Starting rookie WRs a failed experiment _ so far


Starting one rookie wide receiver, given the complexities of the position, is reason enough for concern.

Starting two, particularly with a quarterback struggling to find his own game, is a recipe for disaster.

Which goes a long way toward explaining why the Raiders have the NFL’s worst passing offense.

The re-entry of Chaz Schilens into rotation Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs should help, but it’s clear the Raiders have paid dearly through eight games for their decision to start both first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey and fourth-round pick Louis Murphy.

Some of it was borne of necessity, with Johnnie Lee Higgins struggling after taking a huge shot from Eric Weddle in Week 1, combined with the broken fifth metacarpal sustained by Schilens on Aug. 18.

But a lot of it was by choice. For reasons known only to the Raiders (he could be washed up, in the doghouse or simply put on ice while the rookies play), Javon Walker is little more than a spectator, collecting $2.3 million this season and next season under the terms of his renegotiated contract.

Todd Watkins had a 28-yard reception in Week 2 when the Raiders beat the Chiefs but had done little else of consequence.

No effort was made to bring in a veteran receiver with a history of getting open who could pick up some first downs and mentor the younger wideouts.

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell confirmed Thursday what Cable said about the bye week _ one of the primary goals was to get the ball to outside receivers.

The plan is to “just get some guys open and put the ball in their hands and let them run with it. Show what they’re capable of. That’s the thing we’ve been emphasizing this week in practice, just trying to let those guys make some plays.’’

According to NFL game books, Russell has completed 25.7 percent his passes attempted to Heyward-Bey and Murphy (16-for-63) for 248 yards, one touchdown and five of his nine interceptions (three intended for Murphy, one for Heyward-Bey). That’s a 15.7 passer rating.

Murphy, who caught a 57-yard touchdown pass in the opener against San Diego, has fallen out of Russell’s sights. Over the last four games, Murphy has caught a single pass for two yards, with four other catches for 58 yards coming from Bruce Gradkowski after Russell was benched against the Jets.

“I think in certain situations it just happened that way,’’ Russell said. “But now it’s a thing of spreading the ball around, trying to get everybody involved, so that we can become more deadly, different guys touching the ball, no telling what might happen.

“ That’s one of my jobs this week, to put the ball in each of the guys’ hands.’’

Heyward-Bey has never been a factor, catching five passes for 74 yards in eight starts. He’s been the intended receiver for 26 passes, 25 of them by Russell.

By contrast, Russell is completing 62.8 percent (27-for-43) of his passes for 414 yards, a touchdown and two intereptions when throwing to tight end Zach Miller on routes primarily in the middle of the field for a passer rating of 82.8.

Russell thinks the return of Darren McFadden, as well as Schilens, will open up the offense for the rookie receivers as well as everyone else.

“A lot, man. Just knowing that going up against those guys you have to mark ‘em down in your game plan, or what’s going to happen if McFadden goes out wide, or he’s in the backfield,’’ Russell said. “He’s a guy that’s going to have to be accounted for, just as well as Chaz.’’

Asked to assess his first half, Russell said, “I did OK, but it could be a lot better than what it was. Got some bad breaks, but other than that I think I can do a lot better.’’

He said he was happy with his checks from pass to run and vice-versa, and needs to work on ball security and getting a better feel for a pass rush.


Previously injured players such as Schilens, McFadden, Robert Gallery and Cornell Green are all on the field and appear on schedule to start.

No sign of defensive end Greg Ellis, who had arthroscopic surgery both his knee and shoulder. Nick Miller (tibia) and Ricky Brown (ankle) also remain out.

Glenn Pakulak, another left-footed punter who has spent some time with the Raiders practice squad, was spotted at the facility and will likely do as Ricky Schmitt did Wednesday _ go through an official “workout” which will help Higgins and practice squad returner Shaun Bodiford prepare for the Chiefs’ Dustin Colquitt.

More to come following Tom Cable’s post-practice press briefing . . .


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • Did we ever get a sellout notification? or did Jerry just take it for granted it’s blacked out?

  • Jombus1

    Al Davis…Mr. expert draft picker…Just take a look at our last 5 picks. Robert Gallery, Michael Huff, Jamarcus Russell, Darren Mcfadden, Darrius Haywerd-Bey (so insignificant I cannot remember how to spell his name!!). WOW!! Could have had Ben Roethlisberger, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Ryan, Adrian Peterson, and Michael Crabtree, who is already appearing to be a future STAR receiver in the NFL. WHAT A MOTHER PHUCKING JOKE!!!! I HATE YOU AL DAVIS…..

  • r8drfan247

    Russell said. “But now it’s a thing of spreading the ball around, trying to get everybody involved, so that we can become more deadly, different guys touching the ball, no telling what might happen…. so we can become MORE DEADLY..LMAO.. Has he not been watching the game tape!!!! He’s so stupid!!!

  • centurionWR87

    Gutted there are blackouts! I’d love to come see a Raiders game! I hope they come to England soon for the NFL International!

  • Raider Joe

    Random thoughts on this deal: Starting the two rookies has in fact been a disaster, Jerry’s right.I think, despite last season,Javon should be starting in place of DHB. With DHB as the 3rd wr.I also think everyone’s expectations are way too high for Schillens.His return is a very good thing, but he’s not going to be the savior fr the offense that we have painted him as.It’s too much to expect for the caliber of player he is at this point.He may be the best we have at that position, but he’s not a game changing wr. Yet. So I don’t know how big an effect his return will have.Russell and his accuracy will still be the biggest issue. Obiviously the o-line hasn’t helped. Robert Gallery can’t play LG and RT at the same time.Someone mebntioned Brady Quinn, sarcastically, and I am with you. The big controversy in that draft was if wee took a QB (forget Calvin Johnson)should it be JR or Quinn. It looks to me,like it didn’t matter. It looks like we’d be in the same boat with Quinn at the helm as we are with Russell. Finally, I haven’t heard anything about Al Davis contemplating stepping down aside from the post above. But knowing that the ,man is 81 years old it isn’t that outlandish an idea.Despite his public denials, everyone knows Al has been in poor health for several years. I would say it isn’t that far fetched ti think he might no longer physically be able to run the team in the capacity he does now.Thinking logically, I also can’t believe he can’t see, by now, that the way he’s been doing things the past 6 years is not working. He’s changed basically every element other than himself acting as GM. And the results are always the same.No matter who is coaching and trying to do things Al’s way, it fails.Change skilled players, no difference. His drafting skills have diminished,as we all know.I do think McFadden is a good RB and will be great,we just didn’t need him at the time.By all accounts, Al knew Russell would be a project needing big time coaching and mentoring. Something the Raiders have never been good at when it comes to QB as Al has admitted.Because it doesn’t fit in with the ;win now’ philosophy.Hence Plunkett, LaMonica, Hostetler,Gannon.He drafted Stabler, and that worked out, but he’s one guy. And a major talent anyway. Yet he drafted Russell #1 anyway.Which means he didn’t listen to his scouts.So, I think is entirely possible Al is looking at hiring a GM.He loves football and wants to be involved, but maybe he’s realized his time is past as the mad football genius that dominated the NFL for so many years.Hopefully he’ll show that genius and bring in a GM and coach that will lead his team back to doamination.