The Raiders scored only 12 touchdowns on offense all season, a virtual impossibility in these days of high-powered passing attacks. It was no wonder that 32-year-old coach Lane Kiffin, former offensive coordinator at USC, started his regime by getting rid of quarterback Aaron Brooks and receiver Randy Moss.
Now for the rebuilding. Training camp will help Kiffin decide whether to let Andrew Walter or newcomer Josh McCown keep the quarterback seat warm for No. 1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell or whether to throw Russell into the fray week one vs. Detroit.
Walter suffered a setback when he had to undergo arthroscopic surgery on a recurring knee problem in June, leaving his readiness in question for camp. It might be enough to convince Kiffin there is no reason to delay the Russell era. Russell has the advantage of learning Kiffin's offense at the same time as all of his teammates, no matter how long they've been pros.
Kiffin is also trying to rehabilitate the receiving corps by reinstating Jerry Porter, who was in Art Shell's doghouse all last season, and finding out whether former No. 1 draft choices Travis Taylor and Mike Williams have the ability to challenge Ronald Curry, Doug Gabriel or Alvis Whitted for playing time. Curry emerged as the go-to receiver last year with 62 catches, but scored only one touchdown in the anemic offense. Drafting tight end Zach Miller in the second round is an effort to improve a needy position.
The offensive line is under reconstruction after two Hall of Fame offensive linemen, Shell and former co-offensive line coach Jackie Slater, failed to mold a cohesive unit. Kiffin must first find a place for former No. 1 draft pick Robert Gallery, who plays more like a right tackle or left guard than a left tackle, his position last season.
Barry Sims will move to left tackle, where the Raiders also drafted Mario Henderson in the third round. They added two free agents in San Francisco's Jeremy Newberry and Denver's Cooper Carlisle. If Newberry is healthy enough to play center, Jake Grove might move to guard, where Kevin Boothe started 14 games as a rookie. Obviously, the Raiders would like to see some progress on the line before putting franchise quarterback Russell behind it.
The Raiders got a blow they didn't need when running back Dominic Rhodes, signed from the Colts after an outstanding Super Bowl effort, was suspended four games for substance abuse. Incumbent LaMont Jordan finished on injured reserve and needs help. He may get it from an unlikely source, as fourth-round draft choice Michael Bush looks like the broken leg that knocked him out of the first round is on the mend.
Last year's draft yielded two outstanding starters in safety Michael Huff and linebacker Thomas Howard. If this year's third-rounder Quentin Moses comes through, he could provide a pass rush opposite Derrick Burgess on a line that includes an effective tackle rotation of Warren Sapp, Tommy Kelly, Terdell Sands and Anttaj Hawthorne in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's scheme. Linebacker Kirk Morrison has led the team in tackles for two years and is one of the league's up-and-coming stars.
Kiffin's offseason program was halted by NFL Players Association complaints that it was more intense than the collective bargaining agreement allows. But Kiffin understands that hard work is the only way out of the current Raider mess. He takes over a team that is 15-49 since its Super Bowl loss following the 2002 season. If he seems young now, it's conceivable that he could look about 50 by midseason. He has to build an offense virtually from scratch, using parts that may or may not fit.
Warren Sapp showed up at offseason training a whopping 49 pounds lighter than his playing weight of 334. The Raiders strengthen a strong secondary by signing ex-Jaguar safety Donovin Darius, expected to push Stuart Schweigert for playing time opposite Huff. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is coming off an outstanding season and Fabian Washington isn't far behind in a strong secondary. To improve below average special teams, the Raiders hope third-round receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins can help Chris Carr in the return game.
Not good. Too many moving parts have to fit together for any rational observer to expect Lane Kiffin to win more than five games. Improvement is the key because the Raiders need to rehabilitate their attitude as much as anything and if the players don't detect progress, they could go south.
PFT: Tom Brady, who turns 36 in August, says he has "never felt better throwing the football" and his confidence is peaking.
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