Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Report Cards

Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Report Cards

It appears Warren Sapp was a wise investment after all for the Oakland Raiders. When Sapp signed a multi-year contract with a $4.5 million signing bonus in the 2003 off-season, there were whispers the Raiders had signed up a fading star.

Essentially a non-factor while miscast as an end in a 3-4 defense last season, Sapp was considered a free agent bust. Virtually invisible early on last season, he started to play slightly better as the Raiders began to use him over a guard in a 4-3 defense.

"I think it's a factor, and it's probably a factor from a mindset as much as anything else," coach Norv Turner said.

However, there was no indication Sapp would be what he was in a 34-25 win Sunday over Tennessee -- a defensive tackle who looked very close to the form which made him one of the NFL's premiere defenders with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He had 2.5 sacks of Titans QB Steve McNair and caused a fumble with a blindside sack -- which rolled into the end zone and was converted into six points by safety Jarrod Cooper. That 2.5 figure represents his entire sack total from last season.

Sapp now has 4.5 sacks through seven games. Given the way Sapp has played of late, he has a chance to reach double figures in sacks for the first time since he had a career high 16.5 in 2000.

If Sapp made it look as if he's seen it all before, it's because he has. He said he can tell immediately from how the guard and tackle lines up whether he was playing pass or run.

"I know what the game looks like from in there," The game opens up for me because I've been in that position for so long. I'm home."

Sapp had plenty of help, as the Raiders had six sacks. It was their best game-long defensive pressure of the season.

With the Titans looking out for defensive end Derrick Burgess, who had two sacks in each of his three previous games, Sapp came free more often than usual. He also credited Ed Jasper, a free agent who played for Atlanta last season.

"That push that I get up the middle really gives him a chance to wipe them off the edge," Sapp said. "I'm able to get one-on-ones when they're paying attention to home. Ed Jasper is really the key to me right now. He grabbed their center for me a couple of times and allowed me to wheel and deal one-on-one. I've been pretty good when I get that chance."

NOTES, QUOTES

--WR Randy Moss, a surprise participant against Buffalo after being listed as doubtful, played less than expected against Tennessee. He caught three passes for 26 yards with a long of 13.

After the game, Moss, who took a blow to the head at one point, sat in his chair with his head in his hands. He was one of the last players to leave the locker room and did not speak to the media.

"Randy's struggling with some things," coach Norv Turner said. "He got hit in the head pretty good. He's got some soreness. I am pleased that we are getting as much out of him as we are. I'd like to get him back fulltime, but that might not happen as soon as we would like."

--S Jarrod Cooper recovered a Steve McNair fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, the beneficiary of a sack by Warren Sapp. It was the first defensive touchdown for the Raiders in 19 games. Oakland's last defensive score was a 32-yard interception return by Phillip Buchanon against Tampa Bay on Sept. 26, 2004.

--LB Isaiah Ekejiuba, activated Friday when Derrick Gibson was placed on injured reserve, played on special teams and nearly had a punt block.

"Coach (Joe) Avezzano made sure we were all prepared," Ekejiuba said. "The biggest adjustment was the speed of the game. It was ridiculously fast."

--WR Jerry Porter tried not to get too frustrated over not reaching the end zone until Sunday. He went through the same thing last year.

"I don't show up until Week 8, I guess," Porter said. "I don't think I got in the end zone until Week 8 last year. I try not to press. A lot is made of stats; I just try to go out, work real hard and stay consistent."

Porter's breakthrough last year came in Week 8 against New Orleans, but it was Oakland's eighth game because they hadn't had a bye. He still finished with nine touchdown receptions.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--FS Stuart Schwiegert had an embarrassing missed tackle on a 38-yard scoring run by Chris Brown near the sideline.

"I usually chop the guy's legs," Schweigert said. "For some reason I went high on him. I broke the stiff arm down, he got separation from me and it resulted in a missed tackle."

The whiff aside, Turner said Schweigert "had his best game as a Raider."

--LG Brad Badger played an error-free game in place of starter Langston Walker, who missed the game after undergoing emergency surgery last week for an intra-abdominal hemorrhage. Badger started 11 games at left guard last season.

--C Jake Grove, who coach Norv Turner said might see some time at guard, did not play after being active for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery after a Week 4 win over Dallas.

Turner, stressing continuity, said it has not been determined whether Grove will start this week; or at what position.

--LB Tyler Brayton, playing as an end in the nickel defense, had a sack of McNair which caused a fumble that was recovered by Bobby Hamilton. Although the Raiders stubbornly maintained early on Brayton was a linebacker, his most effective role remains as an edge player with his hand on the ground.

--LB LaMont Jordan, who broke out an imaginary chainsaw in the end zone during the win over Buffalo, strummed an air guitar after catching an 18-yard touchdown pass against Tennessee.

"I figured I was in Tennessee, I had to break out the guitar," Jordan said. "It probably wasn't one of the best ones, but I don't really care."

--FB John Paul Foschi had surgery on finger Monday, but is expected to be ready to play against Kansas City. Coach Norv Turner did not disclose which finger or which hand.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL REPORT CARD VS. TITANS

PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus -- Kerry Collins (17-of-29, 238 yards, 3 TDs) survived a 52-yard interception return before halftime by Reynaldo Hill to lead the Raiders on the game-clinching drive. Offense was primarily passes to Jerry Porter (6 receptions, 123 yards, 2 TDs) and screens to LaMont Jordan (5 receptions, 69 yards). Randy Moss is hurting. Doug Gabriel, Alvis Whitted and Courtney Anderson were shut out.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Coming off his career game, LaMont Jordan was held to 20 carries and 67 yards, but had some nice runs early when Raiders set tempo. Whitted ran 24 yards on a well-conceived reverse.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Excellent starting debut by rookie corner Fabian Washington (3 passes defensed) and strong game by corner Nnamdi Asomugha (3 passes defensed). Secondary kept Tennessee receivers in front of them (26 receptions, 229 yards). Coverage helped by defensive pressure, with season-high six sacks, including 2.5 by Warren Sapp.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Gave up a deceiving 140 yards on 25 carries. Tennessee's Chris Brown had 38 of his 97 yards on a touchdown run, and 41 yards came on five creative scrambles by Steve McNair. Ted Washington did more than simply tie up blockers with seven tackles. Linebacker Danny Clark had 12 stops.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Were fortunate to have 82-yard punt return for touchdown by Tennessee's Adam "Pacman" Jones nullified by penalty. Sebastian Janikowski had six kickoffs into the end zone, four touchbacks and was perfect on PAT's and field goal attempts. Chris Carr averaged 29.3 yards on four kickoff returns and called his only fair catch of the season on a punt return.

COACHING: B -- The Raiders were ready to play at the outset, jumping to 17-0 lead -- which is huge for a team that had won only two regular-season road games since the start of the 2003 season. There was no sign of panic when the Raiders gave back much of that lead. Excellent use of limited personnel by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in the wake of losing starters Charles Woodson and Derrick Gibson last week.

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