ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -Lane Kiffin's priority is fixing the NFL's most anemic offense and trying to get No. 1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell up to speed with the Raiders' playbook. Thankfully for Oakland's first-year coach, the issues on defense aren't as pressing.
The Raiders owned the NFL's third-ranked defense last year, the lone bright spot during a 2-14 season that was the franchise's worst since 1963. The defense was so good that when owner Al Davis made sweeping coaching changes this offseason, coordinator Rob Ryan and most of his assistants were spared.
While most of Kiffin's time is spent figuring out how to get more out of an offense that produced just 12 touchdowns in 2006, the NFL's youngest head coach is also taking a defensive crash course.
``I spend a lot of time with them,'' Kiffin said Wednesday. ``That's so that I totally understand what we're doing and our philosophy there and our schemes.
``We go in every day after (practice) and we watch the film together as a whole staff so our whole staff understands it. The more offensive guys can hear them and vice versa, it just helps you as a staff.''
Oakland's defense has improved each year under Ryan, son of former defensive guru Buddy Ryan. Two years ago, defensive end Derrick Burgess set a franchise record with 16 sacks and went to the Pro Bowl. Last season, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha ranked third in the NFL with eight interceptions and was the cornerstone for the league's top-ranked secondary.
The unit continues to look promising. Warren Sapp reported to the team's mandatory minicamp in April having shed nearly 50 pounds.
One change the defense is undergoing is in the secondary, where safeties Stuart Schweigert and Michael Huff are breaking with tradition. Rather than having one play free and the other at strong, the Raiders are using Huff almost exclusively on the left side of the field with Schweigert on the right.
``When we play the Chiefs or Chargers or something like that, I'll be down covering (Antonio) Gates and (Tony) Gonzalez, so it kind of just depends,'' said Huff, Oakland's first-round pick in 2006. ``We can disguise a lot more. Before, we were in man on a lot of downs so any motion, (and opponents) knew we were in man or zone because I'd be running across. Now if they motion, me and Stu stay right and left.''
Kiffin feels the change in the secondary, along with a year of NFL experience, will benefit Huff, who started all 16 games as a rookie but had no interceptions.
``I think it really allows him to play faster because he's not so nervous about bad things happening,'' Kiffin said. ``Sometimes so much pressure's on those guys that they don't play the way they played their whole life, so hopefully we'll get him back to that.''
Burgess, who is reportedly seeking a new deal with the Raiders, has been absent from the team's voluntary workouts. Neither Sapp nor Burgess attended Wednesday's practice, and both are expected to skip next week's three-day minicamp.
Russell and veteran Josh McCown split time running Oakland's first-team offense on Wednesday.
Missing was Andrew Walter, the third-year quarterback who led the Raiders to their only two wins last year. Kiffin said Walter underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Monday and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.
Running back LaMont Jordan was held out of the practice as well because of the flu but did attend team meetings.
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