Inside Slant, Battles, Quotes, Injuries, Pers

S & BI Online
Posted Dec 30, 2005


The way Tom Coughlin told the story, he and Kerry Collins had a nice chat about the quarterback's role with the New York Giants after Coughlin was hired as the Giants' head coach.

"I've known Kerry for quite a few years, and when I first came here, we had an opportunity to sit down and talk," Coughlin told Bay Area media by conference call. "After he made his decision, I called him on the phone and wished him the best."

He called Collins a "stand-up guy" and said Collins is highly thought of in the Giants organization.

While not going out of his way to take a swipe at Coughlin, Collins attempted to set the record straight.

"I never spoke to Tom, other than in the hallway when we came back for the off-season program," Collins said. "I talked to Ernie Accorsi, but I never spoke to anyone in the organization about the decision after that."

A New Year's Eve matchup between the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants at McAfee Coliseum allows Collins at least a brief respite from the misery of the past several weeks.

Instead of fielding questions for which he has no answers about how the Raiders' season could go so horribly wrong at 4-11, Collins can focus on something else.

The sacks, interceptions and lack of offensive production can be pushed to the background as Collins contemplates how he was shipped out of the town he loved when the Giants became infatuated with Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning, swinging a deal with the San Diego Chargers to bring in the No. 1 draft pick to take his job.

Collins' future with the Raiders is in serious doubt after just two years. His salary-cap number is nearly $12.9 million in 2006, he is due a $2.5 million roster bonus in March, and the Raiders can save approximately $9.2 million by cutting him when the season is over.

Considering the Raiders have scored 30 points in the past four games combined - three of them started by Collins - and that the highest quarterback rating over the past several weeks is 77.5, the Raiders could be shopping for a new coach and quarterback a week from now.

So as Collins ponders the possibility of unwanted free agency again, zeroing in on denying the Giants a chance at the NFC East title is a nice diversion.

"I was disappointed when things went down the way they did, and to extract a little revenge this weekend would be nice," Collins said. "But first and foremost, it's about the Oakland Raiders."

Collins' emotions weren't much different regarding Manning than they were a few weeks ago when coach Norv Turner opted to start Marques Tuiasosopo against the New York Jets - an experiment that lasted one game when Tuiasosopo floundered.

"What bugged me is that they decided that someone would be better at the position than me," Collins said of the Giants. "I didn't feel that way at the time. But it's water under the bridge. I made my feelings known then. I went through a lot with that organization. I felt like I was still the best guy for the job. When you feel that way and they decide to do something else, it's hard not to have bad feelings about it."

Collins played for the Giants from 1999-2003, leading them to an NFC championship in 2000. His title game performance against Minnesota - 28-for-39 for 381 yards and five touchdowns - was perhaps the best game of his career.

He came to the Giants at the beginning of his rehabilitation for alcoholism and remains grateful to the organization for helping get his life turned around.

"They were blunt in the way they told me they were taking a chance on me and they weren't going to put up with too much," Collins said. "It made me wake up and realize what I needed to do. The biggest thing was that I got a tremendous amount of support from within the organization and also knowing that if I screwed up in New York, that it was going to be a pretty big deal."

SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. The Raiders lead the series 7-2. The Raiders won the last game 28-10 on Nov. 25, 2001, and have won the past four meetings. The last Giants win was 34-17 at the Meadowlands in 1989. The Giants have played only twice in Oakland, losing 42-0 in 1973 and 20-17 in 1998. The Raiders won two of the three games played in Los Angeles.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The last time the Giants played in Oakland was Jon Gruden's first win as coach of the Raiders, a 20-17 victory in which Jeff George passed for 303 yards and Napoleon Kaufman had 139 yards rushing.

The two teams combined for 31 penalties for 203 yards, with the Raiders getting 16 of the penalties and 113 of the yards.

That scenario could repeat itself Saturday night. The Raiders lead the NFL with 139 penalties, with the Giants in second at 134. Oakland has fallen to third in penalty yards with 1,078, with the Giants fifth at 1,045.

--In one of the more memorable story lines of 2001, William Thomas returned to the team on the eve of the Giants game following the death of his brother to record 11 tackles, knock down a pass and record a sack in a 28-10 win over the Giants.

Senior assistant Bruce Allen arranged a charter flight from Texas on Thanksgiving weekend to get Thomas to the game.

"It was one of the most inspiring, emotional feelings I've had as a coach," Gruden said following the game.

The Raiders improved to 8-2 with the win, but they staggered to a 2-4 finish en route to their second consecutive AFC West title.

--It turns out the bruised knee that the Raiders said was troubling Fabian Washington last week was actually a bad case of tracheo-bronchitis.

"I really didn't practice last week," Washington said. "It was pretty tough."

Washington was reported by the club as having practiced Wednesday and Thursday.

--Derrick Burgess, whose 15 sacks are behind only the 15.5 by Sean Jones (1985) in franchise history, can set the club record by getting an old college teammate at Mississippi.

"That's him. I call him Cool Hand Luke," Burgess said of Eli Manning. "That's his name because nothing gets to him, on the field or off the field, from what I've seen."

--Running back LaMont Jordan broke 1,000 yards and finished with 1,025 by rushing for 132 yards on a case of turf toe that would end his season after 14 games.

His inspiration for going on against Cleveland was on the opposite sideline, former teammate Curtis Martin.

"Honestly, I kept telling myself it was something that wouldn't hold Curtis out," Jordan said.

--Randal Williams, a 215-pound wide receiver when he came to the Raiders in training camp, is now a 230-pound tight end. He will start his second consecutive game with Courtney Anderson out with a knee injury.

