Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

November 30, 2007
Injury update

ALAMEDA – Here’s the official injury report for the Raiders for Sunday’s game:

Defensive end Derrick Burgess CQ (Achilles), linebacker Isaiah Ekejiuba CQ (ankle) and center Jake Grove CQ (knee) are all probable.

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper (quadriceps) is questionable and his backup, Josh McCown (hand) is probable.

Jarrod Cooper (knee) is listed as out because he hasn't been placed on injured reserve yet.

--Jason Jones

November 30, 2007
Two hurting alternatives

ALAMEDA – Daunte Culpepper or Josh McCown.

That’s the answer to who will start at quarterback for the Raiders this Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

Culpepper (right quadriceps) didn’t practice today and coach Lane Kiffin said he didn’t know who would start but said it was safe to assume it would be McCown if Culpepper can’t play.

McCown took the majority of the first-team offensive snaps at practice, Kiffin said.

Kiffin is also undecided on his second and third quarterbacks would be if Culpepper doesn’t play.

JaMarcus Russell stayed after practice for extra work with some scout team receivers and rookie fullback Oren O’Neal, but still might be No. 3 behind Andrew Walter.

Culpepper thinks he hurt his leg last Sunday in Kansas City, but said it didn’t become a problem until Wednesday night. He was limited in Thursday’s practice.

McCown is dislocated his left pinky in practice on Wednesday. He'll wear a glove with the pinky and ring fingers cut off on it should he start.

Because it's his non-throwing hand, McCown doesn't expect it to be a problem.

So that makes it both feet, left hand and a quadriceps that have been hurt on McCown this season.

--Jason Jones

November 30, 2007
No pep in his step

ALAMEDA – Daunte Culpepper was at practice, but wore a hat instead of a helmet.

That means he won’t practice today. Lane Kiffin should update his status for Sunday’s game against Denver later today.

Kiffin said Thursday he expects Culpepper to start at quarterback against the Broncos. If Culpepper is limited, that increases the chances JaMarcus Russell won’t be the second quarterback as Kiffin would likely turn to Josh McCown before Russell.

That is unless Kiffin now has enough faith in Russell to play him.

More to come later.

--Jason Jones

November 29, 2007
Same old Randy?

ALAMEDA –- Is the Randy Moss we all knew and many loathed in Oakland showing up in New England.

Check out this quote from ESPN’s Ron Jaworkski, an analyst that played quarterback in the NFL and whose opinion I’ve come to respect over the years.

This was his take on how Moss played in the Patriots’ close win over Philadelphia:

"When I went through the tape, it was the first time that I was personally disappointed in a Randy Moss performance. I did not see the same energy on every single play that I had seen so far this season. When he was the No. 1 go-to guy on a route, he gave great effort and hustle. There were some plays on the back side, when he wasn't the primary receiver, I did not see the great effort. Knowing how the Patriots handle things internally, I'm sure there have been some discussions on Randy, 'Every snap, we need 100 percent out of you.' I thought a few times Tom (Brady) tried to get him involved in the game and tried to force some balls in to him.”

I know the part about effort sounds familiar to fans of Oakland and Minnesota. Perhaps Moss truly is the ultimate frontrunner. When things are good FOR HIM, it’s all good. But if not, he’ll play when he wants to play.

It’ll be something to watch as the Patriots try to go 16-0.

--Jason Jones

November 29, 2007
Doesn't want to be a Hog

ALAMEDA -- Lane Kiffin said he has no interest in the Arkansas coaching job.

When asked if he had no interest in the job, Kiffin said "yeah."

Does that mean those in Arkansas will stop mentioning him for the job? Probably not.

But at least that ends it on his end.

--Jason Jones

November 29, 2007
Hand and leg issues equal Russell?

ALAMEDA – Josh McCown came into the locker room with a bag taped around his left hand.

Daunte Culpepper has a sore right quadriceps.

Could it be JaMarcus Russell time?

Lane Kiffin said Culpepper was limited in practice after he came into work today with a sore thigh.

Culpepper thinks it happened during the Raiders’ win at Kansas City. He said it was no big deal because he’s often sore after a game, but the pain worsened after Wednesday’s practice.

Kiffin doesn’t expect Culpepper to miss the game.

McCown isn’t listed on the injury report because his injury was fixed on site.

He dislocated two joints in his left (non-throwing) pinky finger yesterday catching a pass from Andrew Walter.

Medical staff put the bones back in place and stitched up McCown’s hand. He showered with the bag on to not get the stitches wet.
Kiffin gave no indication as to whether Russell would be his No. 2 quarterback this weekend, which would mean he could play against Denver.

McCown said Walter’s pass was a simple lob that Walter sarcastically said was the best pass he’d ever thrown.

When it was jokingly mentioned that it was all part of Walter’s plan to injure every quarterback on the roster McCown figured as much.

His joke was Walter would throw his next pass off Culpepper’s leg, have it hit McCown in the finger and bounce into Russell’s eye.

Then you’d have it. Walter would start against the Broncos.

There was no other injury news. Derrick Burgess practiced and spent time in the locker room taking a comedic run at rookie Jay Richardson, who joked Burgess' sacks against the Chiefs were a product of his work.

Burgess said such talk proves Oakland "breeds ignorance."

Also, the game is sold out, so it will be broadcast locally.

--Jason Jones

November 29, 2007
His heel is an issue

ALAMEDA – Derrick Burgess was at practice and when Lane Kiffin speaks, it’s unlikely he’ll shed much light on Burgess’ Achilles injury.

