Inside Slant, Quotes, Notes & Injuries

S & BI Online
Posted Dec 23, 2005


It hasn't been quite the smashing debut LaMont Jordan had hoped for, but there is no doubt that the Oakland Raiders offense - such as it is - revolves around him.With that in mind, the Raiders' Christmas Eve date with the Denver Broncos becomes even more problematic.

Jordan is listed as doubtful with turf toe on his right foot - a painful condition that makes his appearance against the Broncos unlikely.

The injury occurred, Jordan believes, on his first or second carry against the Browns. He kept churning to a 25-carry, 132-yard day - his highest yardage figure in the NFL - but was extremely sore come Monday morning.

By Wednesday, he wasn't much better.

"He wants to play, but you have to be physically ready and I doubt he will be," Raiders coach Norv Turner said.

Against the Browns, Jordan, a backup to Curtis Martin for the past four seasons, broke the 1,000-yard mark. He has 272 carries for 1,025 yards and also leads Oakland in receiving with 70 receptions for 563 yards. His 1,588 yards from scrimmage trails only a roll call of the NFL's elite backs - Tiki Barber (1,998), Edgerrin James (1,788), Shaun Alexander (1,740), Larry Johnson (1,692) and LaDainian Tomlinson (1,671).

Jordan has a team-high 11 touchdowns, nine rushing and two receiving.

Veteran Zack Crockett, who figures to assume much of Jordan's workload, realizes how difficult turf toe can be. As a rookie with the Indianapolis Colts, he watched Marshall Faulk struggle with it. As a Raider, he saw teammate Charles Woodson play three-quarters of the season in pain, rarely practicing and getting game day pain-killing injections.

"It's a nagging, pressure-point injury," Crockett said. "It will be tough to lose a guy of his caliber. You know I'm always ready to pick up the pace."

Crockett is Oakland's second-leading ball-carrier with 30 carries for 120 yards and one touchdown. He carried four times for 10 yards against Cleveland after getting only one rush in the previous four games.

When pressed into action last season in the regular-season finale, Crockett rushed for 134 yards on 22 carries in a 13-6 loss to Jacksonville.

Sharing the load with Crockett will be Justin Fargas, who may need a can of WD-40 to loosen the rust. Fargas has two carries for 4 yards and hasn't carried the ball since Week 4.

"Coaches call that fresh legs," Crockett said with a wide smile. "You've got a guy who's anxious, and when he hears his name called he's ready to go. You know he's hungry. When you've got one guy who's been carrying the load, then you spread it around, guys will be happy. It's going to be a great thing."

Fargas, a special teams regular, had 75 carries for 329 yards in his first two seasons. He had six carries for 38 yards against Kansas City last Christmas Day and had career highs in carries (16) and yards (62) against the New York Jets in 2003.

Then Jordan arrived with a five-year, $27.5 million deal, fitting Turner's vision of a workhorse in the Emmitt Smith, Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson mold.

"When we brought in LaMont, I knew what we were getting," Fargas said. "They wanted him to be the every-down back and he's done a good job with that. On a personal note, you wish you could get more opportunities and fit in somewhere. But that didn't happen. You just have to be patient in this game and things will come your way. I know Zack and I will be able to carry the load."

Before the Raiders played Cleveland, it began to look as if Jordan needed some help. His yards per carry going into the game had dipped to 3.5, and his dropped passes (12, by count of STATS, Inc.) leads the league.

"The season has been very disappointing," Jordan said. "I'll look back at the end of the year and say I got a thousand yards for the first time in my career, and that's something to celebrate. But at the same time, it's really not."

SERIES HISTORY: 91st meeting, Raiders lead 53-35-2. Broncos won last meeting 31-17 on Nov. 13 at McAfee Coliseum and have won four of last five. Raiders won last game at Invesco Field, 25-24 on Nov. 28, 2004.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Defensive end Derrick Burgess was pleased to be named to the Pro Bowl, but won't be found near water.

