Johnson will be a marked man


Opposing passers have approached the Raiders like a shooting gallery in arcade game, with the most inviting target being the cornerback opposite Nnamdi Asomugha.

The Carolina Panthers will be no different Sunday when they visit the Raiders at the Coliseum.

With Al Davis having given up second- and fifth-round draft picks and $8 million for eight games worth of DeAngelo Hall before determining he wasn’t even remotely the lockdown corner they anticipated, they turn to a 29-year-old minimum wage journeyman making his second career start.

“I’ve been waiting on this opportunity for five years,” Chris Johnson said.

An undrafted free agent out of Louisville, Johnson spent two years with the Green Bay Packers and never got into a game because of leg injuries. His most extensive playing time was with St. Louis in 2005, where he had one start and played in 14 games.

Signed as a free agent last year, two things appealed to the Raiders about Johnson. Johnson is fast _ so fast Asomugha believes he’s the fastest player on the team. He also plays special teams, with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in St. Louis, and has played as a gunner with the Raiders.

Not exactly the resume you’d expect for a starting left cornerback, let alone one who must hold up with a good amount of man coverage opposite Asomugha. Johnson will get a heavy dose of what coach Tom Cable called the best set of starting wide receivers the Raiders have faced this season in Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad.

Smith has 33 receptions for 613 yards and four touchdowns despite missing two games on suspension for going Romanowski on teammate Ken Lucas.

Muhammad had 37 recetpions for 507 yards and two scores. Smith is quick, elusive and is on anyone’s list of the five most difficult one-on-one challenges in the NFL. Muhammad is bigger, more physical and an expert in using his body to get position and screen off cornerbacks.

If form holds, the Panthers will take turns with both receivers running at Johnson repeatedly and Jake Delhomme will look to his right and away from Asomugha.

Sounds like a mismatch, unless Johnson is a rare late bloomer at a position where players have usually identified themselves by their mid-20s. A Dallas resident, Johnson spent a month of his offseason along with Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie working with Deion Sanders.

“You’d start at 7:30 in the morning, be on the field for a few hours, then be back at 2 and go until 3:30 (p.m.),” Johnson said. “(Deion) told me to be patient, that my opportunity would come. To have a mentor like that, the best corner to ever play the game in my opinion, is good for me.”

Back to basics for defense

Sounds like there’s been some confusion on defense, and getting ripped for three early touchdowns and 57 carries for 252 yards against Atlanta brought about some changes, according to defensive tackle Gerard Warren.

“That game exposed one of our basic techniques and pretty much that’s what we’re focusing on _ simplifying the defense,” Warren said. “Maybe things were a little too complicated as far as the game plan, so we simplified things. Obviously the defense didn’t mature in the sense that Rob wanted it to. We have to scale it back down.”

Billick: Al needs some help

During an appearance on Dan Patrick’s radio show, former Ravens coach and Fox analyst Brian Billick said as gently as possible what is becoming increasingly obvious to anyone who has watched the Raiders disintegrate over the last five-plus years.

Davis needs help, and more important, needs to let someone help him. Patrick asked Billick if it would be wise for Jim Harbaugh to leave Stanford for the Raiders.

“The Raiders and Mr. Davis, who is an icon in this industry, need to find someone to partner with to rebuild a very proud franchise. It’s going to take a very special relationship, and I mean that in the sincere sense _ a partnership. I’m not sure who that partner is. Maybe that’s Jim Harbaugh, I don’t know. That’s for Mr. Davis to decide if indeed that’s the direction they want to do.

“But this next relationship does have to be a partnership because there are going to have to be some very hard decisions and some very hard action that is going to have to be taken, and it’s going to have to be done with a partnership. It can’t just be one-sided.”

Parting shot

Spare the faint praise for Davis realizing he made a mistake and then cutting his losses with Hall.

Bringing Hall in was an organizational disaster and cost the Raiders a potentially solid player with the second-round pick they traded away, all for a cornerback who couldn’t play the very technique on which Davis bases his entire defensive philosophy.

It was common knowledge Hall was not a good man-to-man defender, that he gave up too many completions, and that his best work was done breaking on plays out of a zone.

No matter. Davis had visions of Haynes-Hayes II, when what he’d really done was deal for a glorified Phillip Buchanon (who by the way has developed into a solid Cover 2 cornerback in Tampa Bay).

The reality is this _ with defensive backs having been restricted to a five-yard bump zone, playing man-to-man in modern football is much more difficult than it was in the Raiders’ glory years, and even more difficult is finding players as talented as Asomugha who can do it successfully.

Among the players who would have been available to the Raiders with the No. 34 pick which was dealt to Atlanta are the two most productive rookie wideouts in the NFL _ Denver’s Eddie Royal went at No. 42 and and Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson at No. 49.