Burgess was listed on the injury report yesterday as being limited in practice after Kiffin declared the team pretty much healthy.

Burgess doesn’t discuss injuries and for the most part, hasn’t been very talkative this season.

Kiffin is often vague in talking about injuries, too. He never acknowledged what was wrong with Burgess’ calf when he missed two games this season.

If Burgess Achilles is hurting him, it’s a major concern. He missed the entire 2003 season because of a torn Achilles tendon.

With the exception of Jarrod Cooper, who is out for the season with a knee injury, every other Raider was at practice.

That includes Kiffin, who wasn’t wearing any Arkansas gear.

--Jason Jones


November 28, 2007
Lane headed to Hog Heaven?

ALAMEDA – Lane Kiffin wants nothing do with Arkansas.

Well, he doesn’t want to talk about coaching Arkansas, is more accurate.

Kiffin’s name has been mentioned as a candidate in reports to replace Houston Nutt, which he said was news to him.

Coaches could avoid the distraction that comes along with these rumors by declaring they aren’t interested.

Kiffin didn’t do that and recommended the media call his agent to find out if he’d been contacted by the school.

Until he Kiffin declares he’s not looking to leave, this won’t go away, whether he wants it to or not.

*****

Derrick Burgess was limited in practice with an Achilles injury. Kiffin didn’t mention Burgess when discussing injured players and in fact declared the team “pretty healthy right now.”

Isaiah Ekejiuba (ankle) was limited in practice, too.

Stuart Schweigert (calf) and Jake Grove (knee) completed practice.

****

It’s ironic the Raiders are playing the Broncos this week, following the shooting death of Sean Taylor.

The Broncos lost cornerback Darrent Williams when he was shot and killed early New Year’s Day. Running back Damien Nash also died following a charity basketball game.

Cornerback Champ Bailey had an interesting take on the situation, especially in regards to athletes protecting themselves.

He said it’s “almost necessary” to keep a gun in the home, but doesn’t condone driving around with a gun.

That’s a touchy subject. Bailey didn’t say he had a gun at home.

But commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t want the public to see the NFL as a bunch of gun-toting, muscled up freaks.

But the string of NBA players robbed at gunpoint in the offseason can’t make athletes feel any safer.

Bailey said players need to monitor who they are with because they can be targets based on what someone in their “crew” does.

I just watched the latest episode of The Boondocks where fictional rapper Thugnificent explained to young Riley Freeman the purpose of a crew.

Basically, a crew makes sure you don’t have to ever handle your own responsibilities.

Athletes best watch their “crew” because trouble could follow them for something they didn’t even do.

Then again, that’s something we all need to do.

--Jason Jones

November 28, 2007
It's Broncos Week

ALAMEDA – I’ve recovered from all the barbecue I ate in Kansas City, enjoyed a couple of days off in the company of my Xbox 360 and my Myspace page.

Trust me, loafing ain’t easy.

But it’s back to the grind today. We’ve already had the conference call with Denver coach Mike Shanahan, who shed no light on who might be the Broncos starting running back this weekend.

He offered a summation as to why the AFC West is so muddled this season: No one is playing well.

Shanahan compared it to the 1988 season when he coached the Raiders. The Los Angeles Raiders (the team of my childhood) were 7-8 going into the season-finale against Seattle.

If the Raiders had won, they would have won the division. They lost 43-37 and the Seahawks won the AFC West with a 9-7 mark.

So even at 3-8, the Raiders are still mathematically alive to win the division.

If things were to somehow come together to make their last game decide a playoff berth, Oakland would have to knock off Norv Turner and the Chargers to end the season.

****
Lane Kiffin was at practice this morning, not on his way to interview for the Arkansas job.

Kiffin hasn’t spoken with the local media yet, but he’ll definitely be asked about rumors that he’s a leading candidate for the Razorbacks job.

It should be noted, a lot of these rumors are based on someone with wishful thinking floating names to the media and that Kiffin isn’t necessarily interested in Arkansas, but the other way around.

The only injured player not at practice was Jarrod Cooper, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Didn’t see Jeremy Newberry, but he routinely takes Wednesday off.

--Jason Jones

November 25, 2007
Pep is the man

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Don’t ever mistake Daunte Culpepper for a fool.

He knows exactly what his job is this season. Play well enough to win games and prepare to step aside when it’s time for JaMarcus Russell.

But as he showed today, Culpepper isn’t playing his way to the bench.

Though his statistics weren’t prolific (170 passing yards, no touchdowns), Culpepper is playing well. And the Raiders won, today, which is what the Lane Kiffin cares about the most.

Kiffin said Culpepper would start the Raiders’ next game against the Denver Broncos, putting to rest speculation Russell would start every game in December.

Kiffin’s mindset is all about winning, so I believe him when he says he won’t start Russell until he gives the Raiders the best chance to win.

That doesn’t rule Russell out from playing in the last five games. But Culpepper is playing well so don’t look for him to go to the bench soon.

But he knows Russell will be off the bench soon.

“I’m going to be fully supportive of (Russell),” Culpepper said. “But at the same time when I’m out there on the field I’m trying to be successful for us to win, too.”

And as long as he does that, Russell won’t be starting.

****
Kiffin had more good tings to say about how Michael Huff has played this season.

Huff notched his first NFL interception against the Chiefs. And for the most part, he did a good job covering Tony Gonzalez.

The Raiders put Huff in some tough situations at strong safety. He's undersized against any tight end he covers, but the Raiders ask him to do so without help most of the time.

