McCown returns from injury, to start ahead of Culpepper

Updated: November 1, 2007, 7:53 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Quarterback Josh McCown, who began the season as the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders but then missed five games with a broken big toe on his left foot, will return to the lineup on Sunday.

Daunte Culpepper

Culpepper

Josh McCown

McCown

First-year coach Lane Kiffin announced after the team's Thursday practice that McCown, healthy again and able to work with the first unit, had reclaimed his job for the game with the Houston Texans.

Houston officials announced earlier in the day that backup Sage Rosenfels will start at quarterback in place of Matt Schaub, who is battling the aftereffects of a concussion.

The move to McCown means that Daunte Culpepper, who was 2-3 in his five starts, will return to the bench.

"I felt Daunte played really well for us, but with Josh coming back and looking healthy again, we're going to go back with Josh," Kiffin told local reporters.

Oakland lost its first two games with McCown at quarterback, but the Raiders' staff felt that his mobility and accuracy provided him an edge over Culpepper. While the staff remained supportive of Culpepper, the feeling was that McCown would be provided an opportunity to get back into the lineup when he was healthy.

In his two starts before the injury, McCown completed 44-of-68 passes for 494 yards, with four touchdown passes and five interceptions, for a 75.2 passer rating.

Over the past two weeks, McCown has demonstrated considerable improvement, and he was able to move much better in practice the past few days.

"I feel good," McCown said. "I feel like I can play my game and do what I do, so I guess that's 100 percent. The best thing is, I know I don't think about it while I'm out there, so it doesn't factor [into] anything."

A former Sam Houston State standout, McCown was acquired from the Detroit Lions on the second day of this year's draft, along with wide receiver Mike Williams, for a middle-round choice. Williams, a former first-round pick, was waived by the Raiders this week.

McCown has a strong enough arm and is a quick learner and is viewed as a good fit in the offense that Kiffin has installed.

In Culpepper's five starts, he completed 70-of-125 passes for 817 yards, with four touchdown passes and four interceptions and a 73.3 efficiency rating.

Although Culpepper got off to a quick start, leading the Raiders to a Sept. 23 victory at Miami, while throwing for three touchdowns and running for two more against a Dolphins team that released him earlier in the spring, he has struggled lately. In the last three games, Culpepper has thrown four interceptions and fumbled six times, and Oakland has scored only two offensive touchdowns.

Rookie JaMarcus Russell, the top overall choice in the draft, has been getting increased snaps in practice, but it is not believed he is close to making his first NFL start.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.