By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, July 19th, 2008 at 1:24 pm in Oakland Raiders.
In the days leading up to the first day of training camp, I’ll review the state of the rest of the AFC West and how they match up with the Raiders, as well as all Raiders position groups heading into the first practice on July 24. Today’s entry takes a look at Raiders quarterbacks:
Reserves–Andrew Walter, Marques Tuiasosopo, Sam Keller, Jeff Otis
What’s to like
We’ll see how he reacts the first time he forces the ball into coverage during a game, but early indications are that Russell is a calm and poised leader who seems to have already gained the respect of his teammates.
There are no temper tantrums or finger-pointing when things go awry at practice, just a lot of communication and encouragement with his fellow offensive players. While it’s true things can change dramatically in full pads, Russell looks up to being the man of the moment.
In terms of the Raiders offense, there seems to be a widespread belief that Russell is operating something out of his element, that he would be better off as a classic dropback thrower, the better to show off that impressive downfield arm.
I beg to differ.
Russell appears nimble enough in terms of footwork to operate a fairly conservative short passing game, with the added advantage of taking the shot now and then to keep defenses honest. It looks as if Lane Kiffin and Greg Knapp are urging safety first, making sure he takes care of the ball and finds his checkdown receivers.
As he becomes more comfortable, Russell can look for bigger and better things. It’s worth noting that with Darren McFadden around, those routine checkdowns can become big strikes in a hurry.
Walter enters camp with the edge as the backup, and he is the second-best pure passer on the roster behind Russell. He has acquitted himself well as a diplomat despite being the deposed quarterback of the future, and it’s no secret he is waiting for another day and another team.
Tuiasosopo was drafted by the Raiders to run an offensve very similar to the one Kiffin is running now. He appears to be picking things up quickly and exepcts to make a serious challenge to be the backup.
Keller played well enough on a tryout basis and has experience running a passing offense with multiple reads, having done it for Bill Callahan at Nebraska. If the Raiders find a trade partner for Walter, he could find himself as a No. 3 quarterback.
Before transferring to Nebraska, Keller was a loyal backup to Walter at Arizona State. The same could not be said for Rudy Carpenter, who lobbied and campaigned with teammates to oust Keller.
Russell left LSU after his junior year, so it’s not as if he comes in with all the playing experience of a Peyton or an Eli Manning. He will make his share of mistakes _ and some will cost the Raiders games.
It’s a tossup whether the Raiders will be good enough defensively to allow them the luxury of playing it safe with Russell, needing to open things up before he’s ready simply to stay in games.
In so doing, the Raiders expose their tackles to pass block on the outside, and that could either force Russell into mistakes or make him put that 270-pound body to the test in terms of taking a beating.
Kiffin has never seemed to warm up to Walter, in part because he’s not a good fit for the bootlegs and rollouts he favors. He also has seen Walter as someone with bad body language when things don’t guy his way.
Tuiasosopo, for all his mobility and ability to interact well with his teammates, has never proven he can be the 60-plus percent passer the offense requires and too often makes the big mistake.
As for Keller, bad luck seems to follow the guy around _ kind of like the franchise he now plays for.
Otis is a camp arm.