his friend, Tuiasosopo who was playing for the New York Jets after leaving as a free agent.

So it will be interesting to see them battle for the backup job behind Russell not that Tui is back.

Tui is a lot closer to Josh McCown, whom Lane Kiffin adored last season than Walter will ever be.

That means Walter could be relegated to No. 3 in a system not suited for his talents.

And I'm sure when Walter and Tui spoke last year, the idea of them being teammates again wasn't the main topic.

Who ends up being Russell's backup is anyone's guess. I still give the edge to Walter.

But when the trading deadline approaches this year, Walter won't have to call Tui to talk about being stuck in Oakland.

He'll probably have a locker next to his.

--Jason Jones

May 22, 2008
Tui's on his way back

ALAMEDA - Turns out the Raiders did turn to a familiar face when looking for a veteran quarterback.

Just not Daunte Culpepper.

Marques Tuiasosopo was at practice today in street clothes. The signing isn't official yet, but Tui wasn't around just to say hi.


"I can't comment on it," said Raiders coach Lane Kiffin. "You guys can probably figure that out but until about 2 o'clock I can't really say anything."

Tuiasosopo spent six seasons with the Raiders, playing in 11 games, before joining the New York Jets last season.

After Jon Gruden's departure, Norv Turner and Art Shell's offenses didn't fit Tui, who is best suited for a West Coast offense.

****
As for players actually practicing, JaMarcus Russell continues to look more comfortable. He seems to have a nice rapport with WR Drew Carter and rifled two spectacular passes between defenders.

One was a dart to WR Todd Watkins. The second was a play in which Russell drilled the ball to TE Tony Stewart in a tight space.

*S Gibril Wilson (quadriceps) didn't practice so Rashad Baker and Michael Huff were the safeties.

*The offense worked on running to the outside today, which meant RB Darren McFadden was able to show off his speed and burst.

*The staring O-line didn't change from last week:

LT: Kwame Harris
LG: Robert Gallery
C: Chris Morris
RG: Cooper Carlisle
RT: Cornell Green

*TE Fred Wakefield was still a defensive end.

*Players are off next week. Manadatory minicamp is June 3-5.

--Jason Jones

May 21, 2008
The blame game

There's a play that sticks out from Stuart Schweigert's last season in Oakland.

It was the game against Houston in which the run defense was again making Ron Dayne look like he was back at Wisconsin on is way to the Heisman Trophy.

At one point Schweigert was being blocked by the Texans' center on a running play.

Not a receiver. The center.

Of course the run netted big yards. Those things happen when a 300-pound man is able make it 15 yards down field to make a block.

So you know who gets the blame, right?

Schweigert.

I was able to catch up with Schweigert late last night to chat about his time in Oakland that ended with him on the bench without much of an explanation.

Schweigert, once billed as a leader for the top-rated pass defense in 2006 morphed into the offensive version of Robert Gallery by the end of the 2007 season.

Every mistake was magnified and everything from the run defense to the lack of fans on Mount Davis was his entire fault.

Schweigert's tackling was the reason he was benched. But he stayed on the bench even though his replacement, Hiram Eugene, faired no better.

"I know I sound like a broken record with this," Schweigert said. "The problem is the one (tackle) that I miss is the one that scores, the one everyone sees."

Missing tackles on the Raider defense last year was akin to being an opposing running back with 100 rushing yards (didn't everyone do it at least once) and Schweigert felt the heat when he missed.

"I missed a couple of those tackles and they came down on me really hard," he said. "...It's the nature of the business. It's really week to week. One week Lane Kiffin is saying how well I played, the next week I'm done. You feel like trash."

Schweigert's release wasn't unexpected. His 2008 base salary (about $2.6 million) is starter money and the Raiders have already made Gibril Wilson one of the highest paid safeties in football to go along with Michael Huff.

Now he has a chance to see what other teams might be interested in him. The Raiders might have liked to trade him and receive compensation, but no team is going to trade for a player it knows has to be released.

"It's been about a two-month process which was draining physically and mentally," Schweigert said. "It was one of those deals I was waiting for it to happen."

His waiting is over. And it ended without him having to get cut at the end of training camp and limiting his chance of making a team.

Now can the Raiders do something with LaMont Jordan?

--Jason Jones

May 20, 2008
So long, Stuey

I'm back to work after a fun weekend in Southern California.

So it's time for the news of the day.

The Raiders released safety Stuart Schweigert in a move that i surprising to absolutely no one.

Schweigert knew he wasn't wanted and is probably happy to look for a chance to play elsewhere.

