By Steve Corkran
Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 at 1:32 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Note: Raiders blogger extraordinaire Jerry McDonald is taking a well-deserved vacation this week, with the exception of today’s Live Chat. So, bear with me as I do my best to bring you the latest on the Raiders and fill the considerable void during Jerry’s absence.
Raiders coach Tom Cable met with the media Tuesday as part of the NFL owners’ meetings in Orlando, Fla. We weren’t in attendance. However, we managed to get a hold of some of the video and transcripts from what Cable said, which wasn’t much in terms of breaking new ground.
Of note, Cable said that Russell has taken a “huge step” just by taking part in the Raiders offseason workout program, that he is doing everything asked of him by the organization and that the starting quarterback job is “wide open.”
“He’s doing fine,” Cable said of Russell in a one-on-one interview with NFL.com’s Jason LaCanfora. “The fact that he’s there working now with his teammates is really, really important. It gives him a chance now, when we start practice, to go in and compete for the job with the other quarterbacks. Just be very clear, he’s there, he’s working, and that’s a huge step for him. That will give him his chance.”
His chance? So that’s what it has come to for the player selected with the first pick of the 2007 NFL draft. He has a chance.
Naturally, the subject of Russell’s weight was a hot topic for reporters gathered around Cable on Tuesday morning. But Cable wasn’t biting on any questions that pertained to Russell’s weight.
San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami reported last week that Russell tipped the scales at 271 pounds when he reported to the offseason workouts in Alameda last Tuesday.
Cable said now is not the time to discuss Russell’s weight, instead keeping the focus on the fact Russell is working out with his teammates.
Cable did say that Russell holds the key to erasing the unyielding criticism that shadows him every step of the way during his odyssey from No. 1 draft pick to whatever lies ahead.
“It’s like anything in life, you can bring that on yourself,” Cable said. “If you want to not let that be who you are, then you need to do something about it. So you change.”
By all accounts, Russell has made a concerted effort to change his ways. He worked out at a training facility in Arizona earlier this offseason. He also is eating prepared meals and being monitored by former Raiders safety Eddie Anderson.
“The fact that he’s there working is really important right now,” Cable said. “That’s the biggest step right now, and that’s a big step.”
In other news, Cable said that Khalif Barnes was re-signed the first day of free agency as a replacement for departed veteran Cornell Green. Barnes is in line to replace Green at right offensive tackle, with Erik Pears in the mix, as well.
Green signed with the Buffalo Bills early in free agency, and the Raiders are intent upon finding someone who can provide an upgrade at what has been a problem area.
To that end, they reportedly sent offensive line coach Jim Michalczik to Fort Worth, Texas, on Monday to work out Texas Christian offensive tackle Nic Richmond in advance of the NFL draft.
Richmond goes 6-foot-8 and 322 pounds and is projected as a right offensive tackle in the pros.
Cable also uttered the words Darren McFadden and Michael Bush have been waiting for the past two years: the starting job is there for the taking now that Justin Fargas isn’t on the roster.
Cable said that he isn’t in favor of a tandem backfield and that he wants one of those two to develop into an every-down back.
“We’ll move forward with those two guys,” Cable said. “I think it will help both of them that they will get more work. The question with (McFadden) is, now that he’s healthy, can he be an every-down back? And I think he can be.”
As for Kamerion Wimbley, the player the Raiders acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns earlier this month, Cable said he projects as the starting strong-side linebacker.
Ricky Brown, Jon Alston, Sam Williams and Thomas Howard manned that position last season, with Howard moving there once Trevor Scott was converted from defensive end.
Howard still hasn’t signed the one-year contract offered by the Raiders. If he signs, look for him to return to his customary weak-side spot, with Scott going back to end.
Matt Shaughnessy is the right defensive end until further notice, Cable said. He split time with Greg Ellis at left end a majority of the time last season.
Cable went without an offensive coordinator last season because he called the plays. Managing general partner Al Davis was less than thrilled with the Raiders scoring only 17 touchdowns in 16 games, so he hired Hue Jackson as the offensive coordinator.
It was assumed that Jackson was hired, in large part, to help develop Russell, in hopes he could weave the same kind of magic he did in bringing along Joe Flacco the past two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.
Not so, Cable said. Jackson’s primary job is to get Oakland’s offense to “score more points. Plain and simple. With him, it’s not just one guy. He’s got to get 11 guys on the same page and moving in the right direction. We need to score at least two touchdowns and a couple field goals a game. If we can do that, if we can get better play at quarterback, we’ll be fine.”
Working with Russell still belongs to quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett, Cable said.
The Raiders re-signed defensive tackle William Joseph. He has been a backup the past two seasons after spending five seasons with the New York Giants. Joseph has a decent shot of making the 53-man roster as a backup to Tommy Kelly and Desmond Bryant.
The league handed over a seventh-round draft pick to the Raiders on Monday when they announced the compensatory selections for the upcoming NFL draft. The pick is No. 251 overall.
According to Raiders.com, linebacker Ricky Brown and fullback Luke Lawton have signed their tenders. When asked by reporters about the fullback position Tuesday, Cable named Lawton and Marcel Reece but made no mention of Oren O’Neal.