Warning, this is a biased opinionated article and is not meant to follow any
objective viewpoint but my own.
You may be asking yourself "what happened to JaMarcus? He did well closing out last year? Why did he seemingly regress?"
Let's start with some very important facts.
They got into a young man's head.
Since training camp started, our unqualified local reporters boasted that JaMarcus “looks bad” and is “not accurate” with his throws. This jabber surrounded every game into the regular season.
Our local unqualified reporters insist that this is the "make or break" season for Russell. These media types and so-called experts—like some of you readers—believe they have a clue on the projected timeline for JaMarcus's successful progression to be a pro. Every quarterback has a different curve.
They reported that he has to "put the franchise on his shoulders." The national media followed suit and added additional pressure on JRuss.
Other things were reported such as "his lack of dedication," "being overweight," and "he has to be a leader now."
I do not wish to make any excuses for JRuss. He is his own man.
In watching every snap of JaMarcus's pro career so far, I have seen JaMarcus make throws into spaces that I have never seen any quarterback make ever.
Yes, he has missed some throws thus far this year. I believe much of this is only mental and not a physical issue at all.
Look at his college and pro career. He has been accurate enough to play "Raider football" until recent games.
Cut it Loose
It has been well documented in the media that the Raider coaches have instructed JaMarcus to "cut it loose" this year.
They have publicly said this means to go ahead and throw the ball up (to two rookie wideouts) and allow your receivers to make a play on the ball.
This is turning out to be terrible advice for the young man. At least the way Russell has interpreted it. This year, he has made risky throws (some into double-coverage) that he did not do much of last year.
The best advice for JRuss at this point is to take a step back and to continue to build on the progress from last year. Manage the game and keep learning. Please do cut it loose (of course) “if the play is there,” but do not force risky throws.
With the rookie receiving corps, there is too much room for error to "cut it loose" when throwing to them.
This is exactly what you have witnessed the first three weeks and what has cost us two games (almost three).
Here is my advice to JRuss:
Focus on learning who these rookie receivers are and what they are not. Know their current strengths and areas for improvement. Push them to improve. Avoid introducing plays that they are not very strong with. Yours and their time will come, provided you all put the work in.
Work tirelessly on timing and know exactly where they will be out of their breaks. Call them out when they do not run the perfect route.
When needed, throw the ball to an area where only your guy can possibly catch it. Don’t take an unnecessary risk—you are not Brett Favre yet.
If both you and your receivers know that if the DB is in close, the throw will always be just above the wide-out’s shoestrings, the side-out will always be ready to catch it down there, and the DB will have no chance at it.
Work on techniques like this a million times until you can do it blindfolded.
We only need six yards a pass right now to win games. I hate dink and dunk, but we need to be able to "easily" get first downs and control the game before we can go over the top.
Don’t put the horse before the wagon.
Here is a myth that has spread throughout the league: "His Mechanics are bad." Have you taken the opportunity to see JaMarcus on film when he played at LSU? Checkout his highlight reel on YouTube. Check out some of his best TD throws last year and in college.
Most of his best throws were off the back leg, on the run, or otherwise throws using a form that every coach would say is bad.
Look, JaMarcus can throw 60 yards side arm from his knees. If he is on target, don’t try and change whatever it takes for him to get the ball to the right spot on the basis of correct form.
Adjusting your body into position to throw in the so-called correct form, can take precious milliseconds needed to get the ball where it needs to go before you get hit. You want to be in good form if and when it is needed.
If there are accuracy problems due to bad form, address that. This is not the case with JRuss. You may say throwing off of the back leg should be avoided at all costs, I say if you are blessed with the talent others can only dream of, completing a 70-yard bomb with a flick of your wrist off of your back leg is a beautiful thing.
Other issues that are very concerning.
I am very upset with the Raiders play selection and lack of creativity. You have two speed-burning rookies that you are forcing the ball to on long routes.
You have these weapons at your disposal: a tight end with great hands, a potential superstar all-purpose back, and a banger back.
At this point, the Raiders need to focus on getting first downs to keep the defense off the field. This defense will get turnovers so long as they are fresh.
