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Clark faces old mates


Danny Clark got the chance in Oakland he wanted with the Jaguars, and Clark has established himself this season as one of the Raiders' core players.

"He's been kind of an iron man for us. He's been great. He's played every week. He's been consistent. He's called our defenses. He's been a big plus for our team," Raiders coach Norv Turner said of Clark, a seventh-round pick by the Jaguars in 2000 who spent most of his four seasons in Jacksonville as a utility player.

Under coach Jack Del Rio in '03, Clark played all three linebacker positions. What he wanted most was a "home" and he found that "home" in Oakland at middle linebacker.

"In our defense it fits me well because it caters to my strong points," said Clark, who was disappointed the Jaguars didn't re-sign him after last season.

"That's the business part of it. Jack (Del Rio) was man enough and I respect him a whole lot because he told me the negotiations were not going to be what I was expecting. I made a business decision on my own and it worked out," said Clark, who signed with the Raiders in free agency.

Clark will try to put his best foot forward for Del Rio to see when the Raiders host the Jaguars on the final Sunday of the season. The Raiders, 5-10, are playing for pride. The Jaguars, 8-7, hope they'll still have a chance to make the playoffs when the two teams kick it off at 4:05 p.m.

For the Jaguars to make the playoffs, they would first need Pittsburgh to win at Buffalo. The Pittsburgh-Buffalo game is a one o'clock start, which means the Jaguars will know where they stand at kickoff time in Oakland. A Pittsburgh win would mean the Jaguars would earn a wild-card playoff berth with a win over the Raiders and a Colts win over the Broncos. A Pittsburgh loss, however, would eliminate the Jaguars from playoff contention.

"They're doing a darn good job," Clark said of his former team, which he admits to having followed from afar. "I'm happy for them. I'm definitely rooting them on," he added, with the exception of this Sunday's game, of course.

Clark is a good player on a bad defense. The Raiders are 31st overall, 24th against the run and 31st against the pass. The Jaguars, of course, are coming off a 21-0 loss to Houston that even caused Del Rio to admit this week that the offense has been a disappointment this season.

So who's going to flinch first, the Raiders defense or the Jaguars offense?

Meanwhile, the 12th-ranked Jaguars defense will be tested by a Raiders offense that features the league's seventh-ranked passing attack. The Oakland running game is dead last in the league, so, clearly, quarterback Kerry Collins will be flinging it early and often.

"There is no question in my mind that we can win with Kerry," Turner said of Collins, who has caught fire late in the season to move his touchdown passes total up to 21 and his passer rating to a respectable 79.6. Collins would seem to be another great reclamation project in the Raiders mold of reclaiming re-treads.

"Now that he's really gotten comfortable with our system and with our players, in the last seven games he's thrown 16 touchdown passes and six interceptions and we're averaging over 25 points a game with him at quarterback. I think there are a lot of positives that we're going to build on. I think Kerry can get done what we need to get done," Turner added.

Collins would seem to be the Raiders' quarterback of the future and the Raiders will be trying to establish another piece of that future this Sunday. Turner's team has not rolled over and played dead late in the season.

The Jaguars aren't ready to step into their future, yet, but by kickoff on Sunday they may have to do just that.

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