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2006 Team Report: Oakland Raiders

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Quarterbacks

Starter: Aaron Brooks
Backup(s): Andrew Walter, Marques Tuiasosopo

Starting QB: Having come over to the Raiders from the Saints this offseason, Aaron Brooks suddenly has the most talented group of WRs he’s ever worked with. Whether throwing deep to Randy Moss or checking down to LaMont Jordan, Brooks is surrounded by players who will get him fantasy points after the ball leaves his hands. Brooks throws a nice deep ball, which is a good fit for the Raiders’ vertical passing attack. He also has much better mobility than former Raider QB Kerry Collins. He must improve his decision-making and game-management, however. Brooks threw 17 interceptions in just 13 starts last season before being benched for the final three games.

Backup QB: Andrew Walter appears to have won the number two job from Marques Tuiasosopo. Walter was the Raiders’ third-round draft pick last year, and is one of the reasons the Raiders passed on Matt Leinart in this year’s draft, and should be viewed as the team's quarterback of the future. Tuiasosopo has just two starts in his five-year career, and appears headed for a role as a career backup.

Running Backs

Starter: LaMont Jordan
Backup(s): Justin Fargas, DeJuan Green, Reshard Lee
Fullback(s): Zack Crockett, John Paul Foschi

Starting RB: After spending his first four years in the league as Curtis Martin’s backup in New York, LaMont Jordan landed a starting gig in Oakland last year and made the most of it. Even missing the final two games of the season with turf toe, Jordan accounted for 75% of the Raiders’ rushing yards on the season, and 30% of their total yards from scrimmage. Jordan is a powerful, determined runner who gains much of his yardage after contact. He is surprisingly nimble in the open field, and has very good hands as a receiver. His versatility ensures that he will be a used heavily in the offense whether his team is protecting a lead or playing from behind.

Backup RBs: Behind LaMont Jordan, the Raiders are pretty thin at running back. Justin Fargas is second on the depth chart at halfback, but last year the coaches seemed to trust fullback Zack Crockett as a ballcarrier than Fargas. Fargas has exceptional quickness and speed, and has flashed potential as a breakaway threat, but has been cursed with injuries so far in his career and hasn’t really developed as a runner. He sometimes struggles to read his blocks and find the hole. DeJuan Green spent last season on the practice squad before being sent to NFL Europe. Reshard Lee, an undrafted free agent in 2004, has played for Dallas, Green Bay, and Minnesota over the past two seasons.

Fullback: Zack Crockett was long known in fantasy circles as a TD-vulture, but appears to have given up that role. LaMont Jordan got the goal-line carries last year and should get them again in 2006. Crockett is a decent runner for a fullback, especially in short-yardage situations, but is merely an adequate blocker. John Paul Foschi saw more action at tight end last year than at fullback, but got more work at fullback in this year’s May mini-camp practices. He can play either position.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Randy Moss, Doug Gabriel
Backups: Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry, Alvis Whitted, Johnnie Morant, Kevin McMahan [r]

Starting WRs: Randy Moss is blessed with rare physical talent, and if he is healthy will be the focal point of the Raiders’ passing attack. Athletically, Moss is in a class by himself at the WR position. His combination of speed, size, jumping ability, and body control make him the most feared deep threat in the league. Whenever he is on the field he is a threat to score. Keeping him healthy and on the field has been a major issue over the last two seasons, however. Doug Gabriel is a young, athletic receiver with potential. He has fine speed, but must improve his route-running. He has played well in training camp and the preseason while Jerry Porter was nursing a calf injury and asking to be traded. Gabriel took advantage of his opportunity to work with the first team in Porter's absence, and it appears he will hold onto the starting job this season.