Kiffin pointed out it's always noticed when a tight end makes a catch, but not when Huff's defense forces a quarterback to go away from the tight end.

I've spoken to Huff about this a few times. He'd still like to blitz more and do different things to have a bigger impact.

But in Huff's case, not hearing his name called out doesn't always mean he's not doing a good job.

****

The field at Arrowhead held up pretty well considering Kansas and Missouri played the night before.

Justin Fargas said the field was actually better than it had been on the past.

Thanks to a good friend that's a Kansas grad, I attended the MU-KU game. The crowd was wild, I was cold, but kept warm by eating that good Kansas City barbeque this weekend.

--Jason Jones

November 25, 2007
Stu to the sidelines

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – If Kolby Smith runs for over 100 yards today, one of Raider fans’ favorite whipping boys won’t be to blame.

Safety Stuart Schweigert is inactive for the game with a calf injury.

Schweigert was hurt against Minnesota last week, but wasn’t listed on the injury report until later in the week.

He said he missed tackles he normally makes against the Vikings because of a leg injury.

The Raiders’ depth chart lists Hiram Eugene as Schweigert’s backup, but don’t be surprised to see Michael Huff playing some free safety.

The other Raiders inactives are:

3rd QB JaMarcus Russell
QB Andrew Walter
CB John Bowie
LB Isaiah Ekejiuba
C Jake Grove
T Seth Wand
DT Josh Shaw

--Jason Jones


November 21, 2007
New right tackle needed

ALAMEDA – Nobody thought before the season the Raiders would ever be in a position to miss Cornell Green, right?

But he's on injured reserve with a foot injury.

Here are your candidates to replace him:

Robert Gallery
Everyone’s favorite whipping boy and labeled the biggest bust at tackle since Tony Mandarich. He’d been stashed away at left guard and has shown some signs of becoming competent at the position. A move back to tackle could hurt any confidence he might have gained if he struggles.

Paul McQuistan
Had never played tackle in an NFL game until Oct. 28 at Tennessee and it showed. Worked over by the Titans and struggled against the Minnesota Vikings, too. If Gallery gets the job at tackle, McQuistan might replace him at left guard.

Seth Wand
I know he just tried out and signed with the team today. But hey, how much worse can he be. He won’t start this week, but if Gallery or McQuistan makes Tamba Hali look like Michael Strahan on Sunday, it won’t be long before he gets a shot. He was a starter for Houston in 2004, but as bad as the Raiders have been blocking, they can’t look down on anyone, even if they were part of the group that allowed defenders to knock David Carr silly.

***
The Raiders roster is interesting. For a team with only two wins, it’s funny how they are hording players just to make sure other teams can’t have them.

Andrew Walter? No way we let you get somewhere like the 49ers. LaMont Jordan? You’re not going to run for 150 against us as a Chief. Dominic Rhodes? Just return kicks, baby.

I understand not wanting to help the opposition, but it’s not as if the Raiders are a playoff team.

Don’t hold a running back hostage and pay him to do nothing when Michael Bush could have gotten a chance to play and help build for the future.

It’s obvious Walter is not in the future plans. The team didn’t trade him last month, but could have landed something for him in a trade.

After all, JaMarcus Russell is the future, right.

--Jason Jones

November 21, 2007
Bush won't play this season

ALAMEDA – Injured Raiders rookie Johnathan Holland has a workout partner again.

Michael Bush wasn’t practicing with the Raiders this morning. Instead he’s working out with Holland, who is on injured reserve.

The Raiders have until 1 p.m. to officially activate Bush to the active roster. But it looks like the Raiders won’t do that, meaning he can’t play this season.

Bush had been on the physically unable to perform list because he broke his leg last September at Louisville.

He practiced for three weeks, the allotted time for PUP players before the team has to decide whether to activate him.

So Bush is out and LaMont Jordan is still a Raider.

Did you really think the team would release him? No chance with the Chiefs this week, who need another back now that Priest Holmes retired today.

There’s a good chance Jordan would have found his early-season form in a Chiefs uniform against the Raiders run defense.

Instead, rookie Kolby Smith will get the chance to become the eighth running back to gain 100 yards on the Raiders this season.

Jordan joins Andrew Walter as Raiders that want out but have no chance of leaving soon.

There’s going to be some shuffling on the offensive line, too. Look for Robert Gallery to play right tackle. Cornell Green wasn’t at practice and the way Lane Kiffin sounded Monday, he’s out for a while.

Jake Grove wasn’t at practice either. He’d be the logical replacement for Gallery at left guard. If not, Paul McQuistan or Chris Morris are other possibilities.

The Raiders also signed tackle Seth Wand. If Green is on injured reserve (there’s no official word yet) Wand would replace him on the roster.

Wand was a third-round pick of Houston in 2003 and spent part of last season with Tennessee before being cut this year.

--Jason Jones

November 19, 2007
A day later Sapp is still right

ALAMEDA – What Warren Sapp said Sunday about the Raiders being an undisciplined team is absolutely correct.

That’s why Lane Kiffin didn’t chide Sapp today in his press conference.

After all, the Raiders have 31 false starts, or nearly twice as many touchdown catches as Randy Moss.

I lost track of the holes running backs have had because the Raiders have been out of position on defense.

As Kiffin pointed out, Sapp doesn’t spout off just to do it.

He’s one of the smartest players around and simply said what we all see – the Raiders lack discipline.

So Kiffin didn't express any anger over what Sapp said. Other players are trying to downplay the truth.

The fact is until the Raiders play smarter football, they will continue to pick high in the draft.