(On a side note, I'll miss our discussions on throwback jerseys that we both collect and any chance of talking trash about a potential Lakers-Pistons finals).

Schweigert played in 63 games for the Raiders with 42 starts. In many of those starts, he was the target of jeers when he missed tackles.

He wasn't the only player that struggled to take down ballcarriers, but as the last line of defense at free safety, he was usually the last player that missed the tackle.

He started 10 games before losing his job to Hiram Eugene after an injury. His tackling, or lack thereof, drew the ire of coaches and fans and Schweigert became expendable when the Raiders signed Gibril Wilson.

The Raiders have wanted to move Michael Huff to free safety for a while, but didn't think Schweigert would be able to play around the line of scrimmage as effectively.

With Wilson on the team, there was no need to pay Schweigert approximately $2.5 million to be a backup safety and special teams player.

The question now is: which Raider will all the fans love to hate now?

My guess is Kwame Harris if he struggles at all.

****
The Atlanta Falcons just made Matt Ryan a very rich man.

The third overall choice in last month's draft agreed to a six-year, $72-million deal. Of that sum, $34.75 million is guaranteed.

The first overall pick, OT Jake Long received $30 million guaranteed, but signed for only five years.

One of the reasons Ryan's deal is worth more is because he's a quarterback. Quarterbacks generally receive more guaranteed money.

What does this mean for the Raiders?

Expect McFadden to command around $27 million guaranteed, which is what last year's No. 3 pick, OT Joe Thomas received.

If the total guarantee ends up around $25 million, that would make sense.

Also, with the first and third picks signed, there should be no reason for McFadden to be out of training camp.

Negotiations often don't' get serious until July, but why wait? Get the deal done ASAP.

--Jason Jones

May 13, 2008
Longshot gets his chance

The Raiders signed rookie minicamp standout Marcel Reece.
That Reece was signed after his good showing as a tryout player during last weekend’s minicamp is keeping consistent with what Lane Kiffin has preached.
Players that produce will be rewarded.
He was given a Raiders helmet for his effort last weekend, something the other tryout players wouldn’t leave team headquarters with.
Reece played tight end, receiver and running back at the camp. Listed at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Reece is the kind of player that can create matchup problems the Raiders want to create on offense.
He played receiver at Washington and that’s the position the Raiders list him at.
Reece has a ways to go to make the team.
His best chance might be at tight end or as an H-back. The Raiders have Zach Miller, John Madsen and Tony Stewart returning at tight end.
Fred Wakefield missed all of last season with a knee injury and will be looking to make the team, too.
Stewart was primarily a special teams player. If Reece could fill that role, he’d be a cheaper alternative.

****

The Raiders’ on-again, off-again relationship with CB Duane Starks continues.
He was waived today to make room for Reece and Greg Spires. Rookie FB Matthew Hahn was also let go.
I’m not sure why the Raiders continue to bring Starks back or why he continues to come back.
He was cut at the end of training camp in 2006 and brought back days later. Starks made the team again in 2007, only to be cut during the season to make room for Dominic Rhodes.
Starks re-signed with the Raiders last month.
But the last thing the Raiders need is more cornerbacks, right?

****

FYI: I won’t be at Thursday’s media availability for organized team activities. I already had some vacation time planned and didn’t get word of the open session until last Friday.
I’m sure my bosses will find someone capable of filling in. I’ll have my laptop in case for strange reason I get the urge to blog (I doubt that I will).
I’ll be back next week, ready to check and preparing for minicamp, June 3-5.
-- Jason Jones

May 12, 2008
Almost done shopping

With DE Greg Spires on his way, all that’s missing is a veteran quarterback to complete the Raiders’ offseason shopping.

Daunte Culpepper is still without a team. Trent Dilfer might be cheaper. Byron Leftwich is without a team.

Dilfer would appear to be the easiest to sign.

Culpepper and Leftwich aren’t too far removed from being starters. They aren't as likely to be content sitting behind a second-year QB.

Dilfer could be a solid option as a No. 3 quarterback behind JaMarcus Russell and Andrew Walter.

Culpepper and Leftwich would probably be best served to wait until training camp and see what team loses a quarterback to injury or realizes a young QB isn’t ready to lead the way.

****
In case you don’t read Peter King every Monday at Si.com, here’s what he wrote about the Spires signing:

“ I think, of all the signings the Raiders made this offseason, the one that will be most worth the money is defensive end Greg Spires, who signed a one-year deal close to the NFL minimum Saturday. Spires, one of the five best players on the field in the Bucs' Super Bowl win over Oakland five years ago (a sack, two pass deflections), will be in the rotation at end for the Raiders and should be able to be a five- or seven-sack guy playing 20 snaps a game.”

