News, notes and quotes from Tom Cable’s press briefing and minimal open locker room access the day after a 23-3 loss to the Denver Broncos:
— “You guys write what you want, we’re on the brink of getting this thing going,” Cable volunteered at one point Monday as he answered repeated questions about a hugely disappointing AFC West defeat.
Putting up a brave front or merely delusional?
To be fair, Cable said similar things last year heading into the last two games of the season, with the Raiders winning both and earning him the job as head coach.
— Although never booed to the extent JaMarcus Russell was Sunday, left guard Robert Gallery was the object of scorn among Raider fans for failing to live up to his status as a franchise left tackle. He was booed when his number was called for penalties, and before the 2007 season, was booed at the Raider Nation Celebration.
So Gallery has at least some idea of what Russell is going through.
“As long as he can get up every day and look in the mirror and say he did everything in his power to be prepared to play, then it’s part of football,” Gallery said. “That’s kind of how I dealt with it when things were going bad. I knew I did everything I could to be the best I could be and things have obviously worked out pretty good for me now. He’s just got to do that.
“As long as he can get up every day and say he’s prepared, and put in the time that he needs to, then the fans pay the money to come and you’re going to have that. We want to win and they want to see a good show.”
— Since moving Russell to guard isn’t an option, as it was for Gallery, he’s going to have to remain a quarterback. Cable made it clear Russell is far from the only offensive player struggling and that he has no plans make a change to backup Bruce Gradkowski.
“I have to have faith in the guy going out there playing quarterback for us and I do have that faith,” Cable said. “It seems to be a roller coaster ride. I want to flatten that out and make it more of a smoother ride. Haven’t been able to get there yet, but we’ll continue to work at that.
“To me, it’s just too easy to blame one guy and say that’s a problem. Let’s top 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, when you start looking at the issues here and in particular to yesterday, there’s enough work here for all of us.”
— Part of the problem with the offense is the inability to convert even the most basic plays into the kind of meat and potatoes short gains which can sustain an offense.
“I think it’s just a matter of making the easy plays,” tight end Zach Miller said. “A lot of times we don’t make the easy pays, easy catches, easy throws. We’ve got to make sure we can do that and get in a rhythm. When our drives are successful we’re completing those easy underneath passes and moving the chains.”
Exactly why the Raiders aren’t able to walk before they can run is a mystery.
“It’s first-day-of-camp stuff,” Miller said. “We’ve got to make sure the receivers are doing the right things, then just being on time with the quarterback and in the right places.”
Said Cable: “I think we’re just pressing like crazy. There are so many easy plays that we’re not making.”
— Miller, being Russell’s favorite target is getting bracket coverage as teams look to take him out of the mix. Cable thinks Russell learning to go elsewhere will be good for the quarterback in the long run.
— Cable’s assessment of Heyward Bey: “I thought he was open a number of times. I thought he did some really good things. He blocked well. We just didn’t, obviously, get him the football.”
In other words, as “solid” as any rookie starting receiver in the league with one catch for 17 yards.
— Russell could have increased his yardage output by nearly a third if a 28-yard pass to Miller hadn’t been reviewed late in the first half. Russell broke free, rolled to his right and threw probably his best pass of the game to Miller along the sideline. Replay showed one foot was touching the sideline.
“I thought for sure it was going to be a catch because both refs said it was inbounds,” Miller said. “I’ve go to do what I can to keep my feet in, I guess.”
— Cable thought the Broncos did way too much damage on first and second down and gouged the Raiders defense with what he called “explosive plays,” which he defined as pass plays of 16 or more yards and running plays of 11 or more. The Broncos exploded like a trick cigar on the Raiders nine times _ twice with passes and seven times with runs.
“There was a lot of work done (by Denver) on first and second down,” Cable said. “Once they got settled in to what they wanted to do, I did not think we handled it well in terms of adjusting to it and making the stops.”
— Cable said he believes 90 percent of the roster “gets it” in terms of a standard of performance it takes to succeed and that “we’ve got 10 percent that we’ve got to get there as coaches. We’ve got to improve them. We’ve got to get them to a point where they can go in and perform like the other 90 percent.”
— Although Cable conceded Russell is part of the 10 percent, he rejected the notion that his quarterback isn’t doing what it takes to succeed in terms of preparation.
“His growth in the last year has been extreme with regard to his work ethic,” Cable said. “I want everyone to work harder and do more. I don’t think think he’s any different that way than anybody else . . . if he was where he was a year ago or even two years ago, I’d be pretty disappointed right now. But he has brought himself to another level that way.
“What I want to see is continued progress. I want to see it continually day to day, week to week. My belief is when you do that and stay the course, then you have your breakthrough and become what everyone wants you to become.”
Russell’s current passer rating is 39.8, which over a full season would be the lowest since Ryan Leaf had a 39.0 rating in 1998.
— Cornerback John Bowie is doubtful to face Houston Sunday with an MCL strain, and Cable said wide receiver Chaz Schilens was questionable. Schilens has been out nearly six weeks with a broken bone in his left foot and it remains to be seen what kind of shape he’s in after just starting to run recently. Wide receiver/punt return specialist Johnnie Lee Higgins (shoulder) is sore but improving, free safety Hiram Eugene (calf strain) remains questionable and Jonathan Holland had what Cable called “a little elbow issue, a dislocation, but seems to be OK and should be fine for this week.”
If a dislocated elbow equates to a “little elbow issue,” the sport in question is probably fooball, rugby or ice hockey.