Coach: Russell not Raiders only issue
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The last time JaMarcus Russell had a performance this poor, he sat out the next week with a knee injury and then put together the best stretch of his NFL career to end last season.
With Russell coming off a similarly awful game Sunday against Denver, Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable isn't ready to make a quarterback change at this point.
"I know it's on everyone's mind," Cable said Monday. "I think right now, the big picture is for this team to clean up a lot of areas. If that was the only area that I thought really needed to be changed, then it's easy, but it's not."
There was plenty of blame to go around for the Raiders (1-2) following Sunday's 23-3 loss to the Broncos. The running backs averaged only 3.7 yards per carry, the defense gave up 215 yards rushing, the front seven put no pressure on Kyle Orton and the defensive backs struggled at times with coverage.
So while Cable said that if the passing game doesn't get fixed he might eventually have to make a change at quarterback, for now he has a number of problems to fix.
"It's too easy just to blame one guy and say that's a problem," Cable said. "Let's stop the run, let's run the ball better, let's tackle better, let's be more explosive on special teams, let's play better at quarterback, let's have better ball security. I mean you start looking at the issues here and in particular to yesterday, there's enough work for all of us."
For the frustrated fans who are in the midst of watching a seventh straight season of losing football, the brunt of the criticism is being saved for Russell. He was booed almost from his first mistake against the Broncos and then booed each time he stepped on the field to start a drive.
He threw a pair of first-quarter interceptions to put the Raiders in a hole they never escaped. Russell completed 12 of 21 passes for 61 yards. Even with Denver playing soft coverage late in the game, Russell could not take advantage. He completed only three passes the entire second half: a 5-yarder to Zach Miller and two short passes to Justin Fargas, one that lost 4 yards and another that went for no gain.
Throw in three sacks that ended up losing 19 yards and Oakland netted negative 18 yards passing for the entire second half.
"There's a lot of blame to go around, so I think you can't put it all on one person," Miller said. "Certain things can be blamed all the way around. So I still have confidence in him. I know what kind of quarterback he can be, what he's capable of."
Cable also said he still has faith that Russell can develop into a topflight starting quarterback, but put him in the group of 10 percent of his players not performing at a high enough level to win in the NFL.
Cable praised Russell's improved work ethic from earlier in his career and said he sees signs that Russell is close to clicking.
"We're getting closer," Cable said. "But until it happens, until the numbers come up, until the consistency comes up, where we can have the higher completion rate and more touchdown throws and things like that, everybody'll want to question him. It's part of the position."
Russell hit his low point last season when he went 6 for 19 for 31 yards and an interception in a 24-0 loss to Atlanta. He sat out the following week against Carolina, then played his best down the stretch. He completed 61.2 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns, four interceptions and an 88.5 passer rating over his final seven starts.
His performance has taken a step back this season. Russell has completed 31 of 75 passes, completing a league-low 41.3 percent of his passes. He is averaging 5.0 yards an attempt, with four interceptions, one touchdown and a league-worst 39.8 passer rating.
"It seems to be kind of a roller coaster ride," Cable said. "I want to flatten that out and make it more of a smoother ride. We haven't been able to get there yet, but we'll continue to work at that."
NotesWR Chaz Schilens, who has been out with a broken foot since training camp, worked out Monday and is questionable for this week. ... S Hiram Eugene is making progress from a calf injury and could return this week. ... S Michael Huff reinjured his ribs and also sustained a quad contusion but should be able to play this week.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press