Backup WRs: Jerry Porter is an athletically gifted WR who has had more than his share of injury problems. Porter is a physical receiver with good speed, but is not as refined in his routes or as quick out of his cuts as Moss is. He is not happy with his role on the team this year, and has asked the Raiders to trade him. It remains to be seen whether he will be suiting up in the Silver and Black this year. Ronald Curry is a former college quarterback (and point guard) who has also spent some time at defensive back. After getting insignificant playing time in his first two years in the NFL, Curry came on during the 2004 season and made a number of spectacular catches. That season was cut short by an achilles tendon injury, however, and he suffered a similar injury toward the beginning of the 2005 season. If he can return to his 2004 form, he will push Jerry Porter for playing time in the number three role. Alvis Whitted has world-class speed, but last year’s 14 reception mark a career high after eight years in the league. Johnnie Morant, a fifth-round pick two years ago, is a tall, physical receiver who has been unable to break into the playing rotation so far. Kevin McMahan is this year’s seventh-round pick – “Mr. Irrelevant” since he was the last pick in the draft. He will likely be stashed on the practice squad this year.

Tight Ends

Starters: Courtney Anderson
Backups: Randal Williams, James Adkisson, Marcellus Rivers

Courtney Anderson won the starting job at tight end last year and will return to the same role in 2006. Anderson is a complete tight end, competent both as a blocker and as a pass-catcher, but not spectacular in either duty. James Adkisson and Randal Williams are both former wide receivers who have moved to tight end. Neither will ever excel as in-line blockers. Williams is the more experienced of the two, but will probably have a greater role on special teams than on offense. Adkisson has spent much of the past two seasons on the Raiders’ practice squad, but has recently bulked up from 230 to 250 and made a positive impression in the team’s May mini-camp.

Place Kicker

Sebastian Janikowski : Last year Janikowski had the worst numbers of his six year NFL career. His 61.9 yard average on kickoffs was several yards off his usual, although that’s still better than many other kickers. He connected on only 20 of 30 FGs (66.7%), which is not too good, especially compared to his 88.0% and 89.3% the two previous years. Long range accuracy was the problem, as eight of the misses were from beyond 40 yards. One of those was blocked, two hit the uprights, and the others were all wide.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Chris Carr; Darnell Bing; Alvis Whitted; Carlos Francis; Lamont Jordan

As a rookie last year, CB Chris Carr stepped into the return specialist role and did a commendable job. He had 73 kickoff returns (24.0 avg.) and scored once. Fourth round draft pick DB Darnell Bing only had five kickoff returns for USC last year, but he averaged 28.6 yards. WR Alvis Whitted has been a backup KR since joining the Raiders in 2002, averaging a couple returns a year. WR Carlos Francis was the KR in 2004 before tearing his ACL. RB Lamont Jordan returned kicks periodically for the Jets (14 returns, 20.3 avg. in 2004).

Punt Returners: Chris Carr; Fabian Washington; Tyrone Poole; Duane Starks

Chris Carr wasn’t as productive on punts, where he had 34 returns and averaged 6.6 yards. On the strength of his KR numbers, he finished the year as the 5th ranked fantasy returner. The team experimented with CB Fabian Washington on punt returns last preseason, his first time in that role since high school. Free agent acquisitions CB Tyrone Poole handled punt returns in a backup role for both Denver and New England, and CB Duane Starks for Arizona in 2004.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: RT Langston Walker, RG Ron Stone, C Jake Grove, LG Barry Sims, LT Robert Gallery
Key Backups: T/G Brad Badger, T Chad Slaughter, T Kevin Booth [r], G Paul McQuistan [r]

This unit has the potential to be quite good in 2005. Third-year tackle Robert Gallery is still improving and has the potential to be an elite player. He is the anchor of this group and he teams with Barry Sims at guard to give the Raiders a strong left side. Gallery has yet to reach the consistency and dominance the Raiders expected, however, when they made him their No. 1 pick. The key to this unit’s success in 2006 is the health of tenacious third-year center Jake Grove who has been injury prone in each of the last two years. He is a difference maker on the field and the Raiders need him to be healthy throughout the entire season. Barry Sims is a very good lineman who is a better run blocker than pass protector and is a better fit at guard. Langston Walker looks like a prototypical tackle at the NFL level but he simply has not been able to make improvements in his game and has started only 17 games in four years. He is huge at 6-8 and 345 pounds but doesn’t have the strength he should at that size and is surprisingly more mobile than you would expect. He moves back outside to tackle. Ron Stone will likely start at the other guard spot in 2006 but he is not the player he once was and at 35 years of age is beginning to wind down. Veteran Brad Badger may get the opportunity to start at guard this season as well and rookie Paul McQuistan should get his opportunity by next season. McQuistan had an immediate impact during mini-camp and his future appears very bright. If Gallery and Grove continue to improve and the Raiders can get some adequate play from the guard positions, you unit has the potential to play very well this season.

