washingtonpost.com  > Sports > Leagues and Sports > NFL > Index > Preview

Oakland Beefs Up Plans To Stop Division Opponents

Wednesday, September 8, 2004; Page H17

The Oakland Raiders found a way to compete in a division with two of the best running backs in football. They signed defensive tackles Warren Sapp (Tampa Bay) and Ted Washington (New England) to help stop San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson and Kansas City's Priest Holmes.

Good move: Tomlinson rushed for 187 and 243 yards, respectively, against the Raiders last year; Holmes had 100-yard rushing and receiving games against them.

_____ Oakland Raiders _____
Raiders Section

_____NFL '04_____
With what may be the most talented group of receivers the NFL has ever seen, look for the game to be more wide open than ever this season.
Officials will put teeth in a rule prohibiting a defender from impeding a receiver downfield.
How the rule is to be interpreted.
Darrell Green knows a thing or two about receivers and shares his all-time top five.
Receivers should get a big boost from the rule modification.
Don't call it the T.O. rule or the Joe Horn rule, but expect a crackdown on TD celebrations.
A WR's tools of the trade
Top 5 end zone celebrations
The NFL's Top 10 storylines of '04

_____Team Previews_____
In predicted order of finish

NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas Cowboys
Washington Redskins
New York Giants

NFC South
New Orleans Saints
Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Atlanta Falcons

NFC North
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions

NFC West
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams
San Francisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals

AFC East
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins

AFC South
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans
Houston Texans

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns

AFC West
Kansas City Chiefs
Denver Broncos
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

"We're playing at a physical level both on the offensive and the defensive fronts," first-year coach Norv Turner told reporters in late August. "That's going to be our strengths. The offensive and defensive fronts are where it starts for us."

The Raiders have a pretty good defense overall. Linebacker Napoleon Harris (107 tackles) and cornerback Charles Woodson (three interceptions) give the team a big-time player at all three levels, though don't expect anything big too soon: Harris is out for another couple of weeks with a knee injury, and Woodson didn't report to camp until about a week ago.

The offense has less talent. Two rookies may start on the offensive line, and that can't be good. Quarterbacks Rich Gannon and Kerry Collins each have started in a Super Bowl; never mind that they combined for nine interceptions and their teams lost by a combined 82-28. In the preseason, however, each looked pretty good, as did number three quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo.

Oakland fans aren't exactly the patient, understanding types. Arizona's "rally squad" threw T-shirts into the crowd during their preseason home game against Oakland. The Raiders fans grabbed the shirts and threw them back.

So spare a thought for Turner, one of the game's good guys. He's gone from working for Daniel Snyder to working for Al Davis. That's sort of like surviving the Titanic, only to buy a ticket for the Lusitania.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company