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Raiding the Raiders
|SEAHAWKS VS. RAIDERS|
When: Today, 7:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field
Records: Seahawks 1-2; Raiders 0-3
TV: KING/5, with Curt Menefee and Warren Moon
Radio: 710 ESPN and 97.3 FM, with Steve Raible, Mack Strong and Jen Mueller
Series: Seahawks lead 6-3 in preseason games, but the Raiders won 27-24 in Oakland last year. This the sixth consecutive year they will conclude their preseason schedules against each other.
Watch to watch
The 80-man roster: The roster must be trimmed to 53 players on Saturday, so this is the last chance for several players to show they deserve to stick around. Some of the cuts will be easy, others more difficult. The rookie free agent who has best stated his case is wide receiver/returner Doug Baldwin, but also keep an eye on safety Jeron Johnson, QB Josh Portis and wide receiver Ricardo Lockette.
The tight ends: They have been the most productive aspect of the offense, with Anthony McCoy (two) and Dominique Byrd combining for all three of the team’s receiving touchdowns and 14 catches. With John Carlson out for the season because he needs surgery to repair a torn labrum, McCoy and Byrd look to be the No. 2 and No. 3 options behind Zach Miller, the former Raider who was signed last month in free agency.
Right cornerback: With the trade of Kelly Jennings to the Bengals on Monday, the starter will be either Walter Thurmond, a fourth-round draft choice last year who missed most of training camp with a sprained ankle; or Brandon Browner, a refugee from the CFL who hasn’t missed much in displaying his physical style.
Terrelle Pryor: The word out of Oakland is that the Raiders’ just-acquired QB will play against the Seahawks. Pryor just joined the team last Friday after being selected in the supplemental draft and will serve a five-game suspension once the regular season starts for his role in the violations committed by Ohio State players. So this will be the first, and last, opportunity for the Raiders’ coaches to gauge just how NFL-ready he might be.
When Pete Carroll hired Tom Cable in January, the Seahawks’ second-year coach had no idea it would be a staff addition that would keep on giving.
Cable arrived with the dual title of assistant head coach/offensive line coach, and his first order of business was revamping a running game that ranked 31st in the NFL last season. But the ex-head coach of the Oakland Raiders also has helped bring in two of his former players to assist in that task.
First, Robert Gallery was signed in free agency to fill the left guard spot in a revamped line, and provide some needed experience and leadership. Then, five days later, Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller followed his former coach and linemate up the coast.
And it’s difficult to tell which is the most happy about this Raider reunion – as the Seahawks prepare to close their preseason schedule tonight with a game against the Raiders at CenturyLink Field.
“We had a good deal going in Oakland,” Cable said. “We were close and all cared about it. We went through a lot together, and then it all changed. So that’s life.”
Gallery and Miller were quick to admit that this Cable connection played a huge part in the decisions to continue their NFL lives with the Seahawks.
“A very big factor,” Gallery said when asked about Cable’s presence. “I know how he coaches, how he treats guys and the way he handled himself as a head coach and offensive line coach in Oakland. So it was a big factor. I wanted to continue to grow under him and everybody knows how much I respect him.”
For his part, Cable labeled Gallery “the perfect get” for the spot on the line between left tackle Russell Okung, last year’s first-round draft choice; and Max Unger, who is in his first season as the fulltime starter at center. Gallery already has been a positive influence on John Moffitt and James Carpenter, the rookie starters on the right side of the line, as well.
“I respect the heck out of him,” was Gallery’s retort. “He’s all about football and that’s how I am. All I care about is winning and getting a chance to get the things that I want to do individually, which will come with winning. This is a great situation.
“I enjoyed my time in Oakland, but when this opportunity came along I knew it was a great choice. It was a no-brainer for me.”
Rather than temper all this togetherness rhetoric, Miller only ratchets it to another level in adding his voice to the kumbaya chorus. He also says Cable’s presence in Seattle was a significant factor is his decision to sign with the Seahawks – more, in fact, than the lucrative five-year contract he signed.
“It’s cool,” Miller said of this all-for-one-and-one-for-all approach. “Getting to know these guys, and obviously I’ve had them around the last four years, so having familiar faces around here I can talk to – and talk to Cable about any questions I have – it’s huge for me.”
Speaking of huge, Gallery is 6 feet 7 and weighs 325 pounds. Miller is 6-5, 255. Cable was a 6-5, 285-pound road-grader of a blocker at the University of Idaho, where he played for former Seahawk coaches Dennis Erickson and Keith Gilbertson – after playing for Dick Armstrong and Gilbertson’s father at Snohomish High School. Cable remains a looming presence on the practice field and sideline.
And Carroll didn’t have to do a lot of research on any of them. In his first season as coach of the Seahawks, the Raiders beat them twice – once in the preseason, 27-24; and again during the regular season, when the Raiders rushed for 239 yards in a 33-3 Week 8 victory on Halloween.
“He’s a tremendous asset,” Carroll said of Cable. “He is a great factor in this program. He’s got the voice to lead the offense up front. Darrell (Bevell, the offensive coordinator) has a great role in coordinating, but what we came in here talking about a year ago was the emphasis of the running game to fit this whole thing together attitude-wise.
“And Tom is that. He is exactly that. That’s part of why we feel so confident about where we’re going right now.”
And that’s why Cable was so excited to get Gallery and Miller to help him in this quest.
“It’ll help a ton,” Cable said of landing Gallery. “His experience in the last four years, he’s kind of seen everything – from learning it from the beginning, to getting it to the point where it’s the best in football. Whether it’s running or throwing, he’s gotten through kind of all the ups and downs of having to put a system in and grow with it.
“So his value is extreme.”
When it comes to Miller’s value, the discussion always starts with his receiving skills. That will happen when you’ve caught 60, 66 and 56 passes the past three seasons. But Miller is more than a pair of productive hands.
“That’s what people don’t realize about him, he is a complete player,” Cable said. “He’s going to be able to block off the line of scrimmage. You can move him around, he can block very effectively that way. You can split him out. He can do all the crack blocks. He can play the one-on-one matchup game in the passing game.”
Not that there needs to be more, but there is.
“Zach Miller is a really fine, fine football player,” Cable said. “And a better person than he is a player. So for our team – for this program and what I’ve seen coming here and kind of the mentality, if you will, it’s extraordinary –Zach’s going to fit in very well that way.”
Miller and John Carlson, when healthy, give the Seahawks the best tight end tandem in the league, at least in Cable’s estimation.
“You’ve got two tight ends, I think, who are as good as there is in football,” Cable said. “That’s a strong statement. But I’ve seen both in person, and they’re very good. John is good. Zach’s good. And we just got a lot better.”
That, of course, is the plan behind the constant roster shuffling since Carroll and general manager John Schneider arrived 18 months ago. They’ve wanted to get bigger, stronger, faster and deeper – and therefore better.
Cable, Gallery and Miller – these ex-Raiders who are now in Seahawks garb – constitute three vital elements to the puzzle that is being pieced together.
“It’s just positives across the board,” Carroll said.