By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, November 21st, 2009 at 2:44 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Coach Tom Cable has remained noncommittal when asked about how he’ll deploy is three running backs, now that all are reasonably healthy.
Depends on who has the hot hand, down and distance, formations, etc.
With Michael Bush coming off a 119-yard effort against Kansas City, the first time a Raiders running back has gained over 100 yards this season, you’d think he’d be actively campaigning for a chance to see how much damage he can do with a heavier workload.
Bush got his yards against the Chiefs on only 14 carries, the most work he’s had in a game this season. His previous high was 12 carries for 55 yards in the opener.
He leads the Raiders in rushing with 350 yards, is tied with Justin Fargas for the team lead in rushing touchdowns (2) and at 4.5 yards per carry, is ahead of both Fargas (3.7) and McFadden (3.1).
Bush is the only one of the three who hasn’t been hurt, and the only one with a carry above 20 yards and above 40 yards.
I asked Bush this week if there’s a part of him that wants to demand 25 carries to see what happens, or even if he didn’t want to say it, if he felt that way inside.
“Sometimes, but I mean, that’s just not me,” Bush said. “I’ve had to be patient about a lot of things. Even at Louisville, I was behind a couple of guys. The whole leg injury taught me more patience. And now, with three running backs, it’s the same thing. I’m OK with it.”
While Cable has not named a starter for the last two games, Bush expects to be on the field when the game begins and figures the amount of work he gets will correspond to his production.
“I know I’ll be starting and I’ve just got to make the best of my opportunities,” Bush said. “That’s the only thing I can do right now.”
Bush may have derailed his own chance for a bigger role down the stretch when he asked for a breather in the third quarter after his most extended use of the season.
With the Raiders starting at the Chiefs 43, Bush carried on five consecutive plays, gaining 35 yards, and the Raiders reaching the Chiefs 22-yard line. After the fifth carry, a 3-yard run for a first down on third-and-3, Bush asked for a breather, Fargas came in and was stuffed for no gain.
The drive stalled when JaMarcus Russell threw incomplete, a 15-yard screen pass to Zach Miller was called by on a penalty for ineligible lineman downfield, and Russell threw incomplete to Bush on third-and-15.
Sebastian Janikowski followed it with a miss from 45 yards and the drive came up empty.
From the time Bush asked out of the game, he carried only four more times for 15 yards and never had consecutive carries. His two carries in the fourth quarter gained 10 yards.
Cable was enthused at Bush’s early breakaway run, a 60-yarder that was the big play in Oakland’s lone touchdown drive. In the past, Bush’s previous big gainers have come in the fourth quarter.
It also sounded as if Bush had been able to remain in the game on his run of carries, Cable would have kept giving him the ball.
“I would have rode that one,” Cable said. “Five tough runs like that in a row is a pretty good deal.”
One area that’s been largely unexploited has been Bush’s pass receiving skill. He leads the running backs with 14 catches for 83 yards, but that has more to do with the fact that he’s the only one who has played every game other than a concerted effort to get him the ball.
Russell had trouble with touch passes on short circle routes and screens, and if Bruce Gradkowski can feather some of those passes to the 245-pound Bush against corners and safeties, big gains could result.
INJURY REPORT UPDATE
The Raiders added starting strong side linebacker Jon Alston to the injury list with an illness. He is questionable.
Alston split the strong side linebacker position on a rotation basis with Sam Williams against Kansas City. He has had two concussions since Oct. 11 which the club said were minor. He has missed minimal practice time, according to the injury report.
Note: Offensive lineman Paul McQuistan, cut by the Raiders, was signed by Jacksonville. The Jaguars cut safety Brian Russell to bring him aboard.