In other news:

Tackle Cornell Green’s ankle injury is serious which means Paul McQuistan or Robert Gallery could start at right tackle if Green is out.

The Raiders have to decide if Michael Bush will be activated this week. Nnamdi Asomugha feels better after suffering what was believed to a concussion yesterday, but not deemed to be one today according to Asomugha.

--Jason Jones

November 18, 2007
Discipline needed on both sides

MINNEAPOLIS – The Vikings opened the game with receiver Sidney Rice throwing a pass for 79 yards.

Rice completed two passes for 94 yards on the day.

A lack of discipline is a big reason why the Raiders were hurt by the play.

Those plays are designed to take advantage of teams that don’t stay in position and carry out their assignments.

If the Raiders keep containment on the outside, there should have been someone waiting on Rice when he went to throw.

So the discipline issue isn’t limited to the offense.

But there are still problems on the offense. A false start on a quarterback spike? Maybe it’s the curse of No. 17.

If Mike Williams (the old 17) hadn’t already been cut, he would have been for what Tim Dwight (the new 17) did.

Sure, the Raiders might not have tied the game. But there was no reason for Dwight to move with Daunte Culpepper about to spike the ball.

The 10-second runoff left two seconds in the game guaranteed a sixth-straight loss.

And for those wondering, Lane Kiffin said Culpepper is his starter for the Raiders next game and that it hasn’t been decided JaMarcus Russell will start against the Broncos Dec. 2.

--Jason Jones

November 18, 2007
A "likely" start to his career?

MINNEAPOLIS – You might have seen the ESPN report citing unnamed sources that JaMarcus Russell is “likely” to start Dec. 2 when the Raiders host the Broncos.

That’s been the date many have speculated would be when Russell would start his first game. It’s at home against a team that struggles to stop the run. So Russell could play against a team without having to worry about throwing 40 times to win.

Coach Lane Kiffin said a few days ago he’d prefer to start Russell in a home game, but wouldn’t be against playing him on the road before then.

Because he’s the third quarterback today, Russell could only play if Daunte Culpepper and Andrew Walter are hurt or until the fourth quarter.

I believe Kiffin would get Russell into a game the next two weeks before starting him. Since he missed the preseason, that would be Russell’s chance to see live NFL defenses before starting.

--Jason Jones

November 18, 2007
Have a seat, LaMont

MINNEAPOLIS – LaMont Jordan’s tumble down the depth chart continues.

Jordan is inactive for today’s game, a week after he didn’t play though dressed for the Raiders’ game against Chicago.

He wore sweats over his game pants last week in Oakland and ran witht he ball on the sidelines.

He'll still be in sweats, but without shoulder pads.

Jordan was off to the best start of his career before a back injury in the first half of the Raiders’ Week 4 win over Miami.

The Raiders were willing to cut Jordan in the offseason had he not accepted a pay cut. So who knows, maybe Jordan will be outright released to make room for Michael Bush this week.

The other inactives are:

QB JaMarcus Russell (3rd quarterback)
QB Josh McCown
CB John Bowie
LB Isaiah Ekejiuba
C Jake Grove
T Mario Henderson
DT Josh Shaw

--Jason Jones

November 17, 2007
Not looking for luck

MINNEAPOLIS – On the way to dinner with some colleagues we ran into none other than Raiders owner Al Davis who was happy to crack a few jokes and discuss music.

He also deflected requests for pictures and autographs with a smile and a couple of one-liners.

Whenever Davis speaks, it’s usually worth a laugh or two, especially in a relaxed setting.

And as one person wished him good luck, Davis let him know the Raiders don’t need luck, they need a win.

Can’t disagree with him on that.

Question: Do you think that the Raiders need to draft a running like Darren McFadden in order to solidify their running position for the next five plus years?
Steve, Pico Rivera

Answer: I don’t think so, but as Lane Kiffin might say, there are a lot of variables that go into that.

What do the Raiders do with LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes? One, if not both could be gone next season.

Will the Raiders resign Justin Fargas?

There’s also the belief the zone-blocking scheme doesn’t put much emphasis on drafting running backs high in the draft.

But to fully answer this question, I have to go into the next question …

Question: Do you think rookie running back Michael Bush will be activated soon or at all this season? If so, how soon can he start playing?
Kevin, Riverside

Answer: The Raiders have to decide next week whether to activate Bush or not play him at all this season.

He’d be eligible to play immediately if activated, but without another back being injured or cut, he probably wouldn’t play right away.

The Raiders need to get Bush on the field because how he does would impact offseason moves.

Bush was a first-round draft pick before he broke his leg last September while playing for Louisville.

If he shows he’s that player now that he’s fully recovered, the Raiders wouldn’t need to use a high pick on a running back and could address receiver and the offensive line.

If the Raiders don’t believe Bush can be an elite back, drafting a player like McFadden becomes a priority.

--Jason Jones

November 15, 2007
I finally have an answer

ALAMEDA – Here’s the big question I’ve been asked about the Raiders’ defense repeatedly:

Why doesn’t defensive coordinator Rob Ryan blitz more?

Here’s the answer from Ryan himself:

“We have four great defensive linemen, so you can send everybody you want but, right now, one thing you guys all know, on third-and-3 to 10, we're the No. 1 defense in the NFL. So, you can send anybody you want, but when you’ve got four great rushers you, generally, like to send them, let them do their job and let our pass defense, which is usually one of the best in the league, go to work.”

That’s pretty much what I figured, but felt obligated to ask since it’s one of the questions about the defense I always get.