See, not all the press about the Raiders’ offseason has been negative.

And in more positive pub, ESPN’s John Clayton lists the Raiders as his No. 2 “surprise team” of 2008:

“They go from having a .516 strength of schedule to a projected .438, giving them optimism for a four-game improvement. The only team with a 2007 winning record that the Raiders will play in the first 12 games is the Chargers, in a Sept. 28 home game. Until December, they play a .395 strength of schedule. How can they not "Just win, baby"? They should have a winning record going into their final four games.”

****
The Raiders also signed defensive tackle rookie Tranell Morant. He participated in the team’s rookie minicamp over the weekend.

The Raiders released rookie offensive lineman Adam Spieker, who was signed after the draft.

--Jason Jones

May 12, 2008
Name news

Looking for a name for your baby boy?

How about JaMarcus?

According to the Most Popular Baby Names link at Social Security’s website, JaMarcus is growing in popularity as a name for boys in part because of the Raider quarterback.

I assume Darren will be moving up the charts among baby Raider fans this time next year.

--Jason Jones

May 11, 2008
UW's Reece, McNeese CB recognized

ALAMEDA – Raiders coach Lane Kiffin loves to reward effort.

And two players were rewarded for that today at the end of the team’s rookie minicamp with Raider helmets.

Every player this weekend had helmets without the Raiders emblem, but two players have the real deal now.

Marcel Reece and cornerback Darrick Brown were the recipients.

"Best effort guys, one on offense, one on defense, guys that just were examples that we talked about on Day 1," is how Kiffin described them.

I didn’t put a position with Reece’s name for a reason, and it’s the reason why he was recognized.

He played receiver on Friday, running back on Saturday and finished today at tight end.

Reece is listed as a receiver and was at the camp on a tryout basis.

At 6-3, 240 pounds, he showed two things the Raiders definitely like – athleticism and versatility.

He made a couple of nice catches today coming over the middle. On one catch toward the end of practice, he threw a stiff arm at safety David Lofton as he ran out of bounds.

“C’mon dog, you gonna stiff arm me in the face?” Lofton said with a laugh.

If Reece is signed, he validates the Raiders decision to hold rookie camp a week later than most teams.

Reece was waived last week after signing with Miami right after the draft. Had the Raiders practiced last week, they would have missed out on Reece.

Here's some clips of Reece in action:

Now for more minicamp observations …

*Brown is an intriguing prospect. He’s 6-4, 200 pounds and played cornerback this weekend. He’s still new to the position having played defensive back for just two seasons at McNeese State, where he was also a track and field standout.

The Raiders signed him after the draft. The Raiders are loaded at cornerback (you already knew that) but Brown might be an interesting player to keep around for a while.

*The other cornerback that saw a lot of work this weekend was Stanford’s Tim Sims. While many other defensive backs limped away over the weekend with minor injuries, Sims seemed to be on the field for every play.

*Tyvon Branch’s speed at safety was evident. His experience at cornerback helps too as he was covering slot receivers this weekend.

*Lofton played a lot of free safety during the camp. He’s in for a tryout and would have been able to level some receivers had they been wearing pads this weekend.
*Yes, watching linebackers attempt to cover Darren McFadden was funny at times. I’m looking forward to a potential McFadden vs. Thomas Howard matchup in practice.

*QB Jeff Otis “won” the final session for the offense with a touchdown pass to WR Todd Watkins. Otis was in training camp last year and signed during the offseason. He figures to be in training camp again with his familiarity with the offense.

The Raiders could still sign another veteran quarterback or keep Otis around this fall.

*Rooke WR Arman Shields didn’t practice today because he was at his graduation.

*RB Louis Rankin’s style fits the Raiders’ scheme well.

*In some one-on-one pass-blocking drills, rookie DE Trevor Scott showed good speed. We’ll see how that looks in a couple of weeks against players with NFL experience.

*Kiffin expects “97-98 percent” attendance when OTAs begin Tuesday. He didn’t divulge who wouldn’t be around, but good bets are DE Derrick Burgess (he’s never at voluntary workouts) and RB LaMont Jordan (who just wants out of Oakland).

*Kiffin clarified the status of WR Johnathan Holland. He was “hampered” by an injury but wasn’t eligible for the camp because he spent last season on injured reserve, which counts as an accrued year. He’ll be at OTAs.

--Jason Jones

May 10, 2008
There's more to like about McFadden

ALAMEDA – Darren McFadden continues to be impressive when speaking with the media.

He’s confident in his ability but far from cocky, much along the lines of JaMarcus Russell.

