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RAIDERS : All the Indications Are That the Team Will Have Quite a Different Look

July 22, 1987|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

After a season to forget and an off-season to remember, the Raiders are going back to Oxnard to see how many of them survive the transition to whatever comes next.

The first shots have already been fired. The fledging Raiders scheduled to report to rookie camp tonight include James Lofton, the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver; Mervyn Fernandez, the ex-Canadian League MVP; Chris Woods, a hot kick-returner also down from our northern neighbor; Lionel Washington, a fleet cornerback liberated from the wasteland of St. Louis, and Rusty Hilger, the quarterback of at least the near future.

There will also be some actual rookies, led by No. 1 pick John (Now Not as Many Pounds of) Clay. Waiting in deep reserve is Bo Jackson, the outfielder-tailback, due in November.

Upshot: Several of the old Raiders reporting next week are in for a fight if they're to become older Raiders.

Chief among them are Marc Wilson and Henry Lawrence. Ray Guy has already departed. Threatened in no small way are baby vets Jessie Hester, Rod Barksdale and Tim Moffett. And coming in with a newly repaired shoulder that makes him even a bigger question mark than usual is the oldest Raider of them all, Jim Plunkett.

A look at the Raider positions that are a-changin':

--Quarterback: After Wilson's long tryout, the job is officially Hilger's. There has been speculation in the organization that Wilson might even be paid his $1 million and sent home. That, however, will probably depend on whether Plunkett is all right. Free agent Ed Luther and rookie Steve Beuerlein figure to compete for the No. 3 job.

"There's no question there's going to be a change, going into camp with a young quarterback," Coach Tom Flores said. "Rusty doesn't have a lot of on-field experience but he's worked hard in the off-season and we're going to get him all the work we can.

"The question is who's going to be behind him. Right now Jim is healthy. He's still rehabbing his shoulder slightly. It's still up in the air.

"And Marc Wilson is still on our squad."

Oh.

--Wide receiver: Flores won't say who's ahead of whom. Lofton has been installed on the left side--the long-strike side in the Raider scheme--which means he's probably listed ahead of Hester. Fernandez has been worked on both sides, which means he's probably fighting Dokie Williams for the right-side job. The Raiders may use more three-receiver formations to get Lofton, Fernandez and Williams in.

Woods has also been impressive as a deep receiver. That's four and the Raiders usually keep five at most.

"It doesn't take a genius to figure out there are a lot of them," said Flores. "But that's good."

Unless you're one of them.

--Offensive line: They've already made the first change from the unit that started last season and before the season is over, they could make three more. However, since continuity counts so heavily, look for as few as possible.

Shelby Jordan replaced Henry Lawrence at right tackle and will start out as the No. 1. Second-year player Bill Lewis is pushing Mickey Marvin, the longtime incumbent right guard, with the talented, oft-injured Curt Marsh still formally in the picture. Chris Riehm, a USFL pickup last season, will challenge left guard Charley Hannah.

Clay, who hit mini-camp at 325, has reportedly dropped into the 300 range and is listed behind Bruce Davis at left tackle. If Clay develops as the Raiders hope, he will be starting by mid-season, probably for whichever tackle is having the most problems.

The No. 2 pick, Bruce Wilkerson, is also considered a prospect but he's probably looking at next season. Down the line, you might look for the Raiders to try a Clay-Wilkerson tandem on one side, hoping they would follow in the pawprints of the great tandems of the past.

Center Don Mosebar is the one sure thing, provided, of course, that the Raiders can sign him. He is represented by the irrepressible Howard Slusher.

--Punter: With Guy gone, it's between Scott Livingston, who has been in camp before, and Stan Talley, a 6-5 USFL bomber who was cut by the Browns last season. Raider Notes A Raider official says that the team is close to signing two of the top four picks. They are thought to be John Clay, who has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $1.45-million deal--a $500,000 signing bonus and salaries of $150,00, $175,000, $275,000 and $350,000--and the No. 3 pick, Penn State fullback Steve Smith, who will get about what last season's No. 3, Brad Cochran, did: a $130,000 signing bonus and salaries of $100,000, $135,00 and $165,000. They aren't as close on the No. 2, Bruce Wilkerson, and No. 4, Steve Beuerlein. . . . All of last season's surviving draftees are due today, except Napoleon McCallum, who has been assigned to the California, a guided-missile cruiser docked in San Francisco Bay.

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