JaMarcus struggling, Kirk not starting

The temperature came down a bit today. Which makes sense considering the next stage would have been the surface of Mercury. Perhaps Murphy was right when he said he and Mitchell’s scuffle was because “it was hot” because things didn’t get “heated” in practice today.

Garcia is still not practicing and likely will not play on Thursday. Which means that we will get to see more of Charlie Frye and Bruce Gradkowski in the game. Another couple of guys that we may see some of on Thursday are Justin Fargas and John Bowie. Both players were back at practice and look to suit up against the Cowboys this week.

No new injuries today. Just the usual little moments of muscle tightness and bumps and bruises.

Here are the days top stories:

JaMakin me crazy

JaMarcus Russell has looked inaccurate and lacking confidence though most of the offseason camps, and today was no different.

Even the times in which he wasn’t overthrowing his receivers, he was throwing balls to the wrong route. He was also checking down to the RB and TE way too often- which he did most of last season to minimal success.

Cable says Russell’s biggest problem was timing. I would also attribute it to bad footwork. Luckily both problems are fixable.

“At times, he ripped it. And then he had that streak where he really targeted well and all that and then he got on a roll where everything was overthrow and overthrow…you saw that stretch where it’s like 100 mph fastballs everywhere. Just be on time, not trying to throw it hard. Be on time when you let it go. He just needs to speed up, just speed up, just speed up. (We) keep reminding him of that. You don’t have to make up with the big arm, just make it up with your timing…Everything’s timing.”

He did turn it around a bit in the second session though. Hitting receivers all over the field including a 50 yard bomb to JLH at the goalline. But he was sacked by Howard near the end of practice and would have fumbled the ball if it had been a full on tackle in a real game situation. He didn’t even see Howard coming off the edge and was taken completely off guard (or off tackle as it were).

“You can throw all the routes on there you want, but you have to feel the rush around you” said Cable. ”That’s really what makes you on time, not necessarily what the receiver’s doing. That’s separate. But you have to feel the rush and be on time when you let it go.”

So it is safe to say that there is very little momentum that has carried over from the end of last season. But having a new QB coach and new passing game coordinator contribute to that and there is still some time to see if he can get back on track.

Kirk is boldly going on the second team trek

The Raiders have had the steady presence of Kirk Morrison in the middle for the past few years. But suddenly he looks to be in a very real fight for his starting middle linebacker position.

Cable has said on many occasions that he is opening up competition at nearly every position but no former starter thus far has seen more time away from the first team than Morrison has this training camp.

He is being replaced on the first team by Ricky Brown, who started at the SAM linebacker position last season. And while Brown says he can play at any linebacker spot, he feels best in the middle. And if he doesn’t end up beating out Morrison to start, no one can say he wasn’t given a fair shot.

Thomas Howard’s job on the weak side appears safe and he seems not to care too much about who starts alongside him, despite his close friendship with Morrison.

“Whether it’s Kirk or Ricky in there we have to have the same mentality. Ricky has to be accountable, Kirk has to be accountable…It’s a little different but we still rock and roll. It’s still Raiders defense whether Kirk’s out there or Ricky’s out there. Whoever is out there will get it done with us.”

But Thomas is not just Kirk’s fellow linebacker, he’s Kirk’s roommate, so he gets to see things from an entirely different perspective.

“When he first heard about it, he kind of sat back and thought about it. He’s taking it as a challenge, which he’s supposed to. Go out there and push yourself, which is good. He’s taking it like a pro…We’ve sat there and talked about it, just, ‘Hey man. Just push yourself no matter when your number is called, go out there and be Kirk Morrison, whether you’re side by side with me, Jonny Alston, Slade [Norris], Dave [Nixon], don’t matter who you’re out there with. Bring your Kirk Morrison to the defense. You know how to lead us, no matter if you’re with 1s or 2s. He does that.”

Kirk Morrison himself weighed in on the reassignment yesterday.

“So far, I’ve taken every practice like I’m trying to win my job. Trying to leave no doubt. Open it up, bring somebody in, anything. I know how this business is. Especially going into a contract year also. The organization is always trying to replace you no matter what. I got to go out and prove to them on an every day basis, regardless how many years you been here or what you’ve accomplished in this league. This league is always about ‘What have you done for me lately.’ I’m trying to do my part to help this team. I want to be here as long as I can.”

This demotion comes as a surprise to many people. Especially considering Morrison was fifth in the NFL in tackles last season. But Morrison doesn’t take security in those kinds of statistics. He knows better.

“It’s kind of funny. I was watching last night the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 and you look at the quarterback who led them there, Trent Dilfer and he was released the year after they won the Super Bowl. It just kind of tells you nothing in this league, no matter what you do, nothing is given to you. You’ve got to go out there every day. The opportunity for me right now is still earning a linebacker position. It’s keeping me hungry, keeping my focus, regardless of what they’re doing, it’s helping me right now so far focus on my position and take this training camp and elevate me as a football player. All those numbers and stats and about being fifth in the league sometimes may not be good enough. There’s always critics … ‘made too many tackles 5-6 yards down the field, you guys still have a bad run defense, so it doesn’t really matter’. I think that now I have to elevate this team, and elevate this run defense and make sure we’re stopping the run. I think more notice will come with that.”

If the team gets more notice with Morrison coming off the bench then that may not be the kind of notice he was hoping for. But either way, I hope there is still a place for him on this Raider team. Whether as a starter or a backup. He has earned a spot on this team. That is if he still wants it if he were to get benched.

This team will Blitz…honestly…no seriously…for real this time!

Every year in preseason we see this. Experimenting with blitzes in practice and in preseason games. And every year it looks like a good idea but once the regular season comes about, the blitzes don’t come along with it.

But with John Marshall and his line backer blitzing ways coming over from Seattle, the players keep promising that YES, this time it is for real.

Thomas Howard was the latest to reiterate the notion…again.

“I’m telling you we are going to pressure teams. I can see it in John’s eyes. John’s like this. If he calls a pressure and we don’t hit it, he may back off. But if we call it and we’re hitting it, he’s going to keep letting us come.”

He did have momentary lapse in judgement (which we love to see in interviews) in which he criticized previous seasons in which the rug was pulled out from under him once the regular season came. But then he quickly tried to recover.

“In the past I guess we could have called it more…But now are calling it. I am not even worried about the past any more. I am worried about now and John likes to call pressures.”

Nice catch Thomas. It is nice to know that you feel the same as the rest of us about the toothlessness of the defenses of recent past.

But seriously, you think they will blitz this year?

I love you, you’re perfect…now change

In Cable’s ongoing theme “the spirit of competition” Stanford Routt has been working with the first team lately while Chris Johnson has been with the second team. And it appears both of them are playing themselves back into their original positions.

Stanford Routt is not helping his cause in the competition to be the starting CB opposite Nnamdi. He was seen getting beat at least five times in practice by the likes of Sean Bayes, Jonathan Holland, Todd Watkins, Samie Parker and Will Franklin. All of whom will be hard pressed to make this team come the start of the season. He was later beaten by Louis Murphy as well. He redeemed himself slightly by jumping a short route from Charlie Frye to Chaz Schilens for a pick six. Routt is definitely set for defending the slot receiver.

By the same token, Chris Johnson was also beaten several times by Schilens going across the middle. And since Johnson excelled as the corner along the right sideline last season, It seems our corners are perfect just where they are were.

Now we just have to worry about the safeties picking up where they leave off. Oh, boy.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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