Coming to the Oakland Raiders as the No. 1 overall draft choice in 2007, now is the time for QB JaMarcus Russell to step up and take control of the offense.
He is huge—6’6” and 255 lbs.—with a howitzer for an arm. His weight has been the topic of discussion by some sportswriters of late, but once again a rumor by—you guessed it—an unnamed source.
Saddled by a lengthy contract holdout, it took JaMarcus Russell a while to ascend to the starting spot. The business part of the NFL clearly tooks its toll on the young quarterback, but his representatives negotiated with Al Davis and fought hard to get the contract numbers they were after.
This delay cost JaMarcus the majority of his rookie season. Ending months of negotiations and one of the longest rookie holdouts in recent history JaMarcus Russell signed his deal on September 11, 2007—basically, the second week of the season. It caused him to miss the majority of mini-camp, training camp, the entire preseason and the first two weeks of the season.
Coming in as late as he did, he missed a lot of preparation time. This impaired gelling with his teammates, building camaraderie, the implementation of strategy, offensive team audibles, fine tuning the offense, and so much more.
But this season he’ll have all that was missed last year. He will be the starter from day one, and must realize that he has responsibilities that come with having the keys to the car so to speak.
Offensively, the Raiders have a running game that will improve and get stronger. This will help the team move the chains. The Raiders will throw the ball down the field as well—but it is on JaMarcus to take what defense gives him, and not turn the ball over. He has to realize that he has a team and doesn’t have to do it all by himself.
There will be growing pains—as there are with any young quarterback—but with solid defense and a running game, he will simply have to manage the offense and remain at or under 31 throws a game. The Raiders have revamped their entire wide receiver corps this offseason, and Russell now has several needed weapons he didn’t have in 2007.
The last two games of 2007 were huge for Russell, because he faced two playoff teams in consecutive weeks. He didn’t play well in Jacksonville, but was much improved at home against the Chargers. Unfortunately, the Raiders lost both games—but in his last game, JaMarcus Russell went 23 of 31 for 224 yards and a TD and an INT. Not earth-shattering, but not bad for his first NFL start.
That game also featured a 29-carry, 129-yard, one-TD performance by Dominique Rhodes. The Raiders were competitve all but two games they played in 2007 and I feel that the team will be far more consistent knowing who the QB will be every week.
The development of JaMarcus Russell has already started, and I think he will show the NFL why he was the first player chosen in the 2007 draft in 2008.