The following are some highlights of McFadden’s presser:

On the playbook:

“It’s something different. They hand you a playbook with pens and highlighters in there with a notebook to take notes. That’s something you don’t get in college. If you want to take notes you have to come with your own stuff. So I knew it was serious once they handed a playbook out like that.”

So does he want to have the whole playbook “thrown” at him:

“For me, I’d say I’d like it because I’m a competitor. But at the same time, I know it’s only good to throw a few things at you just so you can understand and get the concepts because once you get the concept or the first part of it it’s a lot easier to catch on to the rest of it when they throw it at you.”

He was asked about possibly missing training camp because of contract negotiations:

“I don’t want to miss training camp. I want to be out there playing. That’s why I’m hoping that my agent and everybody get the contract straight because I want to be out there, being able to learn the plays and being out there with the guys getting used to the offense.”

On who he’s comparable to in the NFL today (I see some Eric Dickerson, but he’s not in the NFL now):

“I guess the closest thing I could say is Adrian Peterson because we’re both big, fast guys. He’s probably a little more physical than I am but as far as just natural play-making and talent, I feel like I have an edge on any running back. Not saying it to be cocky or anything but I feel like I’m very versatile and I can play a lot of different positions.”

On the support system he’ll have in Oakland (remember, he’s only 20):

“My sister’s going to move out with me to just have someone come out and support me. I’ve been loving the support I’ve been getting from the Oakland Raiders. Have a Hall of Famer like Willie Brown, he was out at the draft with me, flew in with my family. Just got us accustomed to everything. I feel like they have a great supporting cast here.”

McFadden showed of his versatility today at practice and was impressive.

McFadden lined up at receiver and running back when playing with Michael Bush. He took some pitches at tailback and his ability to get to the corner was something to watch, even though there was no contact.

"I thought Darren had a really impressive day, adding a lot to the offense, what we can do with him today where he was in the backfield most of the day yesterday running normal things," said Lane Kiffin. "We got him outside and did some really good things, as well as Michael Bush outside as well."

McFadden doesn’t have the legs of a sprinter (huge thighs, bulging calfs). And he looks as if he’s running effortlessly at time.

He also looked very natural at wide receiver. He catches the ball with his hands, not his body, and looks comfortable in the open field.

****
I’m writing about Michael Bush for tomorrow’s paper. He said he’s not any bigger, but “more defined” because of his workout regimen.

He added the only reminder of his broken right leg from 2006 is the knot on his leg.

Bush said he was “happy” the team drafted McFadden, even though it meant adding another running back.

But as my niece would ask, “But why?”

Here’s what Bush said:

“Because I think the coaches still know what I can bring to the table as well. I’ve never doubted myself at any point of bringing anybody. And as far as team-wise, bringing in the best guy that was on the board at the time is good, cause it’ll also help us out as a winning team. Anytime you can bring in new guys that help our team, it’s good I think.”

****
Some final observations from practice:

*WR Will Buchanon is lucky these drills aren’t full contact. If they were, he’d be hurting because he would have been laid out by DB David Lofton a couple of times.

*There was a lot of Bush/McFadden together on the field today – either in the backfield together or with McFadden at receiver.

*For all those craving more blitzes, I think I saw (really) a safety blitz from Tyvon Branch.

*It’s hard to gauge how good any of the receivers or DBs are without a real pass rush. But McFadden’s speed was evident and Arman Shields made a nice catch. I felt bad for linebackers asked to track down McFadden. Bush was just too big for any of them to cover.

--Jason Jones

May 9, 2008
Double take

ALAMEDA – Walked onto the practice field and thought the Raiders had hired Rex Ryan.

Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan cut his hair and looks a lot like his twin brother, Rex.

Ryan had hair down to his shoulders even though he got a trim back at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in February.

The reason: He’s donated his hair to Locks of Love.

“It’ll grow back,” Rob said.

Here’s what Lane Kiffin said about the new look:

“I’ll tell you a true story. I really thought he was (Rex). On Monday, when he came in, I really thought it was his brother in my office and Rob was around the corner. I sat there for awhile and he was talking to me, and I sort of walk out, and I really looked, I thought maybe his brother was coming to visit and they were playing a trick on me. I thought the exact same thing. I’ve never seen him with short hair. He looks exactly like Rex.”

Here’s what Rob looked like when he was hired by the Raiders in 2004 (his hair is shorter now than it is in the picture):

Ryan-2007.jpg

The Rob we all grew to know:

ryan2.jpg

And Rex:

rex.jpg

Other observations from the first day of rookie minicamp (note, there's not a whole of highlights when the guys are in shorts and helmets):

*Darren McFadden’s quickness is noticeable. He didn’t catch any passes and was chided briefly for not running the extra 40 yards after a carry during a drill, but his speed and quickness are undeniable. Can’t wait to see him in pads.