Team Defense

Last season saw the Raiders defense scrap the 3-4 alignment all together and begin to focus on a 4-3. Several of the players they brought in contributed and they were able to establish cornerstones in free agent steal DE Derrick Burgess who led the league in sacks, and third round pick LB Kirk Morrison who led the club in tackles. Statistically Oakland made marked improvement in some categories while backtracking in others. The young secondary improved to 18th in total passing yards yet totaled a league low 5 interceptions. They were 7th best at taking away fumbles but dropped from 22nd to 24th in rushing yards allowed. In the all important statistics of total yards and points allowed Oakland finished 26th and 25th respectively. Just about where they were in '04. The organization continued to target defense this off-season. They moved former first round pick Tyler Brayton back to DE where he belongs and gave Burgess more help with the pass rush by signing Lance Johnstone who was arguably the best rush end free agency had to offer. Oakland then used it's top two picks on arguably the best DB in the draft Michael Huff, and linebacker Thomas Howard. Both rookies are strong candidates to start by the opener. This unit has added a ton of talent and a great deal of youth over the past two seasons. They have the horses in place but it may take them a while to get everyone in stride. This is a defense that should take another step but it may be next season before it all comes together.

Defensive Line

Starters: RDE Tyler Brayton/Lance Johnstone, LDE Derrick Burgess, RDT Warren Sapp, LDT Tommy Kelly
Backups: DE Bobby Hamilton, DE Bryant McNeal, DT Anttaj Hawthorne, DT Terdell Sands

Starting DL: Burgess was the steal of free agency last off-season and almost single handedly restored the pass rush to the Oakland defense by accounting for 16 of the team's 36 sacks. Enter this year's free agent prize Lance Johnstone who began his career with a very successful five year stint in Oakland. The ten year veteran was used mostly as a rush specialist while with Minnesota for the past five seasons but is capable of playing on every down. More importantly he has 70 career sacks and is among the leagues active leaders in that category. Brayton has yet to prove himself worthy of first round draft status but that can't be blamed all on him. He's bounced back and forth from DE to LB several times and has never been given an opportunity to get comfortable. Brayton will likely land the title of starter but we will see Johnstone regularly on passing downs. On the interior Warren Sapp returns for a 12th season. He is not the same player he was 5 years ago but Sapp is still a contributor and a solid starter. Tommy Kelly is a hard nosed overachiever who came into the league without lofty credentials but has earned his job through hustle and desire. He's a solid player but may have reached his potential. all in all the Raiders are solid up front though they could use a dominating interior lineman. That guy may be on next year's draft menu.

Backup DL: Oakland doesn't have any stars in waiting along the DL. What they have is a handful of guys that can contribute but no one that they would want to depend on full time. Bobby Hamilton will be 35 when the season opens. He is a dependable early down player who can stand up against the run but has never been more than an average pass rusher. Beyond Hamilton the club has no one. Last year's 5th round pick Anttaj Hawthorn remains a project and is the only other player who was not plucked out of the waiver gutter or signed as an undrafted free agent. Terdell Sands is a 335-pounder who will contribute in short yardage. To sum it all up, the Raiders are very thin up front.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Kirk Morrison, MLB Danny Clark, SLB Thomas Howard
Backups: MLB/WLB Robert Thomas, OLB Ryan Riddle, SLB Sam Williams, WLB Darnell Bing