Or they could have had linebacker Curtis Lofton, a solid starter for Atlanta who was selected at No. 37.

Note: In earlier blog I wrote the Falcons took Lofton with the pick they got from the Raiders for Hall. In reality, they used that pick to trade up into the first round and take tackle Sam Baker and selected Lofton with their own choice.

(I’ll entertain the argument that these players wouldn’t have necessarily developed with the Raiders as they did with their respective teams).

Found it amusing that Cable would go out of his way to say Javon Walker, who received an $11 million signing bonus and $1 million in salary, has “elevated his game” of late. Chances are that vote of confidence came from Davis, who is hoping Walker can salvage what looks to be another questionable decision on a player no one else was willing to pay that kind of money.

We’ll see how elevated Walker’s game is when that $5 million roster bonus comes due.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • Josh Mosley

    Ok People

    Im sitting here wondering about the summer when i thought of the worst possible scenarios for the raiders

    #1 lose to denver opening night
    #2 a new coach
    #3 al snaps
    #4 Watching tyler brayton kick cornell greens ass for 4 sacks this fine day.

    All the worst things are happening to our fine football team. It too bad to see,Talent dont win ball games if its not used properly. Rob ryan needs to be canned quickly he’s wasteing our defensive talent because he was a linebackers coach, not a defensive coordinator for the patriots, he’s still learning on the job. 5 years, and our defense has been trampled by the like or joe flacco, hell even brooks bollinger beat this defense one year, im disgusted with the oakland raiders, been a fan for 20 years. never have i been this bitter about a losing campaign, i wonder if al sees what the deal is. or does he care. he needs a GM. like say mike holmgrem or bill cowher. they might be able to save our raiders. al could show up at noon all day if those two were in charge.

  • Andrews Mom

    I see it a little different. Rooting for the Raiders all these years have brought many special memories.

    Al is the big reason the Raiders became they team that has a nation. Things have gone worse then bad the past years and I know it tears Al up inside. He keeps thinking he will turn it around but he is a not a fool.

    He panicked and hired Kiff after Arts “worse year ever” when sticking with Art would have us playing 500 ball this year at the minimum and we would have a O line that could roll over almost anyone.

    Art is going back to the “B&B” and we will be much better off because of it. It will be what makes JR a star in the NFL. IT may be a tough few years but Al will right this ship.

  • jake

    Shut down corners need a pass rush. No corner in any system can cover without a pass rush and the q/b looks around to select his receiver of choice. Also, Cable should be putting Aso on the other teams best receiver. O/line and D/line are the worst in the NFL and it was a position the Raiders chose not to improve and now they are living with it. It hurts every part of offense and defense, but they knew what they had and decided to sign Harris, wasn’t that just a great move. We saw Harris suck in SF and they still brought him in. However, it not only Harris, its Gallery, Grove Carlisle and Green but we knew it last year, and please fish wrappers don’t say Gallery has improved as a guard nothing has changed with his game. He still is a major suck job along with the rest of them but its to late to change any of it. Watch Grove being pushed into the back field today, it makes you sick to even watch. The Raiders play soft. They do not have aggressive players. Not one linebacker will smack you.

  • Maryland Raiderfan

    JR a bust already? Our running game that could of given him time is none existent d/t Dmac injury. The O line has regressed and Harris does suck! Miller is doubled when he is not in to block and we lost our good blocking fB esp Oneal! No decent WR with whom he has chemistry to throw to and the other one got on IR Carter. Too many reasons why JR is struggling in his yes rookie year! I am one willing to give him a chance b/c Kiff was getting somewhere with him slowly yes but somewhere. We need a real HC would can develop talent for i feel cables strength is just with the o line. This mess is all on AL as always. RYAN is a JOKE!!! How much more evidence does anyone need!! Simplify the defense was so complicated about it!! Other teams are doing the same crap all year with no response– Quick snaps, screens plays etc. Ryan has no clue how to make adjustments cause he has not made them and really does not have the players either d/c the d line sucks. But he is a AL Kiss A and tells him that his players are great!! and will get it!!LOL!
    The Hall purge is the only sign al may have had a glimer of lucidity!!

  • other teams used 2 fear us now they cant wait 2 play us cause were down and we always used 2 spank their ass

  • Andrews Mom

    I think Cowher may be a little overrated (this will start fireworks)
    Two SB’s in 15 years as coach of one of the best managed and most consistent teams (by a longshot)in the NFL.
    Everything the pundits say we are not.
    One VL in 15 and that was questionable.
    12-9 in playoffs
    Take away the two SB years and Bill is 6-8 in playoff games.

  • Andrews Mom

    Holmgren has a much better record.
    I can see him being Parcells for a team and doing a fantastic job.