Other tidbits from Ryan:

He doesn’t believe Derrick Burgess is at 100 percent because of his calf injury, but said he’s played great lately. He added 80 percent of Burgess is better than most players.

Terdell Sands played his best game against the Bears because he bent his knees. When the 6-foot-7 Sands plays low and with leverage, it’s hard for anyone to stop him.
As Lane Kiffin said on Monday, he showed why the Raiders paid him all that money in the offseason ($4 million guaranteed). The Raiders just want to see more of that consistently.

Finally, on the run defense, Ryan said it’s not just a matter to tackling better. He said defensive linemen have to control their gaps and hold up blockers to allow the linebackers to do their jobs.

With Kirk Morrison, Thomas Howard and Robert Thomas, the Raiders have one of the more athletic trios in the NFL (my opinion, not Ryan’s).

But they are no good if the big guys don’t occupy the offensive linemen.

Stay low, Terdell.

--Jason Jones

November 15, 2007
Not on the good foot (or leg)

ALAMEDA – It looks more and more like Josh McCown won’t be the Raiders backup quarterback this weekend.

He will be if Lane Kiffin likes No. 2 quarterbacks with a limp.

McCown went through individual drills this morning, but didn’t look good trying to run and at one point grabbed is injured right quadriceps.

Right now, McCown is standing between JaMarcus Russell’s possible debut this Sunday in Minnesota. If McCown is deemed fit to be a backup, Russell’s first game might have to wait another week.

If Russell were No. 2, it would be the first step in Kiffin inserting Russell for a few series to get him acclimated to the NFL.

No other players injured players were missing from practice.

--Jason Jones

November 14, 2007
Motivating Mike was tough

ALAMEDA – Lane Kiffin offered another take on Mike Williams’ failure with the Raiders in his conference call with Minnesota-are reporters.

Kiffin was always tough on Williams in an attempt to motivate him. But it didn’t happen with the Raiders.

“A number of things can happen to guys all of a sudden,” Kiffin said. “Especially when you get drafted that high, 10th overall, and a kid is used to having to no money and all of a sudden here is $13 million or whatever it is. So that can affect people and some people can lose their motivation sometimes. I wish Mike nothing but the best of luck. We gave him a great opportunity. I stuck with him as long as I could. He wasn’t able to take it as serious as he needed to to be able to stay in this league and it’s really a sad story.”
****
I spoke with special teams coach Brian Schneider. Actually, he spoke with several members of the media.

Besides enjoying the job coverage teams did stopping Devin Hester, he’s enjoying working with Shane Lechler, who is solidifying himself as the best punter in the NFL, along with Sebastian Janikowski.

It should also be noted he has a better relationship with the players than Ted Daisher ever did last year in the same role, which is helping out this season.

He said the return of Jarrod Cooper and Isaiah Ekejiuba boosted the unit immensely, but he’s working on getting the return game going.

One person who won’t have any part in that right now is rookie Johnnie Lee Higgins. He’s fumbled two punts and with the offense struggling, Schneider said the team couldn’t afford to have someone with fumbling issues on punts.

Tim Dwight will handle duties it appears for now.

--Jason Jones

November 14, 2007
And the starter is...

ALAMEDA -- Daunte Culpepper.

Lane Kiffin said Josh McCown's injury combined with the struggling offense prompted the move.

Kiffin didn't announce who will be the backup quarterback when the Raiders play at Minnesota.

--Jason Jones

November 14, 2007
Will JaMarcus play against the Vikes?

ALAMEDA – Another game, another quarterback question for the Raiders.

Josh McCown wasn’t at practice this morning. He injured his right thigh against the Chicago Bears, prompting him to jokingly ask if anyone wanted to “trade quads” with him on Monday.

If Lane Kiffin needed an excuse to play JaMarcus Russell, he’d have one if McCown were out.

If Russell is the second quarterback, Kiffin could play Russell for a couple of series a half and make Andrew Walter the inactive third quarterback.

Not wanting to make Russell No. 2 is the reason that hasn’t happened earlier. With NFL rules mandating the third quarterback can only play in the fourth quarter or if the other two are down, Kiffin didn’t want to be in position to have to play Russell yet.

None of this will matter if McCown overcomes his latest injury enough for Kiffin to give him the start in Minnesota.

****
Daunte Culpepper is the logical starter if McCown is out. And it’s a perfect storyline, with him going back to Minnesota, where he was a three-time Pro Bowl selection.

Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams said Culpepper still looked “hesitant” and isn’t where he was before his knee injury in 2005, when they were teammates.

****
Cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) and Fabian Washington (calf) were back at practice. Safety Hiram Eugene wasn’t practicing with an undisclosed injury. Backup center Jake Grove (knee) practiced while Jeremy Newberry took his usual day off.

--Jason Jones

November 12, 2007
The waiting game

ALAMEDA – Andrew Walter is smart enough to know the Raiders won’t be his team.

The Raiders know that, too. But they aren’t letting go of Walter yet.

Walter spoke at length about his situation for the first time in several weeks today. The trading deadline passed on Oct. 16 and the team won’t release him.

Walter hasn’t dressed for the last three games and receives little, if any work in practice after starting eight games last season.

There was interest in Walter either via trade or if the Raiders had released him, but the Raiders are holding on to him.

One reason Lane Kiffin noted was Walter is still under contract for next season while Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper aren’t so the Raiders wouldn’t want to go into the offseason with JaMarcus Russell the only quarterback on the team.

Walter has two more years left on his rookie contract.

“When you draft a guy No. 1 overall, he's going to get the ball sooner rather than later,” Walter said. “It sort of aces out any situation that I can see myself in but, without saying a lot, I want to play. I want to play. The writing is on the wall.”

