Just a day after losing Chaz Schilens for what is now revealed to be 4-6 weeks, the Raiders have possibly their worst practice. Outside of the loss of Schilens, the Raiders looked much better than the Niners yesterday. But today it appears that they have gotten in the Raider player’s heads. But mostly, they have gotten in JaMarcus Russell’s head.
Russell looked horrific. He was off target often, telegraphing passes that were getting jumped and deflected or picked off by Niner defenders. He had three interceptions on the day.
These plays had the Niner players whooping and hollering and mocking the Raiders and Russell. After Russell was forced to call a time out, one Niner mocked “They can’t even get lined up.” And after Nate Clements picked off one of Russell’s passes he exclaimed, “I love it when they can’t compete!” Oh and just so you know, Nate; you guys are going to need the teams you play to not compete, because that is the 49ers only shot to win games. Moving on…
Either the Niners found something between yesterday and today that they are exploiting or the loss of Schilens has rattled the Russell more than we thought. Schilens was his most trusted wide receiver afterall.
Russell had this to say about the loss of his newfound chemistry with Schilens, “We’re just trying to get some younger guys to step it up. How we were, as far as a receiver/quarterback, I think he had came real far from what we had a year ago in the spring until now did a lot of work and you could tell.”
Perhaps this could be a good thing? If you want a quarterback to get better, you remove his security blanket and make him seek connections elsewhere. Thomas Szasz once said, “The proverb warns that, ‘You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.’ But maybe you should if it prevents you from feeding yourself.” Wise words and a situation that Russell has to face right now. Russell will have a rough stretch but could come out the better for it in the end. And then Schilens will come back and he will have one more solid option to throw to.
JaMarcus Russell was not the only player struggling though.
Bruce Gradkowski played as the quarterback for the second team for the latter part of practice and he didn’t show anywhere near the same poise he displayed in last Thursday’s preseason opener.
Gradkowski threw two interceptions of his own. One against Dre Bly and the other against Nate Clements. These plays just served to raise the intensity of the Niners while bringing down the spirits of the Raiders. This seeped into all facets of the game, including the Raiders run game which was dominant in yesterday’s practice. And with each battle won, the red and gold sideline just got louder.
But for now, the 49er players should talk. And Russell should hear it. As should the rest of the Raiders. The practice ended with Russell throwing an ugly pass behind Louis Murphy. And both teams left the field with entirely different body language. The Niners were laughing and celebrating while the Raider players were hanging their heads and silent.
Dre Bly piled on by saying: “They couldn’t respond… they were just mellow…I’ve never been part of a practice where it was just total domination…They were feeding us. That buffet was good.”
Tom Cable said in his press conference that he blames himself for Russell’s struggles saying “that’s really on me because I’m trying to get the quarterback to cut it loose in the red zone, but four picks, probably pushed it a little too much.”
Russell echoed that statement when he was asked why he threw two interceptions in the red zone “coach emphasized today get up fast and cut it loose and try to give guys a chance to go up and make some catches and it kinda’ backfired a little bit.”
Russell then downplayed the significance of it all by saying, “Hell, you play football, things happen. It ain’t like it’s the end of the world. If it is, you show me…”
And he is right. It isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t even the end of practice for the day.
The important thing now is to see how these Raiders can bounce back from such a poor showing. We will keep you updated on how the afternoon practice goes. Hopefully, a hearty meal and some good stewing will re-energize the Raiders and they can turn the tables.
“I think it’s important the way we respond”, said Russell. “we come out showing those guys that hey, that ain’t the way we really do it. This is how we do it. Go out there and make a few plays and I think Coach will be happy with that.”
Raider fans should be extremely interested in how this scenario plays itself out.
Just in the Nick of time
With Schilens out until at least week three of the regular season, UDFA receiver Nick Miller is making the most of his opportunity to make this roster. He has had a brilliant camp and then showed his worth in the Raiders first preseason game in which he made an amazing 48 yard diving catch.
Today in practice, he was one of the bright spots, as usual, when he burned a niner defender for long catch.
Nick Miller himself has said that he thinks he will fit in as a punt returner as Jonnie Lee Higgins focuses more on being a receiver. But today he was splitting kick return duties with Justin Miller. So it remains to be seen exactly what his role will be. Suffice it to say, right now he is the best receiver on the field for the Raiders. I would be surprised if he weren’t on the team to begin the season. And if he stays up, when Schilens is activated, it could be someone else the Raiders release.
The Raiders looked much better in the second practice as did JaMarcus Russell who had just one interception. The Raider defense turned the tables a bit too as they had three interceptions of their own. It is great to see the team bounce back from the morning practice. It shows a lot of heart, character and discipline. All of which are extremely important to the potential success of this team. The Raiders welcomed back S Rashad Baker just a few months after he signed a free agent contract with the Eagles. Unexpectedly, they released FB Lorenzo Neal to make room on the roster. Farewell Lorenzo. We barely knew ye.