Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

December 1, 2009
Trevor Scott replacing Thomas Howard? and other Monday notes

Trevor Scott, who had played nothing but defensive end since coming to the Raiders as a sixth-round draft choice out of Buffalo last year, seemingly has a little "Mad Stork" in him. That is, Scott can play standing up on the end, ala Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks, and has now, apparently, supplanted Thomas Howard as the Raiders' starting weak-side linebacker.

Scott started in place of Howard at Dallas on Thursday but coach Tom Cable was trying to keep his plans close to the vest on Monday, saying, "We'll see," when asked if Scott would start Sunday at Pittsburgh.

"He'll just get better and better, I would think," Cable said of Scott. "He had some issues in terms of coverage, just having a feel for it, but really nothing critical or big mistake where you say 'Wow, there's an issue there.' You want to move forward with that and let it keep developing."

With that, it seems Howard has fallen out of favor, what with Sam Williams starting at strong-side linebacker against the Cowboys.

Howard had a breakout season in 2007, when he had six interceptions and returned two, from 44 yards and 66 yards, for touchdowns. But he has only had one pick in his last 29 games and while he has been more than serviceable in pass coverage, Howard has had issues in run defense.

"I think you always try to do what gives you a good chance to succeed," Cable said, "so if you want to improve an area you make a move like we did. And certainly Trevor was able to go in (for Howard) and back it up."

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Steelers second-year quarterback Dennis Dixon showed he is more Kordell Stewart-Slash in his breakout performance on national T.V. against Baltimore on Sunday then he is a pure drop-back passer, like Ben Roethlisberger. So you'd think the Raiders defense would have their hands full this week trying to prepare for two distinctly different styles under center should Big Ben's post-concussion syndrome keep him sidelined, right? Eh...

"You watch that game last night and you see what (Dixon's) strengths are," Cable said. "Obviously he's got dynamite feet, can run, and throws the ball pretty good. But all indications are that Ben will be back."

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The Raiders have the worst kickoff return game in the NFL, averaging 18.2 yards. And while I'm of the mind they should do something radical like, oh, I don't know, throw the speedy Darrius Heyward-Bey out there to return kicks, Cable said Gary Russell will get another shot. This despite his less-than-inspiring showing on Thanksgiving, when he returned one kickoff 17 yards, appeared to go down with minimal contact on another, and fumbled away another before downing it in the end zone.

Maybe Russell will have a chip on his shoulder in Pittsburgh, what with his having played for the Steelers last year. He scored their first touchdown, a 1-yard run, to give them a 10-0 lead in their eventual 27-23 Super Bowl victory over Arizona.

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While the Raiders were well represented in the list of 25 semifinalists for Hall of Fame inclusion - Tim Brown, Cliff Branch, Ray Guy, Lester Hayes and those guys that were mostly known for their days across the Bay, Jerry Rice and Roger Craig - there were two former Raiders made more conspicuous by their absence.

That Jim Plunkett and Tom Flores are not part of the 25, let alone already enshrined in Canton, is a crying shame. And I'll address it in my column this week.

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JaMarcus Russell has not addressed the media since being demoted and replaced by Bruce Gradkowski. But one scene following Monday's walkthrough, which ended with extended passing drills, spoke volumes.

Russell walked off the field in a jovial mood and in a vibrant conversation with rookie receiver Louis Murphy. About 10 paces back walked Gradkowski and DHB, engaged in just as animated a discussion.

A few minutes later, Cable was asked what he has seen in Russell since his demotion.

"I don't really see any change whatsoever," Cable said. "He's working, doing what he's asked to do. He's preparing like normal. So I wouldn't say there was any change or anything I've noticed."

Not too much of an endorsement, right? Well, what about this, then - have you seen him doing things in his benching that he wasn't necessarily doing before?

"No, I see him staying the course and working," Cable said. "Preparing, the reps he gets, going in and working hard at them, preparing himself in the classroom, all those things that he has to do."

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And lastly, just in case you think DHB feels a huge weight lifted off his back after getting his first touchdown catch against Dallas....in his 11th game. Think again.

"Tell you the truth, I really haven't looked at it that way," he said. "It's like, a touchdown was what we needed at the time, and now if I can help out the team more, it'll be great.

"We lost, so the touchdown didn't really mean much."

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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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