What the Raiders might have is another bargaining chip this offseason in Walter.

That does little for Walter, who has to watch guys come off the street (Vinny Testaverde, Tim Rattay) and play a few days later.

The Raiders might deal Walter to a team desperate for a quarterback to pick up another draft pick, which team could use to boost the offense, if used wisely.

As Walter noted, Matt Schaub earned a nice payday by playing well in the preseason and waiting for a team to deal for him.

That’s Walter’s hope right now and we all know that.

****
For those wondering if Adrian Peterson could crack 300 yards rushing against the Raiders, he won’t. He’s out with a knee injury.

-- Jason Jones

November 11, 2007
Defense is getting tired

OAKLAND – Don’t let the nice words fool you.

The Raiders defense is mad.

Though they won’t say it publicly, defenders said off the record it’s almost impossible to win with the way the offense is playing.

And they’re angry Chris Carr, one of the better guys on the team, will be blamed for the loss for getting beat for the game-winning touchdown.

Mention the offense to defenders off the record, and expletives are used to describe it.

This when Lane Kiffin’s job gets really tough. He was brought in to fix the offense. He better do it soon or he’ll have to fix a locker room chasm, too.

--Jason Jones

November 11, 2007
His time

OAKLAND – John Bowie, welcome to the NFL.

The rookie cornerback is active today because Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington won’t play with knee and calf injuries, respectively.

Bowie is the player the Raiders picked with the draft choice acquired for Randy Moss. Bowie was inactive the first eight games this season.

Besides Asomugha and Washington the other Raider inactives are:

QB Andrew Walter
LB Sam Williams
C Jake Grove
T Mario Henderson
DT Josh Shaw
3rd QB JaMarcus Russell

--Jason Jones

November 9, 2007
More on the questionable corners

ALAMEDA – The state of the Raiders secondary remains a question.

Lane Kiffin said how Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) and Fabian Washington (calf) felt Saturday would help determine if either plays Sunday against Chicago.

Asomugha practiced, but didn’t finish as the team planned to hold him out. Washington didn’t practice for the third straight day.

Kiffin said that Asomugha practiced makes it more likely he would play, but officially both are questionable for the game.

Reserve cornerbacks Chris Johnson and John Bowie – the rookie acquired in the Randy Moss trade – are possibilities to be active on Sunday depending on the health of Asomugha and Washington.

Should he play, it would be Bowie’s first action of the season. Johnson has been inactive since Jarrod Cooper returned and began playing a lot on special teams.

Warren Sapp (knee) is probable. Gerard Warren (quadriceps) is also expected to play after practicing this week.

Center Jake Grove (knee) is doubtful.

****
Daunte Culpepper will be the No. 2 quarterback against Chicago. Kiffin’s dilemma with putting JaMarcus Russell in that spot is if there were an injury, Russell would have to play.

Russell playing isn’t out of the question, but if he’s No. 3, he could only come in for the fourth quarter or if Culpepper and McCown were both injured before then.

NFL rules mandate teams declare who the third quarterback is before kickoff. If Culpepper is third and McCown were hurt, it might mean Russell playing a lot more than Kiffin wants as an injury replacement.

****
Injured defensive lineman Tommy Kelly was at the team facility today in the backseat of a pickup truck holding an envelope, presumably a paycheck.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with an injured Raider last season who was around on a Friday.

I asked why and he said he had to pick up his check.

What? No direct deposit? He said no and that Al Davis signs every check.

It’s one of the reasons why working for the Raiders is a unique experience.

--Jason Jones

November 9, 2007
Boost to the defensive backfield

ALAMEDA – The Raiders secondary received a boost at this morning’s practice.

Nnamdi Asomugha, the team’s best cornerback, was at practice as Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg’s “Nuthin but a G Thang” played.

Nice to know Lane Kiffin’s been going through my Ipod to find practice music.

Fabian Washington, however, wasn’t on the field. If he doesn’t play, Chris Carr would be the team’s third cornerback.

Carr would likely play nickelback, a role that suits him fine. He’s quick and strong enough to play well against slot receivers.

Warren Sapp was also at practice after missing two days with a knee injury. Sapp is needed because without Tommy Kelly’s versatility, the Raiders are thin at defensive tackle.

But with Gerard Warren having practiced all week, this is the closest the unit has been to full strength in some time.

--Jason Jones

November 8, 2007
Fargas is passing the test

ALAMEDA – You might have noticed at least once a game, Justin Fargas seems to absorb a wicked hit from a defender.

That’s not a trend that started with the Raiders.

Fargas spent his last two years of college at USC after transferring from Michigan.

Lane Kiffin said Fargas was known as “Crash test dummy” for the way he threw his body around on the scout team in the year he sat out after joining the team.

But one of the reasons Fargas has improved this season is he less test dummy, more battering ram.

He’s running with his shoulders lower this season. No one will confuse him with Earl Campbell, but the way Fargas is running doesn’t put him at risk for as many hard hits.

Fargas willingness to hit defenders helps him a lot in pass protection. He has no problem throwing a shoulder into a blitzing linebacker and stopping him cold.

Fargas was injured off on and on early in his career, but played in every game last season and hasn’t missed a game this season.

And there’s no plan to tell Fargas to run any differently.

“There’s stuff that goes on in that huddle that's real,” Kiffin said. “It’s real when you’re an offensive lineman and you see that out of the corner of your eye, you see a guy finish a run like that, it’s powerful stuff.”

