News, notes and quotes following the Raiders open locker room session and press briefing with Tom Cable a day after a 13-9 win over the Philadelphia Eagles:
— Following a week in which the Raidrs threw just eight of 28 passes to wide receivers, completing two of them for six yards, comes the long-anticipated return of wide receiver Chaz Schilens.
“Chaz Schilens (foot) will be back and ready to go,” Cable said. “We’ll talk later in the week about how we’re going to put that group together in terms of who or who might not dress so I really have nothing for you today on that.”
Raiders wide receivers have 19 receptions for 264 yards, with rookie Louis Murphy the leader with 12 catches and 264 yards. At present, there are 38 individual wide receivers with more than 19 receptions and 37 with more than 264 yards.
Cable sidestepped the quesiton about lack of production among the wideouts and turned it into a concern for the offense as a whole, but later noted he was very happy with the blocking of both Murphy, whose two blocks sprung Zach Miller’s 86-yard touchdown catch, and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Cable cited a Heyward-Bey block on a 14-yard run by Justin Fargas in which the rookie “flat-backed” a cornerback with perfect form. Heyward-Bey had two receptions for 36 yards.
— Not so fast on the Raiders suddenly being transformed into a heavy pressure team, regardless of the success they enjoyed against the Eagles.
“I think we’ll do what we can, and what we think it takes to win every Sunday,” Cable said. “I think that has to be our sole purpose, whatever that is.”
In the locker room after the game, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha relayed that coordinator John Marshall said he’d “probably get yelled at” for all the extra pressure, a clear inference to Al Davis and his fondness for natural four-man pressure backed by man-to-man defense.
When Cable was asked what Asomugha was talking about, he said, with a rather pained expression, “I don’t know, maybe it’s one of the players. I have no idea. Will we blitz? To me, you blitz based on (a) if you can get there, if you can execute it. We did a great job of that yesterday. I think so long as we can do it, why not? Why not?”
— To be fair, the Eagles, who are quick to abandon the run and who were playing with a makeshift offensive line, were a perfect team to blitz. To send defenders at the rate the Raiders did against Philadelphia against teams which can run well and with a better line would be problematic.
But it perhaps it will get them to at least dial up the pressure from non-existent to on occasion.
— Running back Michael Bush said in the locker room he’d taken a blow to the back of the head, which kept him out of the game and gave the lion’s share of the work to Justin Fargas. Fargas responded with 87 yards on 24 carries, the most by a Raiders running back this season.
“As you know, I have a fondness for him in that he plays the game the way I think your supposed to,” Cable said. “He’s just all out and really doesn’t worry about his body or whatever that is and he just goes at the defense a thousand miles an hour and let the smoke clear and do it again.
“I like that. I like that. I think our team needs that. I think it’s good for our team. I think that really kind of underlines taking the fight to the opponent. So, proud of him and proud of what he brings to the table.”
— Cable’s handling of public commentary regarding JaMarcus Russell is much like the quarterback’s demeanor himself. The coach never gets too high or too low. A day after chiding reporters for failing to take into account Russell’s “improvement” during one-sided losses to Houston and the New York Giants, he was restrained in his enthusiasm for Russell’s game against the Eagles.
“Where he is, where he goes with it will, ultimately, be up to him,” Cable said. “How good he wants to be, how much he’s willing to, ultimately, put into it to get what he should get out of it. He’s just like everyone else on this football team, particularly on offense. They’ve got to take the thought that yesterday was nice, it feels good to wake up today, but we need to get better.”
— When the Raiders failed to convert a fourth-and-1 on their first possession of the second half after reaching the Philadelphia 40, Russell misfired on a long pass to an open Murphy when Cable said he could have gotten the first down by either running it himself or throwing to Gary Russell in the flat.
“I said to JaMarcus, ‘Okay, you saw it and you took the shot. Now we’ve got to make that play. If we’re gonna’ take the shot, we got to make the play,’ ” Cable said. “(I) can’t be down on him going for it because they came out of coverage. He was uncovered deep. Certainly could’ve dumped it or ran it in himself for the first down.”
— Game balls were awarded to punter Shane Lechler, linebacker Kirk Morrison, running back Gary Russell, safety Tyvon Branch and tight end Zach Miller.
Cable cited Morrison’s skill in getting the defense properly aligned and on the same page, Russell’s blocking and receiving (5 catches for 50 yards _ most by a Raiders fullback since Jon Ritchie in 2000), the coverage and tackling of Branch, and Miller’s blocking and receiving.
— Miller’s 86-yard touchdown reception from JaMarcus Russell was his first since a 63-yard scoring pass from Russell in Week 4 last season. In between touchdowns, Miller caught 64 passes for 876 yards over 17 games without getting in the end zone.
Miller had three touchdowns as a rookie and now has five in 121 career receptions. Miller is averaging 16.9 yards on 21 receptions. His 139 yards receiving against the Eagles was a career high and his first time over 100 yards receiving in a game.
Miller is fourth in the NFL in receiving yards among tight ends and leads his position group in yards per catch.
— Chris Johnson’s big hit on Leonard Weaver stopped the Eagles’ fullback for no gain and forced a 45-yard David Akers field goal to make the score 13-9 as Philadelphia made a run into Oakland territory in an attempt to tie the score.
Johnson, playing a soft zone, saw McNabb’s options dwindling and came up to flatten a player who outweighs him by 50 pounds.
“My mentor wasn’t too known for hitting, so I want to be known as a hitter and a cover man,” Johnson said. “I just take pride in tackling, so I mean, if it’s made for me to make a play I’m gonna try to make a big hit, or a big play.”
Johnson’s mentor is Deion Sanders, the future Hall of Fame cornerback whose coverage skills were unmatched and his hitting skills limited to his time with the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds.
His advice to Johnson later Sunday evening?
“He just told me make sure I don’t end up getting hurt trying to knock fullbacks out,” Johnson said. “I take it as a joke, but you’ve just got to take your chances and play ball.”
— The Raiders announced crowd of 49,642 had plenty to cheer about, but at least two Raiders are hoping for more volume with a full house against the Jets.
“Show up early. We don’t want no blackouts,” linebacker Thomas Howard said. “We want it sold out by Thursday. So, I’m calling the fans out a little bit.”
Michael Bush credited the fans for keeping the Raiders into it even after Stanford Routt’s interception return for a touchdown was nullified by a pass interference penalty.
“The fans still got behind us. The fans play a lot, in my mind, a part to how we play. If everybody comes out to the game,” Bush said, looking directly into a video camera for effect as delivering a message, “like they should, it will be a good thing.”
— Cable sounded more optimistic about the availability of left guard Robert Gallery than Gallery himself. He listed him as questionable, along with right tackle Cornell Green (calf). Linebacker Ricky Brown (ankle), running back Darren McFadden (knee) and wide receiver Nick Miller (shin) are out.
Asomugha (eye) should be fine to practice Wednesday, Cable said, but will wear a protective shield in his helmet against the Jets.