Inside Slant, Matchups, Quotes, Injuries, Etc

Inside Slant, Matchups, Quotes, Injuries, Etc

The Oakland Raiders may have finally found an outside pass rush just in time to compensate for a battered secondary. Derrick Burgess, a free-agent acquisition who came in under the radar as the Raiders traded for Randy Moss and signed LaMont Jordan, has two sacks in each of his last three games and seven for the season.

He ranks third in the NFL, behind Indianapolis' Robert Mathis (8) and Tennessee's Kyle Vanden Bosch (7.5), and is enjoying life as the featured pass rusher.

"I'm not going to lie," Burgess said. "That's my mentality."

Unlike Vanden Bosch, who's 7.5 sacks count for a little more a third of Tennessee's team total of 22, Burgess has had seven of Oakland's 11 through six games.

Burgess will set his sights on Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair when the Raiders visit the Titans Sunday at the Coliseum.

At 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, Burgess is relatively undersized, but compensates with strength, a good burst of speed and a thirst for pursuit.

"Pass rushers are born, they're not made," Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "This kid was born to do what he's doing. He gets after the quarterback, and there's no substitute for that."

With Oakland's secondary in disarray with the losses of cornerback Charles Woodson (broken right fibula) and safety Derrick Gibson (broken left wrist) for six to eight week, Burgess' pressure becomes even more important.

"I know our young cats are going to have to step up and we're just going to have to put even more pressure on as a defense," Burgess said.

Burgess has been difficult to handle from the edge in large measure because Warren Sapp and Ted Washington are collapsing the pocket.

"It's hard to double our edge because we've got some guys that create problems," Turner said.

In fact, Burgess said he hasn't seen a double team this season, whether it be from a tight end, extra lineman or a fullback on a chip.

"It hasn't occurred yet. Hopefully it won't but when it does, I've got a great supporting cast," Burgess said. "If that happens, somebody is going to be unblocked."

SERIES HISTORY: 40th meeting. Raiders lead, 22-17, with the home team winning the last three games. Titans won last game in Nashville, 25-20 in 2003 season opener.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Raiders are 0-3 against the Titans in Tennessee, losing 24-21 in overtime in Memphis in 1997, 21-14 in Nashville in 1999 and 25-20 in Nashville in the 2003 season opener.

--After failing to score 20 points in each of the first five games, the Raiders scored 21 in the second half alone in a 38-17 win over Buffalo.

--Quarterback Kerry Collins completed 21 of 37 passes for 371 yards and five touchdowns in last season's 40-35 win over the Titans. Tennessee quarterback Billy Volek was 40-for-60 for 492 yards as the teams combined for 942 yards in total offense.

--Of the 106 roster spots from the Raiders and Titans at the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 19, 2003, 27 players remain -- 17 for the Titans and 12 for the Raiders.

--RB LaMont Jordan has scored at least one touchdown in five consecutive games and has topped his career-high of 115 yards in two of his last three games.

--FB Zack Crockett's first touchdown of the season against Buffalo was the 35th since joining the Raiders in 1999. He is averaging a touchdown every 8.3 carries. The 35 rushing touchdowns tie Mark Van Eeghen (1974-81) for third on the all-time list.

--WR Randy Moss, with 9,651 yards receiving, is 181 yards shy of surpassing Drew Hill (9,831) for 25th place on the NFL's all-time list. Next up is Shannon Sharpe at 10,060.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- The amount of games away from McAfee Coliseum the Raiders have won since Dec. 8, 2002. Oakland is 2-18 on the road since then -- including a loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVIII in San Diego.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's not a Michael Vick. He's more of a T.J. Duckett, where you better get your shoulder pads and get your feet under you because he's going to run through you." -- Raiders DT and former Atlanta Falcon Ed Jasper on the running ability of Tennessee QB Steve NcNair.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Guard Langston Walker's sudden illness and surgery, combined with a knee injury to guard Brad Badger and center Jake Grove's recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery, has the Raiders' offensive line in a state of flux.

Coach Norv Turner had Grove taking reps at Walker's left guard spot, keeping Adam Treu at center. Brad Badger, a starting left guard for eight games last season, was limited with a knee strain.

Although Grove was listed as questionable and Badger as probable, Wednesday's practice participation suggested those designations were could have been flopped.

Walker is a strong run blocker becoming adjusted to playing inside after being drafted as a tackle.

