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Russell: Nowhere to go but up

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Monday, December 24th, 2007 at 3:10 pm in Oakland Raiders.

If you thought Lane Kiffin would go easy on JaMarcus Russell, with it being Christmas Eve and all, guess again.

Kiffin was unsparing in his critical analysis of Russell’s first extended performance in a 49-11 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at a brief weekly press conference on Christmas Eve.

As cool as Russell was following the game, Kiffin thought his play said something different regarding his confidence level, and was aghast at some of the fundamental errors the rookie committed.

Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and John David Booty apparently never threw blindly to the other side of the field at USC.

“Naturally, his confidence wavered a little bit. Extremely poor decision making, I haven’t been around decision making like that before as far as just throwing the ball up across the field, like he did a number of times,” Kiffin said. “I’m sure that didn’t help his confidence. In your first time playing an extended amount of time like that, to not have success like that can’t help.”

Any other problems catch your eye, coach?

“There’s a list. Where do you start?,” Kiffin said. “Ball-handling in the running game. Footwork in the passing game. Timing. Accuracy. You name it, it was out there on film yesterday. He’s got a long ways to go.”

Kiffin again made reference to not having Russell around for the preseason and how both the quarterback and the coaching staff are still learning about each other.

“The fact that he’s playing, we’ll continue to learn information, we’ll continue to learn ways to help him in all the games so he can have success,” Kiffin said.

Having once likened Russell to a video game in his ability to deliver the ball, Kiffin thought Sunday was merely a painful part of the learning curve.

“We can talk to him all the time about what not to do and see it in practice, but unfortunately it came out yesterday,” Kiffin said. “He’s got to learn from those mistakes, that you can’t do that in this league. You’re not going to get away with it. We were really actually fortunate he didn’t throw five interceptions yesterday.”

Russell, Kiffin said, was operating with about 65 percent of the plays Josh McCown works with and he will be gauged this week to see if that figure can be increased. Russell will take all the reps in practice this week (he took most of them last week) and the plan is for him to play the entire game.

For Christmas, Russell will receive the San Diego game plan either in person or faxed to his home, and will go over it with quarterback coach John DeFilippo.

News and notes:

– Although he said he didn’t have any details on the extent of the concussion suffered by S Michael Huff, Kiffin said he expected him to play against San Diego.

– Players were given Monday off except for those needing injury treatment. DT Warren Sapp, who was ejected for coming in contact with an official _ he got three successive personal fouls _ stayed behind with his family in Florida.

Sapp told Kiffin at halftime he had not touched the official. Kiffin said the club’s film cuts off before any of the penalties were called. He said he was disappointed in both Sapp and Burgess, but would wait regarding any disciplinary action until the NFL has its say.

– Kiffin is hoping the Raiders will finish the season looking like they have in some of their better games this year, rather than the disturbing model which surfaced in road games in Green Bay and Jacksonville.

“I’d like us to finish that way, the style of football we want to play,” Kiffin said. “That’s to play really smart, not turn the ball over, stop the run and run the ball. I’d really like to see those things to kind of give us momentum going into the offseason unlike this last game.”

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