--Jason Jones

November 8, 2007
The walking wounded

ALAMEDA – Time for the early injury update:

Cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) and Fabian Washington (calf) were both in sweats at this morning’s practice. The walked out to the field as special teams practice was underway.

Warren Sapp (knee) also wasn’t at practice. The three have missed both days of practice this week.

Coach Lane Kiffin indicated all should play on Sunday when he spoke on the injuries yesterday.

Also not practicing was reserve center Jake Grove (knee).

Music from the practice field can be heard several hundred feet away from the practice field. It’s normally a tactic coaches use to prepare a team for crowd noise on the road.

But Kiffin has resorted to using music with the offense in hopes of correcting the false start problems the offensive line has had this season.

So the team stretched to Big Pun’s “I Don’t Want to be Player” and as I walked in from picking a cold soda, Lil Wayne’s voice from Playaz Circle’s “Duffle Bag Boy” was blasting for all to hear.

Maybe if that played on Sunday, the false starts would stop.

Now on to some reader questions.

Question: Hi Jason, could the Raiders do worse than drafting Chris Long next year? He seems to have all the traits and physical ability of Howie and it would be a legitimate link to the glory days. I enjoy your column and your perspective.
Patrick, Burlington, Ontario Canada

Answer: Drafting Chris Long wouldn’t be bad at all. The defensive end from Virginia can play and I’m sure Al Davis wouldn’t mind a connection to the days of old.

But the Raiders need a lot more help on offense than defense. Lane Kiffin’s offense lacks what he calls “explosive” plays. That leads me to believe the Raiders will look to add players at receiver. Running back might also be an option, depending on the team’s offseason moves.

Cal’s DeSean Jackson and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden would make sense. Both are underclassmen, but would be high draft picks.

Also, the Raiders need help along the offensive line. So as nice as a fit Long would be on the defense, offense is where the team needs to upgrade most.


Question: Jason,

I really enjoy your work and coverage of the Raiders. I think the elevation of Justin Fargas to starting RB was a wise move especially considering LaMont Jordan will be a free agent after the season.

My question to you is do you believe Fargas will be the #1 RB for the remainder of the season or will Michael Bush be a factor? Has Bush looked decent in practice, does he have any "juice" and do you see him overtaking Fargas and Lane Kiffin starting two rookies in the backfield along with QB JaMarcus Russell to build upon the future?
Joe, Southhampton, Pa

Answer: I think Fargas probably will finish the season as the starting tailback. He reads openings in the run scheme well. He’s also a good pass blocker, which might outweigh his running in the decision.

The Raiders don’t allow the media to watch all of practice, so it’s tough to gauge Bush’s progress except to take the word of coaches and players.

The Raiders have until next week to put him on the active roster, which I expect they will do. It would be hard for Bush to become the starter, though. He’s only practiced for two weeks so injuries would be the only way I see him starting.

As for Russell, I expect him to play in the next few weeks, if not on Sunday. I don’t have any concrete evidence, just a hunch based on conversations, how bad the offense has looked and some of Kiffin’s comments the last two weeks.

Question: Do you take Jordan’s stance as to “get along, get paid and I am just here to work.” I have heard that from Warren Sapp, Dominic Rhodes and Jordan. Is it the true sign of lack of leadership on the team?
Rod, Rancho Cordova

Answer: I assume you’re referring to what Jordan said yesterday about being a backup. I don’t see that from Jordan. He wants to win and wouldn’t conduct himself in that manner. He prides himself on not quitting and working hard, and that would go against everything he says he is. I’ve never heard that specifically from Rhodes or Sapp. If there’s a link to it, feel free to send it to me.

I heard Sapp say in Tennessee (and I’m paraphrasing) that as long as a team isn’t mathematically eliminated, you’ve got to go all out. He didn’t say he would quit if the Raiders had 10 losses. I took him to be saying you can’t give up because things aren’t going well. I’ve never heard him say anything about just being around for a paycheck. Sapp loves football and has to stick around and not retire while playing for a struggling Raiders team.

--Jason Jones

November 7, 2007
Jordan doesn't want any trouble

ALAMEDA – LaMont Jordan isn’t one to bite his tongue.

But when he does, there’s usually a reason.

Jordan was candid about being benched and not liking it. He also blamed himself for not playing better.

He said he didn’t find out the rotation would change so much until gameday in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans.

A week later, Jordan was No. 2 behind Justin Fargas.

When asked about the Raiders’ quarterback situation – specifically Josh McCown being booed and the calls for JaMarcus Russell – Jordan was uncharacteristically bland because his comments might get him “in trouble.”

That’s the first public sign, albeit veiled, that the locker room is tired of the McCown era and is ready for Russell.

Jordan never says anything just to say it. He’s smart enough to know when a no comment says a lot.

Whether Kiffin likes it or not, it might be time for the future to see the field soon.

--Jason Jones

November 7, 2007
Injuries are mounting

ALAMEDA – The Raiders traded Warren for Warren at practice this morning.

Gerard Warren was back on the field. Warren Sapp wasn’t. Lane Kiffin didn’t report any injuries on Monday, but that doesn’t mean Sapp wasn’t hurt during the loss to the Texans.

Center Jake Grove (knee) was back, but tackle Cornell Green and center Jeremy Newberry weren’t. Both have been given Wednesday’s off.

But the secondary is thin. Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) was in sweats while Fabian Washington (calf) was also out.

If the Raiders lose Asomugha this week, they not only lose their best cornerback, but their best tackler in the secondary.

