Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

August 16, 2008
Postgame notes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Johnnie Lee Higgins is still the Raiders' punt returner.

Lane Kiffin said he doesn't have any other options, even if Higgins' fumbling issues return again. He said after the game the team lacks another dynamic player to return punts.

Well, they do have someone, but he's hurt.

DeAngelo Hall.

He wasn't brought to Oakland to return punts. But he can.

Hall has only returned 13 punts for 123 yards in his career. He does have three fumbles.

But why not put Hall back there at some point?

It's not likely to happen, but it's worth a thought.

Higgins made two crucial errors before he fumbled.

First, he caught the ball at the five-yard line.

Some say a punt returner should stand at the 10 and if the ball goes over his head, just let it go. That would have been a good decision by Higgins.

Secondly, he tried to reverse field, which put him right by the goal line and made his fumble an easy touchdown for the Titans.

After four fumbles last season, Higgins knows ball security is a must. Without someone threatening to take his job, Higgins can focus on that without the fear of being benched.

"You just can't make a play all the time," Higgins said.

Right now, Higgins needs to focus on holding on to the ball or plays like his 53-yard punt return for a score last week won't matter.

Because Higgins would force Kiffin to put someone who at the very least won't fumble his chances away.

Kiffin said Darren McFadden would be the choice to replace Higgins on kickoffs while Tyvon Branch is out following surgery on his thumb.

But Kiffin really doesn't want to have McFadden return kickoffs.

That's probably why Kiffin ran an end around to Higgins on the first play on offense after the fumble. The team can't afford for Higgins' confidence to be crushed and force Kiffin to use one or two stars to handle Higgins' duties.


*Kiffin remained pleased with his starters on both sides of the ball.

The defense kept the Titans out of the red zone and the offense didn't commit any turnovers.

Kiffin had a lot of good things to say about JaMarcus Russell's play, especially on the touchdown drive.

"That drive was six passes, no runs," Kiffin said. "To put it in JaMarcus' hands and telling him after the drive 'This is how we're going to throw the ball. We're going to continue to call passes if you make the right decisions.'"

It wasn't just Russell's passes that Kiffin liked. He loved the way Russell moved in the pocket and showed he could make plays on the run.

*Kiffin said Hall could have played with a cast on his injured right hand but said it wasn't worth the risk to play him.

*Branch was supposed to play on defense wearing a cast to protect his broken right thumb. Kiffin said Branch was still in too much pain after surgery to play.

*Ran into Chris Carr after the game chatting with Nnamdi Asomugha and Michael Huff. Carr is happy out here. He's a big boxing fan that still can't believe Miguel Cotto lost to Antonio Margarito.

*Kiffin took the blame for Oren O'Neal's fumble in the fourth quarter. He put him back in the game after an extended break because O'Neal had family at the game and wanted to let him score.

*Kiffin said there weren't many opportunities for wide receivers in the passing game. He noted it would have been nice if Javon Walker would have caught a slant from Russell on the opening drive on third down.

*Higgins' mistakes weren't limited to his fumble. An incompletion by Russell in the second quarter came because Higgins ran an in route instead of an out.

*If I'm Kiffin, I'm still wondering when one of my top-3 receiver will stand out. Ronald Curry showed some moves, but Walker and Drew Carter haven't done anything memorable yet in two exhibition games.

*Kiffin purposely played Tommy Kelly, Gerard Warren and Terdell Sands a lot to help their conditioning.

*The offensive gameplan was designed not to put tackles Cornell Green and Kwame Harris in tough situations.

That said, both did decent jobs against Jevon Kearse and Kyle Vanden Bosch, respectively.

It was also good to see Harris show some fight when Albert Haynesworth was in his face.

*If you kept watching the game in the second half and saw the hit Andrew Walter took, you know why Kiffin wanted no part of Mario Henderson blocking for Russell.

*We know Michael Bush can run over second-string players. I'd like to see Bush get more action against first-team defenses.

*McFadden looked good again. It's hard to believe the Titans didn't realize a draw was coming up when McFadden too Bush's place on the second-to last play of the first half.

He made them pay with a 26-yard gain to set up Aaron Elling's 56-yard field goal.

*Chaz Schilens made a couple of nice catches. Looks like James Lofton's prodding is starting to pay off.

*The Raiders blitzed on their first three plays. The players are quietly hoping the team isn't teasing with the blitzes as the players have wanted to do more of that for a while.

*I didn't blog during the game after giving that a try last week. I use the preseason for experiments, too. I didn't like that one.

--Jason Jones

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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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