*Michael Bush appears to be in great shape and moving well. He looked good catching the ball, too. Compared to McFadden, Bush looks huge, but Kiffin said his weight is good. Bush must have spent a lot of time in the weight room.

McFadden and Bush will be available for the media tomorrow.

*Kiffin wasn’t nearly as loud as I was accustomed to him being last year.

*The media had its first session with fourth-round pick, WR Arman Shields. He’s very engaging.

Kiffin said the team views Shields the same way it saw Michael Bush last year, a player that would have been drafted higher if not for an injury.

*Seventh-round pick Chaz Schilens full first name is Chazeray. He said if he hadn’t been drafted the Raiders would have been at the top of his list as a free agent because he liked WR coach James Lofton after visiting the team.

Kiffin said his film wasn’t great, but his workouts caught the team’s attention. Schilens missed six weeks last season with a stress fracture in his left foot.

*Fifth round pick, DE Trevor Scott wasn’t sure he’d even be drafted. But at 255, he said defensive line coach Keith Millard doesn’t want him worried about putting on too much weight.

*Tyvon Branch will play strong safety. At 208 pounds, he’d like to gain about four more pounds. He already appears to have a bigger frame than Michael Huff. Then again, Huff might come back on 210 pounds for training camp.

Here’s what Branch said about returning kickoffs, something he’ll likely be asked to do:

“It’s a thrill. It’s an adrenalin rush. Everybody’s coming out to kill you so you gotta do your thing out there or you’re going to get hurt.”

On a side note, Branch looks a lot like Vinnie from Naughty by Nature.

Here's Branch:

branch.jpg

And there's Vinnie on the left, with Treach:

vinnie with treach.jpg

*There were some notable names from the college game present for tryouts. Former Arizona State, Nebraska and Bay Area native Sam Keller was at quarterback.

Another intriguiging player is offensive lineman Shannon Tevaga. He played for offensive line coach Tom Cable at UCLA (2004-05) and might fit into the category of a player most teams would ignore but is a great fit for what the Raiders do in their zone-blocking scheme.

Players from local colleges included defensive backs Brandon Hampton (Cal), Tim Sims (Stanford) and David Lofton (Stanford) as well as linebacker Greg Van Hoesen (Cal) and punter Andrew Larson (Cal).

David is James Lofton’s son. David left practice early with an injury.

Players with connections from last season eligible for the camp were:

WR Drisan James (2007 practice squad)
RB Michael Bush (PUP list in 2007)
C Jesse Boone (2007 practice squad)
WR Will Buchanon (finished 2006 on the active roster, cut in training camp last year)
WR Johnathan Holland wasn’t on the field (seventh round pick last year still not medically cleared).

*By the way, Happy Birthday, Lane.

--Jason Jones


May 8, 2008
Surfing the web

Not much going on leading up to tomorrow's rookie minicamp.

There will be a lot of guys on the field with no chance of making the roster, but if the team is able to find one or two players with a chance to make the team (outside of the drafted players) the weekend will have been a success.

I won't make too much out of anything Darren McFadden does because he'll be competing against players that might not make any NFL roster. And it's a non-contact camp, so I'm only guaranteed of seeing McFadden run fast without pads, which I saw at the NFL Combine.

I did find this tidbit on Raiders receiver Todd Watkins from the San Diego Union-Tribune today:

Raiders like Watkins

Receiver Todd Watkins, formerly of Helix High and Grossmont College, was claimed off waivers by the Oakland Raiders and signed to a one-year contract.

“I'm excited about my chances here,” said Watkins, who hopes to make an impression in the Raiders' minicamp. “I've paid my dues, and now it's my turn to show what I can do.”

Selected out of Brigham Young University in the seventh round of the 2006 draft by the Arizona Cardinals, Watkins spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad.

The 6-foot-2, 191-pound Watkins was elevated to the active roster for the season finale against the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium but did not play.

After being released by the Cardinals, Watkins signed with Atlanta. He spent the 2007 season on the Falcons' practice squad.

What are Watkins' realistic chances of making the team? It's hard to say. There was a time a relatively high draft pick like Johnnie Lee Higgins was guaranteed a second year with the team. But another third round pick in 2007, DE Quentin Moses, didn't even make the team last year.

The Raiders drafted two receivers and signed Javon Walker and Drew Carter. Those two, along with Ronald Curry are locks.

I assume the Raiders will carry more than four receivers this year after using three almost all of last season.