  • and we all know Holmgren LOVES a challenge.that would be great

  • Andrews Mom

    Thats right 4eva

    And he has spent his years in the NFC.
    I bet he would love to return the Raiders to glory.
    And here is something interesting.

    He played high school ball at SF.
    He started his coaching career at the same high school
    And he started his college coaching at SF State.

    Things that make you go Hmmmmmmmmm.
    Doesnt Mike like the B&B and big linemen?
    Maybe someone does have Als ear

    Let us pray!!!

  • Andrews Mom

    Return to Raiders was a mistake

    I should have said he started his NFL coaching career at SF under Walsh

  • Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm =)

  • Exlaraiderseasonticketholder

    Good Morning Raider Nation;

    4evaRaider Says:
    November 9th, 2008 at 5:56 am
    I dont know sorry.Dakota might know,EXLA should know =)

    What should I know?

  • But I bet he personally would love 2 see the Raiders return 2 their rightfull place.If he thought of Walsh as a father figure,then he would revere Big Al as Grandfather imo

  • I’m also willing 2 bet Holmgren cant STAND what he is watching,having respect 4 Al

  • Good Morning EXLA:Andrews Mom was wondering if any team has beating 3 #1s in collage,like Texas Tech might do in 1 year,and its true you or Dakota know most things =)

  • Andrews Mom

    I was wondering if any team has beat three top ten teams in a row like Texas Tech has a chance to do.

    #1 Texas
    #9 OKS
    #5 OK

  • sorry I miss-quoted you AM =(

  • yeah thats what I meant lol

  • Who would you start??

    Moss, Randy WR NE ->BUF
    Washington, Nate WR PIT ->IND
    Avery, Donnie WR STL ->@NYJ

    my last two WR spots, who would you start, passD for the teams is, 12th, 16th and 19th..

    I am considering to bench Moss, BUF has the best passD and he was injured during the week.. Jets suck, and Indi’s D is weird right now.. its quite a predicament, pweeze help =)

  • Senile Kings’ Aricept

    …BHP#270,….While I usually admire your voice of reason, I disagree on one point. Given the fact that our OT’s are basically garbage at pass protection, even when given time, Russell routinely and completely misses wide open targets where there is obviously enough margin for error for even many of US to have completed the pass. I simply, as others do , fail to believe that this is purely a issue of timing between Russell and the receivers…We’ve all heard the idioms.You can’t teach speed…arm strength…etc..
    However, if Russell is a belated Sandy Koufax, how do you address his accuracy issue ?…
    …..On a different topic, I’m dissapointed with Nnamdi’s recent reaction to DeAngelo Hall’s status. Nnamdi’s ” If the peasants don’t have enough bread to eat, let them eat cake” attitude is out of touch with reality. I wish he had some perspective. Once again…Presto !…another unhappy millionaire…Yo…Nnamdi, Your play has been stellar, you also should be commended for your community involement, but you should ask yourself,…If you didn’t have the physical skills that allow you to earn a million a month, just how much would you be earning at some other vocation ?…Supreme Court Justice?…Computational Bio-Physicist ? How about Mgr. of an establishment whose employees routinely ask of their customers, “Do you want fries with that ?”…

  • Andrews Mom

    I believe the Steelers dropped Nate Washington

  • Andrews Mom

    Maybe I am thinking of Davenport

  • Nate is still playing =)

  • Raider0525

    I hate to say this but I think Russekk is a bust . I agree even when not presured to over throws the receivers. Look at Quinn and Ryan, wish we had either one of them.

  • Raider0525

    sorry cant spell this morning 🙂

  • Andrews Mom

    Quinn will be shut down, a lot.

    JR needs a pocket and some time. Then we may see him start picking apart D’s.

  • Exlaraiderseasonticketholder

    From Scott Osler: “why didn’t the Raiders notice before signing Hall, that he can’t play one-on-one? I hear the Raiders’ coaches wanted to watch film of Hall, but the overhead projector was being used.”


  • Lynn from Snot

    9 games and Russell’s a bust? Marino couldn’t do much better with this cast of o-linemen and recievers.

  • Raider0525

    I hope you are right because we cant have bust. I like Russell and I hope he works out. But come on all these injuries are killing us, they need to step up and play. I think when things go bad people don’t want to play

  • Raider0525

    Look at the way he throws. He has too much on his throws. He needs to develope a touch which he doesn’t have yet. Plus he cant hold on to the ball. I think hes dropped a ball in every game, or just about every game. I’m not hoping he’s a bust. I hope he works out. So far he doesn’t look good at all.

  • you would think with all the money they would be ashamed and play their heart out win or loose,2 try 2 keep their self-dignity imo

  • Lynn from Snot

    Then they should get a real job if things go bad .