Starting LBs: The Raiders hit a home run when they drafted Morrison. All the kid did was to come in as a rookie and lead the club in tackles despite playing at an unfamiliar position in a somewhat unorthodox scheme. Oakland was so thin at linebacker in '05 that they turned to what they termed their "big nickel" package as their base defense. In this set Morrison played the weak side with Clark in the middle and safety Derrick Gibson up in the box on the strong side. The result was a 24th ranked run defense and a second round pick spent on Thomas Howard. The Raiders have not come out with any plan to shuffle the positions around leaving us to speculate that Howard will be plugged in at SLB where he played during his final two seasons at UTEP. His speed and pass rush skills will be a welcome addition. Clark fought through nagging injuries last season but his drop in production likely had more to do with the presence of Morrison than the injuries themselves. Clark is a solid and dependable contributor but has limited upside. While he doesn't make many mistakes, he is not going to make many special plays either. To sum it up, Oakland is stronger at linebacker from a talent perspective, than they have been in many years. Despite the addition of Howard there are reports that the club will continue to use the big nickel regularly. Howard may not assume a full time role right away.

Backup LBs: The Raiders moved Brayton back to DE and signed free agent Robert Thomas to fill the roster vacancy. Thomas has starting experience at all three LB positions and will likely emerge as the top backup at all positions. Sam Williams has been a disappointment. Although he is a pet project of Al Davis, he's played in just nine games over his 3 pro seasons and spent all of '05 on injured reserve. If he doesn't impress in training camp the party may be over, especially considering the Raiders went LB again in the 4th round with Darnell Bing and may go to camp with as many as 14 linebackers on the roster. Bing was a safety in college and brings many of the same attributes that injury prone SS Derrick Gibson gives them. Bringing up the question, is the "big nickel" by any other name, still the big nickel? Bing is expected to work at WLB, at least initially. Ryan Riddle is a project type with a lot of potential. He could eventually work his way up the depth chart and get in the lineup though it likely won't happen this year.

Defensive Backs

Starters: RCB Fabian Washington, LCB Nnamdi Asomugha, FS Stuart Schweigert, SS Derrick Gibson S Michael Huff
Backups: CB Stanford Routt, CB Tyrone Poole, SS Jarrod Cooper, CB Duane Starks

Starting DBs: Oakland parted ways with Charles Woodson after an '05 season in which he contributed very little. Rookie Fabian Washington replaced him in mid October after Woodson was injured. The rookie proved himself worthy and will join Asomugha as the unquestioned starter heading into training camp. Asomugha has quietly asserted himself as a quality cover corner over the past two seasons so these two will make a solid cover tandem. However if the club is to have any success they must make more big play impact. Between them they had 27 starts last season but failed to record a single interception. Washington in particular is being counted on to step it up considering his 11 picks during his college career at Nebraska were significant in the clubs decision to draft him. The safety positions are up in the air with the drafting of Michael Huff. Some sources close to the situation believe Huff will assume the same role that Renaldo Hill held last season, which was basically as a floating safety in their big nickel base defense. He would be a great fit in that role. If they move to a traditional 3 LB alignment, Huff would be best suited for the FS position but may be more needed at SS where Gibson has played well recently but has struggled to stay healthy. Gibson is tough versus the run but remains somewhat of a liability in coverage. Schweigert displayed a lot of improvement between his rookie campaign in '04 and last season. He is fast, covers well and accounted for 2 of Oakland's 5 interception plus a pair of forced fumbles last season. One thing that is certain, the coaching staff will find a way to get Huff on the field.

Backup DBs: One thing the Raiders do have going for them is quality depth in the secondary. Huff gives then a versatile athlete who is capable of stepping in at any of the four starting positions and is likely to bump one of last year's starters into a backup role. Meanwhile veterans Tyrone Poole and Duane Starks are solid corners with plenty of experience. Either of them would fit comfortably into the nickel job if called upon and there are worse cover men starting in the league. Routt saw action in the nickel package last season and will be in the running for that job again in '06. In typical Al Davis fashion this may well be the fastest group in the NFL top to bottom and should be the strength of the Oakland defense. There will be a lot of competition among them as they fight to determine a pecking order.

Last modified: 2006-09-03 04:57:13



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