That leaves Higgins, Chris McFoy, rookies Arman Shields and Chaz Schilens among a group of players scrambling for a couple of spots.

But it's way too early to worry about that. Then again, the Raiders might find another receiver this weekend.

--Jason Jones

May 7, 2008
Cash doesn't rule everything

Per the Indianapolis Star, Dominic Rhodes is once again a Colt, for about $650,000 for the 2008 season. He would have made about $1.75 million had the Raiders not released him, as promised, after drafting Darren McFadden.

The Raiders lured him to Oakland with a two-year deal worth $7.5 million last year, but as we all know, things didn’t work out the way he’d hoped.

Rhodes didn’t become a starter until Justin Fargas was injured, and before that he played sparingly.

While Rhodes might not have had any big offers on the table, he’s probably happy with less money if it means being in a stable environment and a chance to win.

It's a reason why teams like the Colts and Patriots don't have to overpay free agents.

Former Raider Bobby Hamilton once said if winning a Super Bowl was addicting, so much so players are willing to do anything to get a chance to win one.

Even take less money.

*The Edgerton Hartwell signing was made official (via the Raiders web site) today. Hartwell officially signed yesterday.

--Jason Jones

May 6, 2008
Date change

The Raiders preseason game at Tennessee has been moved to Friday, August 15 instead of the 16th.

Hope you hadn't bought those non-refundable tickets already. If so, the Country Music Hall of Fame is nice on a Saturday afternoon.

The game will be televised by Fox.

*It turns out the media will have access to players at the rookie minicamp twice this weekend. S Tyvon Branch, WR Arman Shields, DE Trevor Scott and WR Chaz Schilens are rookies that will greet the media on Friday.

On Saturday it will be Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, who is eligible for the camp because he spent all of last season on the physically unable to perform list.

There will also be rookies trying to earn contracts and training camp invites participating in practices.

The Raiders have found contributors amongst undrafted players (Barry Sims, Chris Carr, Tommy Kelly). I'll be looking to see if there's a player that might do the same this year.

*Check this out if you're looking for a quick laugh.

And yes, it's sattire, even though I'm sure this what many Raider fans fear most.

--Jason Jones

May 5, 2008
Out of the black hole

It always interesting to hear what former Raiders have to say about the way the team is run.

Dominic Rhodes sounded as if he longed for the stability of the Indianapolis Colts, even it meant being a backup, after a year with the Raiders.

Now it’s Fabian Washington’s turn. You can read the full article here.

Here’s what stuck out to me from the story pertaining to the Raiders:

Washington emphasized that the Ravens’ practices are more intense than the Raiders and have a more organized program compared to the chaos that tends to reign under owner Al Davis’ direction.

This wasn’t a direct quote from Washington. But if Washington can attend minicamp and already decide the Ravens have a better practice regimen, it makes you wonder just how bad practices were before for the Raiders.

The consensus seemed to be in 2007 that Raider practices were much more intense than in previous years.

Then again, after being benched, Washington could be speaking from a place of being so happy to be out Oakland, minicamp practice might seem like the best thing ever.

There’s a chance he could start in Baltimore whereas he might have been the fourth corner on the Raiders.

But after getting to know Washington a bit, he’s not the kind of person to take shots at a team in which he has several friends out of spite.

So just how disorganized are things in Raider land? Maybe Tyler Brayton will provide some insight.

--Jason Jones

May 5, 2008
Watching Shaun's visits

Former NFL MVP and Seattle Seahawk Shaun Alexander is visiting New Orleans after visiting Cincinnati.

How does this impact the Raiders? Simple.

If the Raiders truly believe they can trade LaMont Jordan, they'll be monitoring where Alexander visits and and checking to see if those teams would be interested in taking on Jordan.

Because Jordan took a paycut last year, I would be surprised to see him do that again to facilitate a trade. But if Deuce McAllister's knee still isn't right (and the Saints were rumored to be interested in Jordan) the Saints will be in the market for a veteran back.

So follow Shaun's visits. Where he doesn't land could be where Jordan goes for a late-round pick in next year's draft.

But I still think this will end with Jordan simply being released.

--Jason Jones

May 3, 2008
Questions on a Saturday afternoon

The Raiders will allow us media types access to next weekend’s rookie minicamp on Saturday.

It will be impossible to accurately gauge how the young players fit without the rest of the team, which won’t happen until June 3.

Even then, they’re wearing shorts, so there’s no way to tell what to expect.

Meanwhile, I’ll take a stab at some reader questions before I hop back on the Xbox 360 and stop listening to all this Jay-Z (went to the concert in Oakland and his collection is still in heavy rotation on the Ipod).