  • Lynn from Snot

    amen 4eva

  • Raider0525

    yes you would think that but NFL players heads are so big and they act like big babies. Their money they make is so out of hand and I thinks thats a lot of the problem

  • Lynn from Snot

    I hope they simplify the defense it gets no easier than tackling the guy with the football.

  • Andrews Mom


    You may be right. Time will tell.

    Lots of teams would have loved to draft him as #1 pick. Even teams with fantastic scouts and GM’s and everything we dont have picked him to be great. His pros outweigh the cons.

    I have faith that he will prevail in the end and be our QB for the next ten years.

  • Russell’s accuracy issues are linked to timing and not enough reps under game speed. In practice he’s making those plays in game situations he’s not. That’s seeing things that aren’t there and guessing instead of reacting. There are no short cuts to playing effectively at that position it requires so much and he’s not accurate to be sure. But reps will help a ton in that situation.

    Something Lefty12 brought out that you’ll see today Walter has adjusted to this league and sees the field with lore clarity than Russell and will be able to ANTICIPATE recievers breaking open and make throws ON TIME. Russell is guessing and seeeing things that aren’t there. The only way to get better is to play.

    But right now I’m going to agree with Lefty12, I think this team and organization desparately needs better leadership and that’s something Russell simply cannot provide at this point. QB play is most important thing a team needs when it’s trying to turn around it’s fortunes you see it in Arizona. You’ll see it in SF tomorrow. Walter IMO what we need right now Lefty12 is right ( believe me that’s tough to admit).

    When I read Gibril Wilson comments about the talent on this team. Right away it became obvious that the team needs Walter right now just to spark the team, and get our confidence up, get us out of this funk. Russell will benefit also by seeing when and where he should go with the ball. Not to mention that I’ve always thought very highly of Walters talent, he is very accurate and is probably exactly what we need right now to get this team’s confidence up.

    The biggest mistake Kiffin made was to never give Walter a chance. It could’ve made all the difference in the world.

  • Andrews Mom

    Some players lose the desire to play hard and win, let alone play 100% 24/7. They have won and been “better then” those around them for all their life and all of a sudden they find out it is not all fun and now they have to work hard.

    I remember when I lost that passion, especially now looking back on it. I was not very good but I played as hard as I could 24/7 and had no concept of anyone not giving it their all.

  • Andrews Mom

    Clayton just said he thinks JR will start.

  • Raider0525

    so are you saying you don’t think Russell is really hurt that bad? That they decided to go with Walter instead?

  • Mistabrown

    BHP, what do you know about Football ? You’re a Ding A Ling. Talking out both sides of your mouth and your neck. You’re a fraud!

    Six weeks ago you would have never supported Walter and here you are today saying its a good idea. You would have bashed Kiffin till the cows came home if he started AW.

    Wheres your left tit OakGlenn?

  • Voldemort

    OH NO!!!!!!!!!! BSPN just reported that Draftbustus’s toe is hurt and will probably play through it. First of all, I thought it was his knee, and second, SIT THE STUPID OAF ANYWAY!!!!!!!!!!HE SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I want to see an efficiant compatent quarterback, is that too much to ask for? Plaease start Walter, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEAE!!!!!

  • Raider0525

    Russell is his knee, Mcfadden is his toe

  • Andrews Mom


    From the practice reports I heard here, JR has rarely if ever been accurate including 7 on 7 drills.

    Good QB’s complete ALL their passes on those drills more often then not.

    But I sure agree about lame kitten screwing my boy and this team by not playing the best QB last year.

    I will always have a “strong dislike” for him and any team he goes to. He should change his last name to weasel..

  • Russell is not a bust, you people are a bunch of retards. He’s just learning the ropes. You guy’s ar worse than a bunch of twisted children players must adjust to the speed of this game and he will. But the team around him is not playing well and neither is he which makes it look worse.

    Damn grow up! how long have you been watching NFL football?

    But right now we need wins desparately or this thing could crater way out of control and force changes that don’t need to be made.

  • Mistabrown

    BHP, do you wanna talk defense and your boy Rob Ryan ?

  • Raider0525

    no need to get nasty. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. Time will tell whether he’s a bust or not. I hope not but he’s not looking to good right now. Look at Quinn the way he came out. Was he perfect…not at all, did he make rookie mistakes…yes but he showed that he could make the throws and HOLD ON TO THE BALL.

  • Andrews Mom

    By the way I would start Moss.
    Cassell is improving and Moss is overdue.

  • typicalraiders

    anyone know where to watch the blacked out raider game in sac

  • Andrews Mom

    More news is coming out about Hall last week

    He had a BBQ for Atlanta players and nobody showed.
    Then he went to the hotel and they didnt want anything to do with him.
    Then he tried to fight one of them in the tunnel.
    And he argued with coaches on the sidelines.