"Can't swim," Burgess said. "What you think I'm going to do, get a tan? I'm not sitting on no beach. I'll be on the balcony, looking."

If some of Burgess' teammates were happy for him, fine, but he had no interest in calling it a "bright spot."

"Me making the Pro Bowl?" Burgess said. "I don't think that's going to help the team."

--Oakland had just one player on the Pro Bowl roster for the second consecutive season. Punter Shane Lechler made it last season. No Raiders were picked in 2003.

--The Raider with the most touches other than LaMont Jordan is not another running back or wide receivers Jerry Porter or Randy Moss.

It's Chris Carr, generously listed 5-foot-9, 185-pound return specialist and defensive back who has more kick returns than anyone in the NFL not named Dante Hall.

Carr has already set a franchise record with 92 returns - 62 kickoff returns and 30 punt returns. Only Kansas City's Hall (97) has more.

Carr's kick returns have Oakland beginning drives starting kickoffs at the 31.1-yard line, No. 3 in the league. With a long of 62, his average of 24.0 is held down somewhat because he hasn't gone the distance.

His 5.5 average on punt returns leaves room for improvement, but Carr is fearless (only six fair catches) and is an upgrade over the departed Phillip Buchanon because he fields everything he can reach.

Carr said he feels remarkably good despite running the Raiders' smallest body full speed into onrushing return coverage units week after week.

"When you're my size, you have to learn how to run hard and learn to put your body in a position where you don't get hit too hard and take those shots," Carr said. "I think I'm pretty flexible, too. A lot of times I'll get caught up in a pile or bent a different way and think, `If I didn't have flexible joints, I'd probably have hurt something. '"

--Over the last seven games, Denver has outrushed the Raiders 1,038 to 474 - an average of 148.2 to 67.7.

The Raiders have not had a rushing advantage over the Broncos since second meeting in 2002, when Oakland had 136 yards on the ground to 81 for Denver, with Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley running for 61 yards each.

Included in those seven games are Denver advantages of 121-60, 122-61, 254-31 and 190-39.

--The handful of Raiders who had played with Darrell Russell were saddened but not shocked to learn of his death in an automobile accident in which Russell was a passenger.

Although there was no toxicology report, the time (6 a.m.) and high-speed nature of the wreck led teammates to believe Russell had one final poor decision.

Russell, 29, was suspended three times under the NFL's substance abuse policy. He was also funny and engaging, a natural storyteller, and generous to a fault, teammates said.

"He was a fun-loving guy, always had a smile on his face," center Adam Treu said. "He was a very generous person. I remember coming in as a rookie, I didn't have a shoe contract yet, and he had one. I remember him giving me a pair of shoes because we both wore size 15."

Wide receiver Jerry Porter said Russell was "a great guy, a hell of a guy. He just never found the strength to get going again after all the trouble he got into."

--Oakland's best moment in the 2004 season came at Invesco Field, a 25-24 win over the playoff bound Broncos in which they overcame an 11-point deficit in the second half and upended Denver on a snowy Sunday night.

The game ended when Langston Walker blocked a potential game-winning 43-yard field goal attempt by Jason Elam.

"The stars must have been lined up, because gravity brought the ball right to me," Walker said.

Quarterback Kerry Collins had his most heroic game as a Raider, passing for 339 yards and four touchdowns, including a 5-yard flip to Jerry Porter for the game winner with 1:49 to play.

Porter had a career night, with six receptions for 143 yards and three touchdowns. It was largely on the basis of that game the Raiders signed Porter to contract extension following the season.

"That was a stinging game," Broncos safety John Lynch said. "I remember picking a ball off with about eight minutes left, we were up by 11, and I was thinking, `OK, we buried them.' And then it was over. To their credit, they kept playing."

--Place kicker Sebastian Janikowski has no clue as to why he has missed 10 field goal attempts - the most since his rookie season. He says he feels fine physically and mentally.

"I'm confident every time I go out there," Janikowski said. "It's not like I don't want to kick. Feels like I'm striking the ball good. Just not happening."