Question: I just read that Edgerton Hartwell from the Baltimore Ravens, is going to the Raiders. I don't know anything about him and was wondering if you did. Can you find out some stuff in regards to his injury, and if he really is as good as they say, he could be. I really only trust your insight. (Seriously)

Martin, Elk Grove

Answer: Hartwell appeared on the verge of being a star when he played with Ray Lewis (key, playing with Ray Lewis) after being a fourth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens. He left as a free agent for Atlanta in 2005 (for a six-year, $26.5 million deal) and played in just 13 games over two seasons and was cut.

Achilles and knee injuries dogged his time in Atlanta.

He was cut at the end of training camp with Cincinnati last year.

Perhaps the year off has helped Hartwell. That he didn’t catch on with the Bengals, who needed all kinds of help on defense and were coached by his former coordinator in Baltimore, Marvin Lewis, makes me wonder what was wrong with him last year.

He was a tackling machine with the Ravens. His best chance to get on the field would be at strongside linebacker where Robert Thomas is the starter. Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard have the middle and weakside locked up.


Question: Does anyone else believe that Al Davis has made a serious mistake in not drafting Glenn Dorsey? If he had, Tommy Kelly would have moved to DE, where his athleticism and pass-rush skills are more valuable, as well as adding much-needed depth there. In addition, Dorsey would have bulked up the DT spot which is the team's major weakness. Drafting Dorsey would have improved TWO positions on the line. Then, the only piece missing to a solid all around defense would be a run-plugging middle linebacker. THE RUN GAME DOES NOT NEED MCFADDEN. Oh well, maybe next year!!!!!

Dave, Lake Country BC

Answer: I try not to determine if a team made a “serious” mistake in the draft too soon. Mario Williams was a “mistake” in 2006, but now the Houston Texans don’t looks so crazy for passing on Reggie Bush.

When it comes to Kelly, I’ll say this. The Raiders need to give him a position and leave him there. I thought Kelly was playing well last year before his injury, but I don’t know if he was an elite pass rusher at defensive end. He should be that at defensive tackle.

Also, if you’re going to pay Kelly more than $50 million to be a defensive tackle, and Terdell Sands up to $17 million to be a run stuffer, you shouldn’t need to draft Dorsey.

If Sands is in shape and plays with the proper technique, the Raiders should be fine in the middle.

And I don’t think the Raiders need another middle linebacker. I think if Kelly, Terdell Sands and Gerard Warren do their jobs and don’t allow linemen free shots at the linebackers, opposing running backs wouldn’t run untouched until they see a safety.

Also, if McFadden does what I think he can, I’m sure you won’t be too upset with him. But as they say, if “if” were a fifth…you know the rest.

Question: Is Warren Sapp thinking of going one more year with Raiders? He hasn’t turned in his retirement papers. How is GTA 4

Adam, Brockport, Pa.

Question: There’s no way I see the Sapp in a Raider uniform again. He just doesn’t sound like someone that wants to put up with the grind that is the NFL for another year, especially for a team that could be a couple of years away from serious playoff contention. Sapp is on the Raiders’ reserved/retired list so he could only play for the Raiders should he decide he wants to make a comeback. And from what I understand, players often don’t turn in their paperwork immediately, though I thought Sapp had.

I’m still in the early stages of GTA IV with only a couple of missions completed.

I like the gameplay, but need a day where I sit down for a few hours and get a feel for the game

So if I disappear from the blog world and my editors can’t find me, that’s what I’m doing (unless the Lakers are playing).

Question: I really loved the way Lane Kiffin instilled in the team last year that it would be an open competition for all positions and that there would be no "scholarship" players going into camp. Now with all the FA signings and expectations higher going into this season it appears as though guys are now guaranteed to start at several positions. I have not heard anyone speak to this and maybe it's too early, but does this work against the competition atmosphere that was created last year and could this hurt them in the long and short term?

Brian, Santa Monica

Answer: I don’t think it’s contradictory at all because Kiffin showed last year if the higher-paid player doesn’t produce, another player will be given an opportunity.

That’s how Justin Fargas, Hiram Eugene and Jon Alston all found themselves on the field last year.

Also, players understand the business of football. There’s no way the Raiders pay Javon Walker, Gibril Wilson, etc. to be backups.

If players with big salaries struggle for an extended period and stay in the lineup that would make Kiffin look like a hypocrite to the team.

--Jason Jones

May 1, 2008
Kiffin speaks

Since I don’t have SIRIUS NFL Radio, I rely on transcripts to be emailed to me, like the following from Raiders coach Lane Kiffin’s appearance on "Movin' The Chains" with Tim Ryan and Pat Kirwan yesterday.