Chris Johnson would probably be active if one cornerback is down. If two are, might that lead to the debut of rookie John Bowie?

As of now all he’s known as is the player acquired in the (lopsided) Randy Moss trade that hasn’t dressed for a game yet.

--Jason Jones

November 5, 2007
Is it Russell's time?

ALAMEDA – Two wins, six losses.

That’s a big reason fans are clamoring for JaMarcus Russell to play.

Lane Kiffin has gone into detail the last couple of days about when to play Russell, admitting he thought of using him yesterday against Houston.

Kiffin has even toyed with the thought of making Russell the No. 2 quarterback and giving him a package of plays to run during games.

But Kiffin is being cautious for good reason. Russell first game would really be his first game because he missed the exhibition season.

And with the problems the Raiders have on offense, there’s no need to throw Russell into the middle of a mess and hurt his development.

Kiffin said Josh McCown is still the starter. That would seem to eliminate Russell from starting a game the rest of the month.

After the Raiders host Chicago this Sunday, the Raiders are at Minnesota and Kansas City.

I would imagine Kiffin wouldn’t want to put Russell on the field without any prior NFL experience on the road.

But it looks more and more as if Russell will play this season.

Russell has two things Kiffin’s quarterback needs playing behind the Raiders offensive line.

He can get the ball out quickly with zip on the ball and he’s mobile enough to make plays on the run.

And with more losses, it’s only a matter of time before we get to see Russell’s skills on a Sunday.

****
Good news on the injury front. Nnamdi Asomugha’s knee injury isn’t believed to be serious.

The Raiders need Gerard Warren to get healthy soon. The defensive line needs a lot of help right now.

****
If you caught the beginning of Kiffin’s press conference, you heard him mention he’d been told the game against the Bears is sold out.

Well, the game isn’t sold out, yet.

With no Colts vs. Patriots type match up this weekend, feel free to buy tickets without fear of being shunned by friends who want the game blacked out.

--Jason Jones

November 4, 2007
Same old Raiders

OAKLAND – The players keep saying things are different this season.

The team is better.

You just can’t tell by watching.

Turns out everything that went wrong can’t be blamed solely on the previous coaching staffs.

Some problems won’t be fixed until the Raiders have new players, especially on offense.

Until the Raiders play smarter (few turnovers and penalties) there won’t be many wins for the Raider Nation.

And it will be hard for Lane Kiffin to sell that things are different if the same things keep happening.

Kiffin knew this was a tough job. There is a locker room full of players that haven’t won in years.

But there’s no way he expected to be 2-6 after eight games.

And too bad the Raiders have already played the Dolphins and don’t play St. Louis this season.

The Raiders will be on the clock early in next spring’s draft. And they still need a lot of help.

--Jason Jones

November 4, 2007
Running back shuffle

OAKLAND – Who will start at running back?

Lane Kiffin sure didn’t give LaMont Jordan a vote of confidence when asked if Jordan was still the starter.

Jordan might start, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be the primary runner. The way things have gone, Justin Griffith might end up being the main runner.

What makes the Raiders running back rotation so awkward is there is no rhythm to it. That leads to none of the backs getting into a groove.

Sure, better blocking up front would help, but there aren’t many backs that can come in and out during a series and play well.

*The Raiders added defensive tackle Josh Shaw from the practice squad and he is active for today’s game against the Houston Texans.

Gerard Warren is inactive and will miss his fourth game with a quadriceps injury.

The Raiders other are:
3rd QB JaMarcus Russell: If two guys go down, Russell would make his NFL debut.
QB Andrew Walter: he remains on the team for some reason. Make his life easy and let him go.
CB John Bowie: Another game, another day on the sidelines for the player acquired for Randy Moss.
CB Chris Johnson: His special teams role was reduced when Jarrod Cooper returned
LB Sam Williams: Even if he hadn’t hurt his shoulder, coaches wanted to give Robert Thomas time in his spot.
C Jake Grove: Injured during practice.
T Mario Henderson: Might be able to contribute next season.

--Jason Jones

November 1, 2007
Guess who's under center

ALAMEDA – He’s back.

Maybe with a lot of fans opting to watch the Patriots play New England, the booing won’t be as loud.

I’m sure there will fans at McAfee Coliseum jeering when Josh McCown comes out as the starting quarterback.

Lane Kiffin made the announcement today after practicing, declaring McCown healthy.

I’ve heard some feedback that McCown needs to play. Others would rather see JaMarcus Russell.

But for now, it’s McCown.

That will mean fewer plays in shotgun and probably shorter passes behind an offensive line that has shown it can’t protect well in obvious passing situations.

And it will mean McCown will hear boos for the first offensive mistake, even if it’s not his fault.

--Jason Jones

November 1, 2007
Backup issues

ALAMEDA – With a knee heavily taped and in a brace, starting right tackle Cornell Green was at practice this morning.

One thing Lane Kiffin is learning about the NFL is depth is at a premium. That’s why the loss of Green, who is tied for the NFL lead with Barry Sims with seven false starts, hurt the team so much on Sunday.

He had to stick Paul McQuistan in at right tackle. The Titans' defensive line isn't exactly the best way to be introduced to the position.

McQuistan had never played tackle in an NFL game.

The options if Green’s knee doesn’t hold up are few. One Kiffin mentioned was moving Robert Gallery (don’t scream at me, I’m just the messenger) to tackle and playing Jake Grove at guard.

Gerard Warren still isn’t practicing. He was showing rookie Jay Richardson some different techniques to attack blockers, but the Raiders would prefer he were playing, not coaching.

--Jason Jones




About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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