"It's been tough, trying to maintain it throughout the season when you're playing on offense, playing on special teams," Williams said. "It's just a matter of going home and eating as much as I can. It's hard. I mean, there's only so much a body can take, only so much you can pack in a stomach. But I've got to do it. Playing in there with my hand in the dirt, it's a whole different ballgame."

Williams has been loading up on protein shakes and just about any food he can get his hands on - whether it's considered healthy or not. He's become a big breakfast eater - French toast, scrambled eggs and bacon - after going through most of his life not eating breakfast at all.

After spending four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and catching only one pass, Williams has 10 receptions with the Raiders and loves his new venue despite the 4-11 record.

He is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent but wants to return to the Raiders.

"No disrespect to Bill Parcells, but he finds a way to take the fun out of the game to a certain extent," Williams said. "Now I'm actually having fun again, enjoying playing football. I'm growing, learning a new position and I see big things for myself in the future."

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 - Number of touchdowns the Raiders offense has scored in the past four games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This team is 10 times better than it was last year. The wins and losses don't say it, but you can't be in this organization or be on this team, last year and this year, and feel the same way. It's a lot better, a lot more positive." - Strong safety Jarrod Cooper.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Giants have 38 sacks and will be after QB Kerry Collins early and often. Using Kansas City's heavy blitzing of the middle as a blue print, opponents have come hard at Collins over center. The push either forces Collins to throw off his back foot, often wildly, or gets him to roll out of the pocket, where he is heavy-footed and ineffective.

Oakland must work on getting the middle blocked and trust that Barry Sims and Robert Gallery can deal with ends Omi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan - a tall order, given their performances in recent weeks. This task becomes much easier if the Raiders can run with any effectiveness.

On defense, the Raiders must figure out how to best deploy nickel back Renaldo Hill. Tight end Jeremy Shockey and running back Tiki Barber both must be accounted for, and Hill has been the most versatile secondary defender in the absence of Charles Woodson.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--CB Charles Woodson, out since Oct. 23 with a broken right fibula, was placed on injured reserve, where he probably will end his Raiders career. Woodson would be due a salary of $12.9 million if franchised for a third consecutive year, a price the Raiders are not expected to pay.

--TE James Adkisson was activated from the practice squad to provide depth since TE Courtney Anderson (knee) is doubtful for Sunday's game. Adkisson takes the roster spot of CB Charles Woodson (leg), who was placed on injured reserve.

--C/G Jake Grove took some reps in practice Wednesday but did not complete the entire workout. Inactive the past two games, his likely role is as a backup at both guard spots and center against the Giants.

--TE Courtney Anderson (knee, doubtful) did not practice Wednesday and will not play Sunday. Randal Williams gets his second start at tight end.

--LB Grant Irons (hamstring, doubtful) did not practice Wednesday. Tyler Brayton is likely to fill Irons' limited role in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

--DE/DT Tommy Kelly, with 3.5 sacks, is second among players on the 53-man roster to Derrick Burgess (15) in sacks. Kelly has not recorded a sack since getting a half-sack Nov. 27 against Miami. His three other sacks came on Nov. 6 against Kansas City.

--WR Randy Moss, unless he gets four touchdowns against the Giants, will finish with single figures in touchdowns for only the second time in his eight-year career. Moss caught 106 passes for 1,347 yards and scored seven touchdowns in 2002. He has six touchdowns for the Raiders this season.

--DE Derrick Burgess has six multi-sack games, the most ever by an NFL player in his first year with a team. Chad Bratzke of Indianapolis in 1999 and Bryce Paup of Buffalo in 1995 each had five multi-sack games after leaving the Giants and Green Bay, respectively.

GAME PLAN: It's Oakland's last chance to realize Norv Turner's vision of a power running game with play-action to set up deep strikes to Randy Moss and Jerry Porter. Moss was very close on a number of plays last week, and sending him off with a big game in a good mood would be beneficial.

Defensively, the Raiders look to get interception-prone Eli Manning off to a bad start and hopefully avoid making the record books as the team with the fewest interceptions in the history of a 16-game season. The record is six (done three times) and the Raiders have five.

The Raiders have defended the run reasonably well of late. The problem will be stopping Manning from chewing up the secondary with the likes of Burress, Toomer, Shockey and Barber out of the backfield.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

--Raiders LT Barry Sims and RT Robert Gallery vs. Giants RE Osi Umenyiora and LE Michael Strahan. Sims' best chance is if the Raiders are able to run the ball and stick with it, something they have had trouble doing this season. Umenyiora presents the Giants with a dilemma - do they try to isolate him on Sims as much as possible because Sims has been vulnerable, or do they move him inside to push Collins up the middle, where he has been more error-prone and rendered unable to step up in the pocket? Gallery could end up without much help from a chipping back if the Raiders help Sims with Umenyiora. He would do well to watch film of how Lincoln Kennedy made Strahan disappear when the teams met in 2001.

--Giants WRs Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer vs. Raiders CBs Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington. Burress is the more popular target, having been thrown to 154 times, but he's liable to line up on either side. He and Toomer are liable to get some man-to-man coverage because the Raiders must also worry about TE Jeremy Shockey and RB Tiki Barber out of the backfield. Asomugha, in particular, is a tall corner who fares reasonably well against bigger, physical receivers such as Burress and Toomer. He and Washington have dealt with size and athleticism before, defending Randy Moss and Jerry Porter at practice.

INJURY IMPACT: The loss of LaMont Jordan for a second straight game is negated somewhat because Zack Crockett is an effective, between-the-tackles back who is also a superior pass blocker to Jordan. Considering the Giants bring Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan from the ends, Crockett's pass-blocking role will be important. Along the same vein, Randal Williams, a former wide receiver who has bulked up to 230 pounds, is still much smaller than the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Courtney Anderson and less effective as a pass blocker.


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