Inside Slant, Battles, Quotes, Injuries, Pers

Inside Slant, Battles, Quotes, Injuries, Pers

When the Raiders were at the bottom of the pile in NFL rushing a year ago, they decided they had had enough of that. They weren't just the 32nd-ranked team in the league in terms of ground game, they had just put together the worst Raider season in more than 40 years in that department.

And, so, they went after New York Jets free agent LaMont Jordan, who had averaged 4.9 yards a carry as Curtis Martin's caddy. Then they re-worked the interior of their offensive line - Jake Grove taking over for Adam Treu at center, Langston Walker replacing Brad Badger at left guard and Ron Stone re-assuming his spot at right guard over Grove.

Grove represented aggression, Walker and Stone brute force. Then they stood back and waited for the fireworks.

It hasn't happened and time is getting tight with the team off to an 0-3 start going into Sunday's home game against Dallas. In this game, Oakland needs some kind of a revival if it is to make its passing game as effective as it can be, if for no other reason.

Here's how bad it is going in: a year ago, the Oakland team that was last in the land in rushing, actually averaged 3.9 yards an attempt.

This year, through three games, Oakland is averaging 3.0 yards.

The team is coming off a game at Philadelphia in which the Eagles held Oakland to a narcoleptic 21 yards on 22 carries.

Jordan failed to get beyond the line of scrimmage on more than half his 16 carries and finished with the grand sum of 19 yards. In three games he has gained 70, 59 and 19 yards, a discouraging trend if there ever was one.

High on list of those disappointed is Jordan, himself.

"I was brought in here to bring us a running game and when you ... only have 21 yards, that's not a good feeling," he said. "I'm always going to feel like if we don't do well running ... that it's my fault. The team trusts me with the ball in my hands to go out and make plays. It's my job.

One the Eagles made complicated.

"Philadelphia had a good plan and they were going to hit us with some interior blitzes and try to create some negative plays," coach Norv Turner said. "Which, to give them credit, they did."

What the Eagles did was leave center Jake Grove uncovered, then blitz linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and force Grove to deal with it.

"Even though he was uncovered, they were preventing him from getting out and blocking anybody else," left guard Langston Walker said. "It was a good plan, but we also have certain things we need to work on ourselves. That's going to be our focus this week."

"What we have to do is eliminate the self-inflicted wounds -- the ones where the play is there, they are not in a specific blitz for a play, not in an eight-man front, (and gain) five, six, seven yards," Turner said. "That's where we're not getting it done right now and it's where we have to continue to grow.

"We had a number of plays (Sunday) and the week before in the running game where we're one block away. One time it's maybe the tight end on the back side, one time it's the guard pulling, one time the back doesn't make the cut he's capable of making or he just misses the hole by a little bit.

"I think this will be a good run blocking line. When you are not running the ball, those five guys get the attention. But we've had (failed) plays where our line has done a good job. Some of that is us being together and continuing to do the things we do and get better at it."

According to Grove, the Eagles didn't do much the Raiders weren't expecting in terms of shutting down the run.

"There were a couple of things here and there, but that isn't what lost the game," he said. "Up front, I put it right on us. You can't blame it on anybody (specifically). It's everybody. We have to play better, starting with myself."

And starting now.

SERIES HISTORY: 9th meeting. Raiders lead 5-3, having won the last two games in the brief history of the series. Interestingly enough, the Raiders are 3-0 against the Cowboys in games played at Dallas, 2-3 at home.

NOTES, QUOTES

--QB Kerry Collins has played in New York and so he is used to dealing with the questions posed by the media. He's doing it with a smile in Oakland, as though he'd been handling the tough ones with aplomb his entire life.

That's not necessarily so.

"I realize part of my job is to come out here and deal with the media," he said. "Earlier in my career, I didn't handle that as well. I didn't handle the questions and the tone that some of the questions were asked with ... and the insinuations. Now I realize this is just part of my job."

Not that he doesn't continue to get the insinuation-laced questions or the ones for which there is no correct answer. Wednesday he was asked if he was being "too cautious." Earlier in the year, he had been accused of being too much of a riverboat gambler.

"See, once again, you can't win either way (you answer)," he said with a chuckle. "So I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to play my game."

Another query: should he throw more to Randy Moss?

"I find that very funny," he responded. "When I throw to him (14 times) in the New England game, it's `Oh, you're throwing to Randy too much.' And then, when I don't (seven attempts in each of the last two games), it's `You're not throwing to Randy enough.'

"In my mind, I can't win that battle, so I'm not going to worry about it."

--Not only has RB LaMont Jordan been held to 178 yards through three games, the team has yet to rush for what is considered the NFL standard.

"We've been in every game, but we haven't had 100 (team rushing) yards and that's something we have to do in order to win," Jordan said. "In order to win in the NFL, you have to be able to run the ball."

Numbers underscore Jordan's point. Of the 14 games played last weekend, the team with the most rushing yards won 11 times. As for the other three:

1. New England and Pittsburgh tied for rushing honors - each with 79 yards.

2. Chicago outrushed Cincinnati but the Bears were undone by six turnovers.

3. San Francisco outrushed Dallas but led until losing the game in the closing moments.

Sunday, the Raiders face Dallas. They would like to outrush Dallas and win the game.

