The Oakland offense revolves around the running of LaMont Jordan.
Fresh off a trip to the West Coast, the Texans now must make the long journey for the second consecutive week to face the 2-5 Oakland Raiders.
After finishing a league-worst 2-14 last year, the Raiders are in their first season under Lane Kiffin, the youngest head coach in the NFL. Building on a tough, physical defense, the Raiders look to wear teams down by running the football with bruising running back LaMont Jordan. Though they only have two wins this season, the Raiders have been competitive in most of their games and Kiffin has his team buying into his system and playing hard.
The focal point of the Raiders' offensive attack is the aforementioned Jordan. After an injury-plagued 2006 season, Jordan appears back on track in 2007 with 511 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The 5-10, 230 pound back also poses as a receiving threat, with 22 receptions on the season.
Jordan's backup is fifth-year veteran Justin Fargas. The former University of Southern California standout is a great change-of-pace option with his speed. In Week 4 against Miami, Fargas showed how dangerous he can be by rushing for a career-high 179 yards. Also in the backup stable is former Colt Dominic Rhodes, who returns after a four-game suspension for an off-the-field incident in the offseason.
Nine-year veteran Daunte Culpepper took over as the starting quarterback in Week 4. In his first start for the Raiders against his old team, the Miami Dolphins, Culpepper threw for two touchdowns and rushed for three more. On the season, he has thrown for 817 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
Behind Culpepper sit three quarterbacks in reserve. Former starter Josh McCown would be the first option should Culpepper go down, followed by last year's starter, Andrew Walter. Last on the depth chart is the 2007 draft's first-overall pick, JaMarcus Russell, who is beginning to pick up the offense after a lengthy contract holdout that extended into the regular season.
Culpepper has a pair of talented receivers in starters Ronald Curry and Jerry Porter, two deep-ball threats who both have three touchdown receptions on the season. After Curry and Porter, the depth is scarce with rookie Johnnie Lee Higgins and third-year man Mike Williams, a former Kiffin student at USC, the only other receivers on the roster.
Rookie Zach Miller is the starter at tight end and provides a big target in the middle of the field (6-5, 255). The former Arizona State star has 16 receptions and one touchdown on the season. Miller's backups are John Madsen and Tony Stewart.
The offensive line has long been a problem for the Raiders. Kiffin addressed the issue in the offseason, adding three new starters in two-time Pro Bowl center Jeremy Newberry, right guard Cooper Carlisle and right tackle Cornell Green. The left side of the line remains the same with left tackle Barry Sims and former second-overall pick left guard Robert Gallery. The line has improved this season, but did surrender five sacks last week in the Raiders' loss to Tennessee.
At the peak of their franchise's success, the Raiders were known to play a more physical brand of defense than other teams. That attitude has returned in this defensive unit, making them one of the best in the league.
Up front, the defensive line is led by right end Derrick Burgess. The two-time Pro Bowler has struggled with injuries this season, but did record his first sack last week against the Titans. Burgess is one of the league's best pass rushers, racking up 27 sacks over the last two seasons. The other end is four-year veteran Tommy Kelly, who has 30 tackles and one sack on the season.
Defensive tackle Warren Sapp plugs the middle of the line. The seven-time Pro Bowler lost weight in the offseason and now looks more like his old self (17 tackles, two sacks this season). Seven-year veteran Terdell Sands (6-7, 335), a run-stuffer who plays well next to Sapp, has filled in for injured Gerard Warren at the other tackle spot. Five-year veteran Tyler Brayton also sees time in the rotation at tackle.
Athletic middle linebacker Kirk Morrison leads the team in tackles with 51 and has added three interceptions. Flanking Morrison are hard-hitting strong side backer Thomas Howard and Robert Thomas on the weak side. Thomas has filled in for regular starter Sam Williams, who has missed the last three games. Reserves Ricky Brown and Isaiah Ekejiuba see most of their action on special teams.
The talented Raiders secondary features a pair of speedy cornerbacks and hard-hitting safeties. On the corners, starters Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington do a great job of locking down opposing receivers. Though neither has an interception this season, Asomugha was among the league leaders with eight last season.
Strong safety Michael Huff and free safety Stuart Schweigert rank third and fourth respectively on the team in tackles, with Huff's 41 and Schweigert's 36. Huff made a name for himself at the University of Texas with his knack for causing turnovers, but has yet to force one as a pro.
Former first-round pick Sebastian Janikowski is the kicker. Though he has one of the strongest legs in the league, Janikowski struggles with his accuracy on long-range field goals, only making two of his five attempts from 50-plus yards on the season.
Two-time Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler, in his eighth season, consistently ranks among the league leaders in punting average. This year is no different. Through Week 8, he ranks fifth in punting average with 49.5 yards per attempt, and leads the league in net average at 43.4.
Returning kickoffs is third-year reserve cornerback Chris Carr. The former Boise State Bronco is struggling with this year, ranking near the bottom of the league in return average at 20.3 yards per return. Carr also splits time with reserve receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins returning punts, but neither has been effective this season.
What to Watch For
- Last year, the Texans defeated the Raiders in bizarre fashion. Though they totaled just 124 total yards, including -5 yards passing, the Texans forced five turnovers to win 23-14. There is little doubt that the Raiders have a bad taste in their mouth from that game and are looking to turn the tables on Sunday.
- The Texans will face quarterback Daunte Culpepper for the second consecutive season. Last season the Texans faced Culpepper when he was with Miami and recorded five sacks against him in their 17-15 victory. Culpepper finished 23-for-39 for 249 yards and a touchdown pass in that contest.