BY THE NUMBERS: 0 - AFC West wins for the Raiders this season. They have never been winless in the division in the Al Davis era (since 1963).

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The guys who played in that game who were a part of it, it's got to give you a feeling that, `Hey, it's doable.'" - Raiders coach Norv Turner on how last year's 25-24 win in Denver can carry over to Christmas Eve.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Raiders will hope to slow Denver's running game as they did in the first meeting (3.2 yards per carry) with the strong play of its front seven. Of particular trouble for the Raiders are the bootlegs quarterback Jake Plummer throwing to tight ends Stephen Alexander and Jeb Putzier, which will put linebacker Kirk Morrison, strong safety Jarrod Cooper nickel back Renaldo Hill on the spot.

With tight end Courtney Anderson doubtful with a strained knee, the Raiders run the risk of tipping off their run-pass intentions on the basis of who is in the game at tight end.

Randal Williams, a converted wide receiver and the starter, is under 230 pounds and still adjusting to blocking defensive linemen. Zeron Flemister, a veteran tight end in the 260s, has not caught a pass this season and has been primarily a blocker.

Anderson, at 270 pounds, was also a receiving threat.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--RB LaMont Jordan still had not removed his protective boot through Thursday and had not practiced, meaning he will miss the Christmas Eve game against Denver.

--DT Ted Washington, who had played in just 12 of his team's previous 32 games with Chicago and New England because of injury, will make his 31st consecutive start as a Raider against Denver.

--G/C Jake Grove (knee) missed practice for the fifth straight day. He was inactive against Cleveland, likely will be inactive against Denver and the possibility exists he has seen his last action in 2005.

--CB Fabian Washington, who suffered a bruised knee when it struck the helmet of Cleveland quarterback Charlie Frye, practiced Wednesday and is expected to resume his role in the staring lineup.

--CB Stanford Routt, who subbed for Nnamdi Asomugha when he was feeling ill against the Jets and played well for Fabian Washington against Cleveland, will back up at both spots.

--LT Barry Sims continues to struggle against smaller, quicker edge rushers. Although Denver right end Trevor Pryce is having a strong season, Sims usually fares better against more traditional ends.

--RB Omar Easy, Oakland's last option at running back after Zack Crockett and Justin Fargas, has played in 51 games and has carried four times for 1 yard. The carries came in 2004 with the Kansas City Chiefs. Easy had seven carries for 25 yards in the preseason. GAME PLAN: With Denver cornerback Darrent Williams out and having had success against Champ Bailey in the past, look for the Raiders to be more aggressive going to Randy Moss and Jerry Porter, both of whom have been relatively quiet in recent weeks.

The problem lies in spotty pass protection, which has surrendered 18 sacks in the past four games. More quick developing patterns and three-step drops may be required before going for the big strike.

Defensively, the Raiders are well aware of Denver's strengths with regard to running the ball and using the bootleg off the run - and rarely have they stopped both.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Raiders WRs Jerry Porter and Randy Moss vs. Broncos CB Dominique Foxworth: With Porter and Moss often switching sides and trading off plays in the slot, the time could come when Denver's rookie third-round pick is isolated on either one of Oakland's big-play receivers. To have any chance of upending the Broncos, quarterback Kerry Collins needs to cash in on those opportunities.

Broncos C Tom Nalen vs. Raiders DT Ted Washington: Nalen, the NFL's smallest starting at center at 286 pounds, gives away a minimum of 80 to Washington, who plants himself in the middle of the line with the stability of a freeway overpass. This is one of the better interior line matchups of the season with two vastly different styles - the agile, cut-blocking and movement style of Nalen against Washington's raw power and leverage.

INJURY IMPACT: The absence of LaMont Jordan and Courtney Anderson, on the surface, would seem to be a death knell to Oakland's intentions to run the ball.

However, it also provides an opportunity for a fresh start, and possibly be less predictable. Discernable patterns of offense could change by necessity and possibly for the better, because Oakland's approach with the ball has become stale and ineffective.


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