The following are excerpts from the interview.

On Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell:

Lane Kiffin: "[His off-season] has been great. He's working extremely hard. He's here from about 7:30 in the morning until about 2:00 in the afternoon. He starts with football stuff in the classroom and then he goes into the weight room, lifts with the first group, and then goes out on the field and runs with them and then stays out and throws and goes through all the quarterback stuff on the field after that."

On the team's selection of RB Darren McFadden in last weekend's NFL Draft:

Host, Pat Kirwan: "All kind of speculation that you were going to take [Glenn] Dorsey and you were going to do this that and the other thing. When it is all said and done was this the favorite all along for the boss and everybody else over there?"

Kiffin: "Yeah, we weren't doing anything. The only thing we were doing was if Darren was gone we had a couple things pretty much in place to go back, to move down and pick up more picks because we didn't have very many picks. But if Darren was there we were going with Darren. He's a fabulous player and really gives us an added dimension to our offense and so we've got to look at a number of different ways to use him."

Host, Tim Ryan: "Talk about some of those dimensions. Historically, I think the fans immediately start thinking of LenDale White and Reggie Bush from the USC days. Any of that type of stuff, pony backfield or whatever it is? Talk about what some of those possible roles may be for Darren McFadden."

Kiffin: "There are a lot of things to looks at. One would be him back there with another one of our tailbacks. Another would be him outside the formation as a receiver. We did some of that with Reggie. But the thing we don't want to do, and we kind of made that mistake with Reggie - and I think that Sean [Payton] would probably tell you they maybe did their first year with him, too - is with a guy like this there are so many things you get excited about but you don't want to take away from what he's there to do and that is to run the football and be back there in the I-formation. So we'll look at a number of things but we do not want to hinder his progress as a true running back."

On new WRs Drew Carter and Javon Walker:

Kiffin: "Drew Carter is just a fabulous worker in the way he goes about it and the way he's in there watching tape and working. So we're real excited about him. Gives us a big target, a 6'4" guy. And then Javon is so explosive. We think that he's going to be the best he's been in years as far as health-wise and I know he's excited about this upcoming season and to prove a lot of people wrong in his mind. So we think we've got him in a pretty good place right now."

On 4th round draft pick Tyvon Branch:

Kiffin: "He's going to be a safety for us and we hope he's going to be a fabulous special teams player. He's got all the tools to do that and he's done that as he was younger and then also a kick returner, too. So we may look to put him back there as well so there are a lot of roles he can help us with."

On the defensive line:

Tim Ryan: "Not taking Dorsey, how do you feel about your defensive line? Terdell Sands, Gerard Warren, how comfortable are you, Lane, and I guess you must be, that those guys are going to show up and be real consistent for you on the inside?"

Kiffin: "Yeah, they're both here working out now. We're going to need them to step up and play really well and play consistent along with Tommy Kelly. Those are three guys that have done some really good things at times for us. Now we need them to play more consistent and hopefully they can be dominant for us inside."

On the running backs corps:

Pat Kirwan: "Most team would keep three running backs, barring injury. Some might keep a fourth but most don't. Michael Bush must be really ready to go in every way for you to cut Dominic Rhodes."

Kiffin: "Yeah, he really is. And it was a timing issue that helped Dominic as well. We really wanted to make sure that we did the right thing with Dominic. He didn't get much chance to play last year. When he did, we started him two games, both games he went over a hundred yards and played really well for us. The way I look at it, to keep Dominic around just as an insurance policy really wasn't fair to him after the way he played for us and also what he had done with his contract this off-season."

Tim Ryan: "Do you feel like, as the head coach of that football team, in that building, in that organization up there in Alameda, do you guys all feel like you're all on the same page, headed for the same thing?"

Kiffin: "Yeah, we're headed for the same thing. We're trying to win. Everybody here wants to win and so we're doing our best to get that done."

Pat Kirwan: "What's the number one thing you feel like, going into your second year, you learned from your first-year experience?"

Kiffin: "Well, I think that you want everything to be so perfect right away, your off-season workouts and everything and a guy being in shape, a guy coming in a little bit out of shape. And as much as that doesn't mean you still don't stay on everything and look at everything, these guys, their bodies are a little different than college. They know their bodies well. Last year I got discouraged at this time of year when off-season program started because a lot of guys hadn't done anything from the last game of the year. Well, in college that doesn't happen. They're working out the next week. As opposed to getting down on it right away and worrying about your team and your players and stuff you give them more time to get back into shape before you completely evaluate them."

--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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