Run the ball and don’t stop running until the other team can stop you. Don’t stop just for the sake of getting your passing game going. Feature the tight end “all game long,” or until they can stop it especially if your QB is struggling.
Go deep but pick your spots. Yes, you can setup the vertical game with the run, but you can also do it with four wide and three step drops.
Stop being predictable, this is what brought the second coming of Art Shell down. Make the first read a pick play to the WR.
Have you seen DHB's college highlight reel? Get him the ball in space near the line of scrimmage in the slot and he can take it to the house on any play. Have DHB run and end-around.
Better yet, if I were a defense, the last thing I would like to see is Higgins and DHB run a double reverse. Always have someone in motion. Run some short crossing patterns to get a rhythm going.
Do whatever you have to do to buy a little extra time for JRuss—Louis Murphy is getting behind the safties and is often wide open back there at the end of the progressions.
Check everyone off, fake pump short-outlet then drop the bomb.
I wish Cable the best, always. Cable has said recently "focus on what we do" and "our goals" and "don’t worry about what the other team will do."
This implies that we don’t have to study our butts off, learning the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of the opponent.
Look, the young Raiders are not in a position not to study hard and be unprepared. Maybe I misinterpreted what the message was but maybe some of the players did, too.
I can see taking this attitude on Defense if you plan to play man to man all game.
The D Coaches are basically saying, "This is our D, go ahead and try any offensive scheme you want—it doesn’t matter, our guy will be on your guy all day.
Well guess what, Denver found a scheme to beat our man to man D. They used decoys on the outside, never throwing the ball to the outside, ran the ball to control the clock, and the kicker was to line up Brandon Marshall in the slot for short routes against Kirk Morrison.
Marshall won that battle every time. It took almost two quarters for our D-Coordinator to put a nickel back in to shadow the slot receiver.
Please be ready to insert a DB to play near the line of scrimmage, I say let Mike Mitchell control that.
On offense, it is a must that these young Raiders study their butts off. They are not familiar with other defensive players' tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses. When you become a vet, you may be able to shift focus a bit, but you should always go into a game with the edge of knowing the little things that can give you an advantage.
For example, if you are a wide out, wouldn’t you like to know that when this DB jams you at the line of scrimmage, he always tries to direct you to the outside with his left hand and he turns his body right?
My take on JRuss's performance this year. First, I agree JRuss has made some bad decisions and has not seen the field well at times.
Consider this: three coordinators in three years, plus two rookie wide receivers.
Are you willing to give the guy a break now? Can you imagine the pressure for really a young kid coming off of his first full season as a starter under these circumstances?
In reality, if you look at the film closely, there have only been a handful of throws that were not to the area in which they should not have been thrown.
There have been a number of drops and unfinished routes. Think about it, you are sending two rookie wide-outs on more than 10-yard routes into double coverage against veteran defensive backs. Should you “cut it loose?”
This is why you heard Russell say he thinks he did okay but some things were out of his control.
Now here is what I am happy with. Each and every game, I see another new good thing out of Russell.
Here are the traits I focus on:
JaMarcus is always poised in the pocket and has an even keel.
No, he is not lacking of passion, he is trying his best to stay grounded. Never too high and never too down. He has a short memory. After a bad series, he shakes it off and comes right back.
He is a fighter. Remember when his leg got jacked, but he pushed his way back into the game to throw a fourth down bomb?
His progressions are faster than last year. He is checking off the safety now.
His focus at critical times during the game have been very impressive.
In the first two games, despite having terrible, successive offensive series' he came right out, and "led" the team downfield. Does this sound familiar? Stabler would have games like this. Down and out during most of the game, but when an opportunity to make a difference in crunch-time, he always came through.
JRuss should be 2-1, but the refs stole a beautiful throw, catch, and the game.
I just hope that JRuss can shake off all the non-supporters and naysayers in enough time to continue to progress.
As a fan, I still see subtle progression every game. I believe staying on course with this progress will ultimately allow JRuss to become the perfect weapon to conduct what was once known as "Raider Football".
I am ashamed of Raider Fans who are not "on board", have booed him and think putting in a "quick fix" is the answer.
I am proud of JRuss and his progress and in my mind, he still has the makeup to get through this and become the legend he was born to be.
As for the coaches, please revisit and re-think your approach.