The Raiders' plan to establish the run is not likely to change given it affords quarterback Kerry Collins the best chance of being efficient in and productive in the play-action game.

In the defensive backfield, reeling from injuries to starters Charles Woodson (cornerback) and Derrick Gibson (strong safety), Renaldo Hill becomes a fulltime starter at strong safety and also assumes Woodson's rule as medium depth safety in the "Wolverine" defense.

In the "big nickel," an alignment in which Derrick Gibson moves close to the line of scrimmage as a hybrid linebacker/safety, special teamer Jarrod Cooper will be the replacement.

First-round draft pick Fabian Washington starts in Woodson's spot at cornerback, with second-round pick Stanford Routt playing the slot receiver in the nickel.

Also seeing action depending on the defensive package could be Denard Walker, inactive for six games this season, and Chris Carr, a return specialist forced into action at safety in the dime against Buffalo.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--G Langston Walker, who started the first six games and played the entire game against Buffalo, is out a minimum of six weeks after being diagnosed with an intra-abdominal hemorrhage. He underwent surgery Tuesday night and will be hospitalized for four or five days.

--C Jake Grove, out two weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery is Walker's likely replacement with Adam Treu remaining at center. He got most of the work in practice Wednesday.

--G Brad Badger, who started at left guard for the final eight games of the 2004 season, was limited in practice although listed as probable. If Grove could not play, Badger would start at left guard if ready, with Treu playing center.

--G Corey Hulsey, inactive for the first six games this season, should be active with Walker out. Would be likely emergency starter if both Grove and Badger could not play.

--WR Randy Moss is listed as questionable with rib, groin and hamstring injuries. He practiced and is expected to play.

--DE-LB DeLawrence Grant is listed as doubtful and did not practice.

--S Jarrod Cooper, a special teams player who assumed a role in the defensive secondary when Woodson and Gibson went out, has a hamstring injury but practiced and is listed as probable.

--RB Zack Crockett has a slight ankle sprain, is listed as probable, and practiced Wednesday.

GAME PLAN: The Raiders finally played the style of football they had hoped to play all year long -- run the ball effectively enough with LaMont Jordan that it effectively balances the passing game and smooths over the rough spots in the game of quarterback Kerry Collins.

Tennessee, giving up 108 yards per game, is a better team against the run than Buffalo, but Oakland but the blueprint remains the same.

On defense, the Raiders will play to their strength -- run defense -- and do their best with their patchwork secondary and hope it is enough to defend against an equally green group of Tennessee receivers.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Tennessee LDE Kyle Vanden Bosch vs. Raiders RT Robert Gallery: Vanden Bosch plays with a non-stop motor and his second in the NFL with 7.5 sacks -- four more than Travis LaBoy. Gallery's strength is as a pass blocker, particularly on pushing rushers to the outside. He is also coming off his best game as a run blocker against the Bills.

Raiders safeties Renaldo Hill and Jarrod Cooper vs. Titans tight ends Erron Kinney, Ben Troupe and Bo Scaife. Hill, a converted cornerback, is the Raiders starting strong safety with Derrick Gibson out, while Cooper comes in as the "Wolverine" as a fifth defensive back in a variation on the nickel defense. Tennessee tight ends Erron Kinney, Ben Troupe and Bo Scaife have combined for 72 receptions, 593 yards and two touchdowns.

INJURY IMPACT: The loss of Charles Woodson raises the possibility of confusion in the secondary. When Woodson moved inside as a safety, part of his job was to help position younger defensive backs such as Fabian Washington and Stanford Routt. Stuart Schweigert, in his first year as a starter at free safety, and Renaldo Hill, a converted cornerback, will assume that responsibility.

The loss of Langston Walker at guard would be negated somewhat if Jake Grove is indeed his replacement. Grove is also a strong run blocker, while Brad Badger, a capable pro with starting experience, is more of a technician.

The loss of Langston Walker at guard, a more powerful run blocker than Brad Badger, will be negated somewhat if Jake Grove returns as expected at center. Grove is a stronger point-of-attack blocker than Adam Treu. Badger, in any event, is a capable pro with starting experience.

Randy Moss, who played a half last week, should see his time increase this week, although he is not at full strength. He may be used in more medium range throws than deep throws until he is sufficiently recovered to run full speed on a succession of plays.

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