"Holy Toledo!"

August 7, 2007

JaMarcus Russell Still Unsigned, Oakland Raiders Training Camp Update

Filed under: NFL — Bill @ 12:14 am

To hear Al Davis you would think that the agent for #1 draft pick QB JaMarcus Russell was asking for a piece of Al’s silver & black jogging outfit. To hear it from Russell’s agent you would think that Al is a kindred spirit to Jack Benny, the king of cheap. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

Unfortunately just like in the movie War Games, this is a game where the losers are the participants. With two weeks (and counting) of training camp gone Russell is missing valuable time that can’t ever be made up once the season begins. The longer this contract negotiation continues, the less anyone should expect from Russell in the ’07 season.

According to one reporter this contract dispute could go on well into September. If that happens JaMarcus Russell will (barring an injury to another QB) be lucky to crack the practice squad in ’07. With Andrew Walter, Josh McCown, & newly acquired Daunte Culpepper in camp the urgency to sign Russell has diminished.

Second round pick TE Zach Miller was the last of the unsigned draft picks (besides Russell) until he agreed to terms on July 27th. The Russell holdout is out of character for the Raiders, this is the first time in years that a Raiders draft pick has yet to be signed by the start of training camp.

There are two schools of thought about rookie QB’s: A) As in the successful case of Bengals QB Carson Palmer many believe it is best to let a young QB sit on the sidelines for a season and let him learn the ropes by observation, B) As in the case of Colts QB Peyton Manning some think it is best to let the rookie QB play as soon as possible gaining experience from the school of hard knocks. Knowing that Al Davis prefers veteran QB’s one would think he believes in plan A, but there isn’t much precedent for the Raiders drafting a QB #1 (and the names Todd Marinovich & Marc Wilson don’t exactly conjure up a warm glow in the hearts of Raider fans).

A potentially disastrous concern for Raider fans is the unpredictable nature of Al Davis and his propensity for vendettas. If this holdout is prolonged and gets even uglier the names of Marcus Allen & Steve Beuerlein could be mentioned in the same breath as JaMarcus Russell. For all concerned let’s hope this doesn’t happen.

– The Black Out Factor – Besides the hiring of the new young coach Lane Kiffin the Raiders have done little to give their fans any sign of optimism for the upcoming season. A critical factor in the number of games being sold out vs. being blacked out is the fair-weather or “tweener” fans, those typical Bay Area fans who either end up in Oakland or S.F. based on who is winning. Given the obvious rise by the 49ers and the lack of excitement being generated in Oaktown, it seems pretty clear where those “tweeners” will end up. The signing of JaMarcus Russell could have been a big step for the Raiders in order to compete for Bay Area support.

– Daunte – Yes Raider fans it’s time to learn how to spell Daunte. When this “future star” came out of Central Florida as a first round pick in the ’99 draft many said the same things about him as they are saying about Russell. The most obvious comparison is their size, Daunte is 6-3 240, Russell is 6-5 270 (both are huge QB’s). The big difference is that Culpepper had (key word here is “had”) tremendous speed for a big man.

Unlike Russell, Daunte Culpepper was never considered to be a QB with a big league arm (a good arm but in no way comparable to Russell’s arm). He made a huge splash with the Vikings in 2000 throwing up deep lobs that Randy Moss would somehow pull down. When you think of Culpepper what usually comes to mind is that injuries cut into his production. Yes this is true to some extent, but except for his 2000 season Culpepper has never had a winning season as a starting QB in the NFL. It could also be said that this could be due to extenuating circumstances beyond his control (a diminished O-line, Dennis Green, etc., etc…). Playing for the ’07 Raiders won’t be much pf an improvement.

Last season in Miami Culpepper came back too quickly from a major injury that most felt was a “year & a half injury” that he tried to come back from in less than a year. As a result he played poorly in only 4 games, took a lot of heat from the Miami fans, and predictably lost his starting job. Once coach Nick Saban left for Alabama Daunte’s days as a Dolphin were numbered.

So who is the real Daunte Culpepper? Now that he is fully recovered from his injury we will find out this year. Then again given the Raiders weak O-line it once again it may be hard to judge.

– A Potential Star? Remember the name Johnnie Lee Higgins. A WR out of UTEP drafted in round 3 who led his pass happy team in receiving & as a return man, Higgins is unlike past Raider draft picks who could run fast but contributed little on the field. This kid is a real football player who has star potential. Higgins has more to learn about route running and has yet to prove he can break away from the big bump & run cornerbacks, but his big play ability is a given. You will see him first (wearing #15) as a return man in the NFL, but my hunch is that once given a chance at WR he will demonstrate his abilities. Something about him reminds me of a young Anthony Carter (but that comparison might be a bit unfair at this point). He must make the most of his opportunities, and once preseason begins I’m guessing everyone will know the name Johnnie Lee Higgins.

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1 Comment »

  1. Sorry about JaBust.

    Zig, the Jets fan.

    Comment by Ralph Zig Tyko — August 10, 2007 @ 7:16 pm


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