KEYS TO THE GAME: The headlines are about QB Daunte Culpepper's expected
start for the Raiders in his return to Miami. But the meat of Oakland's
attack will lie with RB LaMont Jordan, who is second in the NFL with 350
Miami's defense is showing its age, and if the Raiders keep
the game close or get a lead, the Dolphins have had trouble stopping the run
in the second half.
Dolphins QB Trent Green is well acquainted with the
Raiders defense from his years with Kansas City, so he is aware of the speed
in Oakland's secondary.
The Dolphins want to see if RB Ronnie Brown can
follow up his excellent game against the Jets, and the Raiders are allowing
4.8 yards per carry.
LG Robert Gallery made it through the entire practice Thursday and
could start against Miami.
QB Josh McCown did not practice Thursday and is unlikely to start, with
Daunte Culpepper making his first start as a Raider.
LB Robert Thomas practiced and should be available after missing the
Cleveland game with a hamstring pull.
DE Derrick Burgess (calf) did not practice and appears unlikely to face
C Jeremy Newberry (hamstring) practiced and should be available to face
Miami, although it is not known if he or Jake Grove will start.
WR Drisin James, a former Boise State teammate of CB Chris Carr, was
signed to the practice squad.
S Travares Tillman, who was demoted again last week as former CB Travis Daniels shifted over to safety, missed practice with a swollen knee.
S Lamont Thompson returned to practice after missing Wednesday's
session with a migraine. With Tillman's status up in the air, Thompson could
be activated for the first time since the Dolphins signed him on Sept. 11.
MLB Zach Thomas continued to practice on a limited basis Thursday but
said the lingering effects of a concussion sustained against the Cowboys on
Sept. 16 have subsided.
"I want to play. If it's an ankle or knee you can
fight through it. But when it's your head, it messed with a number of
things. I have years of playing to come and I have to be cautious and you
learn as you go. ... The last one was seven years ago and hopefully the next
one will be in another seven years when I'm playing with my kids and I take
a football to the head or something. ... You know when you catch one. You're
energized and then you want to go to sleep on the bench. Everything goes
from HD to regular TV."
WLB Channing Crowder will move to the middle if Thomas is held out
Sunday, and Donnie Spragan will fill Crowder's spot. "He's the future,"
Thomas said of Crowder.
TE David Martin missed practice with flu symptoms. The illness comes a
day after Martin could only participate on a limited basis because of a toe
injury. Cameron seemed to expect Martin to play on Sunday, however, if he
can't then TE Justin Peelle will fill in with FB Reagan Mauia playing in
double tight-end situations.
Inside Raiders camp:
It's not enough that Justin Griffith happens to be smaller than most
The Raiders roster lists LaMont Jordan and Griffith each at 230 pounds,
but Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said it's a fib.
"We've got a tailback that weighs eight pounds more than a fullback,"
Griffith is not a guard or tight end lining up in the backfield. He's a
running back in terms of both size and skill set. It just so happens he
blocks a lot more than he runs and catches.
"To me, when the tailback is getting those yards, it's just like I'm
getting them too," Griffith said. "When they score a touchdown it's like I
scored a touchdown. When I have the opportunity to catch it or run it I'll
make the best of it, but most of my job is getting those holds open."
Through three games, Griffith does not have a run from scrimmage and has
seven receptions for 25 yards and one touchdown.
In Oakland's 26-24 win over Cleveland, Griffith threw a lead block that
sprung Justin Fargas for a 21-yard gain, and also executed a perfect cut
block to save Daunte Culpepper from a potential sack.
Griffith, signed as a free agent after four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, displaced longtime fullback Zack Crockett.
He was a natural fit, given the Raiders hired Atlanta offensive
coordinator Greg Knapp and offensive line coach Tom Cable.
Griffith's presence has helped with a seamless transition to a
zone-blocking running attack with has averaged 159.3 yards per game through
three games _ third in the NFL. The Raiders were 29th in rushing in 2006 and
32nd in 2005.
Griffith compensates for his lack of size with conditioning, quickness
"Being a smaller fullback, I know I have to prepare as far as getting in
the weight room," Griffith said. "Those linebackers aren't small, so you
have to watch film, study and block them the best way you know how. I don't
have to hit them straight up all the time. We have a cut scheme here and I
can cut them. I can get them on the edge.
"If I do have to block them square, I have to be strong enough to do
Kiffin said Griffith is in a constant state of preparation.
"Players will tell you they love the game, but not all of them do,"
Kiffin said. "Because if they did, they'd all prepare the way he does. That
was a huge part of getting him. He never missed a second of the offseason.
He just moved out here and was all about ball."
Inside Dolphins camp:
While most of the focus for Sunday's Raiders-Dolphins matchup has been on
the return of quarterback Daunte Culpepper, Miami knows that the key to
victory is in containing Oakland's 5-10, 230-pound running back Lamont
With incumbent starting quarterback Josh McCown not practicing all week
with a myriad of injuries, it looks like Culpepper will get his chance for
revenge against Dolphins coach Cam Cameron for bringing in Trent Green and
not giving the former Vikings Pro Bowler a chance to compete for the job.
However, the Dolphins know the only way they'll be able to back up
linebacker Joey Porter's guarantee for a victory is by improving their
porous 29th-ranked rushing defense. Jordan is second in the NFL with 350
yards on 5.1 yards per carry and two touchdowns.
The Dolphins run defense, featuring several players over 30, is
considerably worse in the second half, while Jordan gets stronger as the
game progresses. Of Jordan's 350 yards, 201 have come in the second half.
Jets back Thomas Jones had 80 of his 110 yards in the second half against
Miami. Redskins back Clinton Portis had 81 of his 98 yards in the second
half (and overtime), and Dallas' Marion Barber had 65 of his 89 yards in the
second half vs. Miami.
"He's definitely running a lot better than a couple of years ago when we
saw him last," Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas said. "We've had our problems
stopping the running game, so we're going to have to step up our game this
"He's a strong, stocky guy, and really their offensive line is playing
very efficiently," said Jason Taylor, who has 12 tackles and just one sack
in three games. "They've run the ball very well and like I said, it will be
a big challenge for us."
Porter prefers to rush the passer standing up in the 3-4 rather than
hands down in the nickel. He's only had nine tackles and no sacks in three
games, and hasn't freed up Taylor in the pass-rushing attack as expected.
"I've been playing out of position going against defensive ends. JT's
going from outside linebacker to defensive end and they've been keeping us
in nickel. ... We've adapted to them instead of making them adapt to us.
It's time to start (making them) match up with us," Porter said.
PREDICTION: Raiders 31-27