(Photo courtesy of A.J. DeMello)
JaMarcus Russell has been taken to task extensively for his accuracy issues, and with good reason. He does need to raise that part of his game. He is not alone on the Raiders offense as being behind the curve at this point. His receivers deserve to shoulder some of the blame for the putrid showing of the offense, and some of the responsibility for helping them rebound and live up to their potential.Russell raised some eyebrows when he mentioned the struggles of the receivers as part of his struggles. Russell said, “I know where the guys are going to be, but at the same time, once you look there, they’re not quite there yet.” It is important to the passing game for the receivers to be where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there.
Fourth round pick Louis Murphy took part of the responsibility for the passing struggles on his own shoulders and shared it with his fellow receivers, “Really I feel he’s doing fine, honestly. We’ve had some dropped balls, nobody’s mentioned any of the dropped balls. Nobody’s mentioned the wrong routes. JaMarcus, he’s taking a lot of slack, a lot of criticism for our lack of play too, as receivers, running backs, the entire offense, o-line too. That’s what it is. We have to get on the same page and I think we’ll be successful.”
That is one of the pitfalls of starting two rookie wide receivers as the Raiders have done for their first two games. Russell needs them to be where they are supposed to be. The offense took a hit when second year receiver Chaz Schilens went down to injury during the preseason. Despite being a season removed from his status as a seventh round pick, Schilens had the best practices of any Raider through the entire offseason, and had been building a strong rapport with Russell.
Schilens is expected to be back week four when the Raiders travel to Houston to face the Texans. The concern is that he will be coming back from a six week layoff and will take some time getting back up to speed. The Raiders don’t have any fallback. Muphy has had a strong showing, whilst top pick Darrius Heyward-Bey has had issues with his hands as well as his routes.
Higgins will be back on Sunday against the Broncos, but he will likely be limited to mostly return duties, as he will only be two weeks out from a sprained shoulder. That leaves Todd Watkins and Javon Walker as the other receivers who will be available for the game. Walker has seen limited field time as he is coming back after a secret knee surgery, and Watkins has been a practice star but rarely gets it together once the lights go on.
Russell does have his accuracy issues without a doubt, but if his receivers can step up their game and be where they are supposed to be, it will help his development.