"Holy Toledo!"

November 29, 2007

The Answer To The Question: When Will JaMarcus Russell Get To Play?

Filed under: NFL — Bill @ 11:19 pm

Will the number one pick in the 2007 NFL Draft finally get his chance to touch a football in an NFL game this weekend?

Since signing with the Raiders back in September former LSU star QB JaMarcus Russell has been nothing more than a practice team player impersonating the opposing team’s QB in weekly drills. Despite the outcry from fans & media Russell has simply not been ready to play. Missing the entire training camp & preseason because of his contract holdout set him back several months. Simply put there is no way a rookie QB can learn an entire NFL offense without the benefit of training camp.

One could assume, based on historical precedence that the Raiders had no intention of allowing their prize pick to be hurried into action, and thus their slow contract negotiations seemed to fit into that grand scheme. This was further evidenced by the signing of Daunte Culpepper who, after a severe injury, needed a one year audition to prove he still has what it takes to be a starter in the NFL.

Over the course of the last three months coach Lane Kiffen has slowly fed Russell a few plays, and now his “playbook” is up to about 15 to 20 plays. In order to be effective JaMarcus has to practice these plays, but given the secrecy around the Raiders facility, or unless you have the keys to Al’s vault, nobody really knows how much practice time the kid is getting these days. We do know that it can’t be much because Daunte & Josh McCown need their own reps.

Another factor to consider is when to play Russell and where. The Raiders are not like some teams who throw their rookies to the wolves. History has shown that it is rare for a rookie QB to jump into the fray, especially on a losing team, and be able to survive not only the physical beating, but the pounding it does to their confidence. Names like Ryan Leif, Akili Smith, & Jeff George come to mind. So when is the right time?

The Raiders have 5 games left, two are extremely tough road games in Green Bay & Jacksonville, obviously no place to expose a rookie QB. This Sunday the Raiders face division rival Denver, in 2 weeks they host Super Bowl champion Indianapolis, and in the final game of the year the Chargers come to town. Given the choices you have to think the Raiders would choose the Denver game as a likely spot for JaMarcus to debut (but it would be just like Al Davis to wait until the world champion Colts came to town).

MY PREDICTION: I think that this Sunday sometime midway through the first or second quarter they will bring in JaMarcus Russell for one, perhaps two series at the most. Give the kid a chance to complete a few passes, get his feet wet, feel involved & confident without exposing him. To me it sounds like a good scenario.

Either that or depending how practice goes this week he will continue to sit, and his debut will come against the Colts in 2 weeks, or next preseason (but since there are tickets to be sold I doubt they wait until next year). I also doubt they would risk injury by playing him in the season finale vs. San Diego.

If JaMarcus Russell is going to see the field at all in 2007 it will likely be this Sunday.

** UPDATED INFO: Just this morning (Friday) it was reported that Daunte Culpepper’s practice time was limited this week due to his injured thigh. Daunte’s absense creates a window of opportunity that should provide valuable practice time for JaMarcus Russell, thus making it even more likely that his debut will occur this Sunday.

———-

OK football fans see if this quote seems familiar to you…

“Although we have been a faithful tenant of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, we must now seek other alternatives for the good of our football team and our fans,”

If you guessed that this quote originated from Raiders owner Al Davis from back in the early ’90’s nobody would blame you. Instead these words were spoken just this week by a representative of the USC Trojans (administration chief Todd R. Dickey).

It’s comforting to know that in the year 2007 the L.A. Memorial Coliseum Commission is still incapable of satisfying a tenant, and the promises made almost 25 years ago to upgrade this dilapidated facility remain undone.

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