"This week we have a pretty good plan that really suits my style of running," he said. "So I'm really looking forward to this week."

--The Raiders have themselves a rare early-in-the-week sellout for the Dallas game, which recalls the game played in Oakland 10 years ago that created as big a fan stir as any since the team returned to the East Bay from Los Angeles.

In 1995, the Raiders were 8-2 going into that game against the Cowboys and the entire region was talking Super Bowl.

Dallas won that game 34-21 and that brought about a six-game losing skid that saw Oakland finish 8-8 and out of the playoff chase.

--This will mark the first time since 1995 the Raiders have sold out 100 percent of their home games at the season's one-quarter mark.

The presence of the Cowboys, who have a large national contingent, surely has a lot to do with it. Dallas has now sold out 121 of its last 126 away games, including playoffs.

Last weekend, a large contingent of Cowboy fans were present Sunday at Monster Park in San Francisco to see Dallas dump San Francisco 34-31.

"I seriously doubt you'll see that much (Cowboy support) in Oakland," Dallas safety Roy Williams, a product of James Logan High in nearby Union City.

--Last time the Raiders faced Drew Bledsoe, the Cowboys' quarterback, they terrorized him with seven sacks, taking advantage of his lack of mobility.

"We're excited about having Bledsoe back there, but he is good," linebacker Danny Clark said. "We're going to try to get him down though."

Dallas coach Bill Parcells, who hadn't been aware of Bledsoe's experience in Oakland as a Buffalo Bill, was told Bledsoe's tendency to hold onto the ball too long in that game, was typically droll.

"It would be in his best interest not to do that," he said.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0 - Victories for Dallas against a team that had Randy Moss on its roster.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've done enough talking. What we have to do now is step up, be held accountable, realize we're professional athletes, that we have a job to do and we have to go out there and do it. The bottom line is we dug a hole for ourselves. Now, the character of this team is about to be shown. Are we going to get out of this hole and get back to being the team that people expect us to be? Or are we going to continue to dig deep and come Week 9 or 10, we're making plans for the holidays? I don't plan on doing that." - RB LaMont Jordan.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Although the primary problem the Raiders must solve against the Cowboys is stopping their running game, the Raiders say they will continue to use the nickel as their primary course of defensive action.

The defense puts rookie Kirk Morrison at one linebacker and Danny Clark at the other.

Last week, they made rookie Fabian Washington (No. 1 pick) the nickel back, replacing penalty-prone rookie Stanford Routt (their No. 2 pick).

With the apparent demise of the 4-3 that was their base defense through most of training camp, OLBs Tyler Brayton and Grant Irons have seen a lot of bench time. However, Brayton was used frequently as a defensive end in the Eagles' game and coach Norv Turner said he would continue in that additional role. PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--RB LaMont Jordan went through most of Wednesday's practice but did not finish due to a calf strain. Because of the curious league policy of listing players who did not finish practice as having NOT practiced, he was listed as having missed Wednesday. It should be noted he did not. He was expected to practice fully on Thursday and be available.

--FB John Paul Foschi (knee) did not play at Philadelphia and was listed as questionable for the Dallas game.

--DT Ed Jasper (ankle) missed Wednesday's practice and has a 50-50 chance of playing. --The team has not placed injured WR Ronald Curry (Achilles) on injured reserve and has not replaced him on the roster. Turner said it would not do so until it was ready to make a roster move.

GAME PLAN: The Raiders would like nothing better than to get their running game jump-started after a meltdown in Philadelphia. However, Dallas has proven to be vulnerable to passing and with the Raiders' glut of receiving talent led by Randy Moss, who is averaging 22.9 yards a reception and Kerry Collins' thus far excellent passing, it may be more for show than for go in this game. Defensively, the Raiders will stick with a four-man rush and, because they had success with it a year ago when Drew Bledsoe was sacked seven times in a 13-10 Oakland win over Buffalo, might try to duplicate the success they had blitzing. Up to now, Oakland has been reluctant to blitz.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Raiders DT Warren Sapp, who is enjoying a rebirth of sorts now that he has returned to the interior line, will go up against perennial Cowboys Pro Bowler Larry Allen. If the last two games are any indication, CB Charles Woodson may wind up being assigned to defend WR Keyshawn Johnson. LT Barry Sims will have his hands full with Cowboys RDE Greg Ellis, who leads the team with two sacks and seven QB pressures.

INJURY IMPACT: All Raider starters and key situation subs are expected to be clear to play. CB Charles Woodson and TE Courtney Anderson reported sore knees earlier in the week but barring setbacks, will start. WR Ronald Curry (Achilles) is, of course, out for the year. His spot has been taken by Alvis Whitted and Doug Gabriel. The injury to FB John Paul Foschi (knee) has forced the Raiders to go with four wide receivers instead of five. Foschi is a swingman who also plays TE but when he does not play, the team has no choice but to keep TE Zeron Flemister active.

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