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ESPN Insider Norv likes to pound the rock


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Al Davis has always favored the vertical passing game. However, in recent seasons the Oakland Raiders have decided instead to rely on the short passing game of coaches Mike White, Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan. But after watching his team's offense implode last year, Davis decided he needed to ditch the West Coast offense and brought Norv Turner in as his new head coach.

"I don't think we can do the West Coast offense solely," Davis said while introducing Turner to the Oakland press. "I think it has been caught up with, and that has been shown Norv Turner, throughout his career, has been a tremendous offensive coach in the running game -- and it's a power running game."

Tyrone Wheatley proved last season he can still run the balll effectively when given a chance.Turner has specialized in offensive schemes that rely on running the ball frequently. In nine of his 13 seasons as a head coach/offensive coordinator his lead back has gained at least 1,300 yards, and in those nine campaigns the likes of Emmitt Smith, Terry Allen, Stephen Davis, LaDainian Tomlinson and Ricky Williams averaged 345 carries.

But Turner is more than just pounding the ball. He knows that a successful running game makes the play-action pass a dangerous weapon and creates opportunities to go downfield.

The Raiders showed they could run the ball well last year when Rich Gannon and Marques Tuiasosopo went down with injuries. In the second half of the season, the Raiders ran the ball very effectively, averaging 137 yards a game on 32 carries.

At 32, Tyrone Wheatley might not be the 300-carry back Turner relishes, but he could still be very productive. His age isn't a big concern because he's only toted the rock 1,185 times in his career. To put that in perspective, Tomlinson has already carried the ball 1,024 carries in just three years. However, Charlie Garner could be on his way out. He's still very capable of providing explosiveness to the backfield, but with a 2004 base salary of $4.2 million the Raiders could save some cap space by dumping

him and letting Justin Fargas be the change-of-pace back.

There is a concern that Gannon isn't suited to Turner's style because of his lack of arm strength, but that's not necessarily the case. If the 38-year-old Gannon can recover from a season-ending injury to his throwing shoulder, he can get the job done, so long as the Raiders pick up another receiver who can get separation.

Brad Johnson, another quarterback who is considered weak-armed, had his best year under Turner in 1999. With teams worried about stopping Stephen Davis, Johnson was able to get the ball deep to Michael Westbrook and the speedy Albert Connell.

"Norv's probably the best play-caller I've ever been around as a head coach," former coach Jimmy Johnson said.


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