JaMarcus Russell: The Anatomy of a Quarterback

Justin Smith@smittstylesCorrespondent IJune 26, 2009

Oakland Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell has endured a lot of criticism in his brief time in the NFL.

By holding out on his first contract, Russell not only gave fans and media ammunition to deride his desire and motivation to play the game, but suffered a serious setback in his development as an NFL quarterback.

Going into his third official year, but only his second as a starter, there are still a lot of concerns and questions regarding Russell's skills, desire, potential, and maturity.

While few question his arm strength, pretty much every other part of his body has been criticized or under scrutiny. 


Any Raiders fan worth their salt should have the most concern with this part of Russell's anatomy.

Thus far he has struggled to grasp a majority of the playbook, limiting offensive versatility.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

The pictures of him partying aren't of much concern, because frankly, he's 23 and has a ton of money. I'd be partying too.

Russell is not known to be a film buff nor much of a vocal leader. His confidence is high as evidenced by the way he carries himself, and he seems impervious to criticism.

He appears to have the right kind of mentality to succeed in that he has thick skin and confidence. But he needs his football IQ to improve to match those attributes.

His ability to go through reads and progressions is sorely lacking, and with the O-Line struggling the last few years, getting the ball out quickly is of paramount importance. His lack of understanding of NFL defenses to this point make this a virtual impossibility.

Hackett and Tollner are working hard with J-Rock to improve his reads and his understanding of NFL defenses and blitz pickups. But it is on J-Rock himself to put in the extra work he needs to get his head to the level it needs to be.

Film study, meetings, discussions with Tollner and Hackett and full dedication to being the best he can be are the only way this is going to happen.

Which brings me to:


The other part of Russell's anatomy with which we in the Nation have concerns.

Will JaMarcus ever have the desire to be great? Does he already have it and just not show it? When is he going to step up and be the kind of leader we need?

Russell thus far has shown he's a cool customer, but his unflappable nature also gives the appearance of indifference at times.

Every fan wants their QB to be the most passionate, most vocal guy on the field, and J-Rock simply doesn't operate that way.

Thus, we are all a little curious as to his motivation and desire to play the game.

The addition of Jeff Garcia was meant to give a jolt to Russell's development as added motivation and learning from example.

By all accounts, J-Rock is slowly grasping what he needs to do to be successful. He took a giant step in the head and heart department by indicating he was going to have a private workout session with tight ends and receivers.

If that happens, and if it's done well, then concerns about his heart should begin to wane a little.

If it doesn't happen, or if it's not done very well, then the questions will amplify. He needs to show desire, passion, and the want to be great before his teammates or the Nation will buy into him completely.


There are no concerns with how hard or how far J-Rock can throw the ball. None. The guy has one of the strongest arms anyone has ever seen, and some of the lasers he fits into tight coverage are a glimpse of why we drafted him. No, arm strength is not a concern.

Accuracy, on the other hand, is a major concern.

As a very strong-armed QB, it's understandable that J-Rock throws the lasers quite well. His touch passes, however, leave a lot to be desired.

He either overthrows or underthrows targets when he's asked to put any kind of touch on the ball, and quite often he isn't even close to his target unless it's a zip slant pass or a long bomb.

For a strong-armed QB, he's also shown a concerning lack of accuracy on his long passes.

The talent in the arm is there, and the accuracy will come as his mechanics improve. He does fumble an awful lot for a guy with hands the size of Saturn, but the arm is not a concern. Nor is:


Smaller than critics and detractors would have you believe, but not small enough for the Nation, honestly.

Russell was never 300 pds last year. That was a complete fabrication. But he was heavier than he should've been, and those pictures from his night of partying don't look good either.

Granted, it was May, and he's got another month to get into full playing condition.

The gut is synonymous with the head and the heart for this kid. Critics say he's lazy, he's not motivated now that he's paid, and he likes food and good times too much to be a success.

His lack of being in shape shows his lack of desire and understanding of what it takes to be great.

From all accounts, he's in better shape this season and is showing more quickness and speed in his legs. That's good news. J-Rock is a very big man for a QB, and he'll never have the look we expect. As long as he doesn't actually approach 300 pounds in reality, everything should be fine.

The bigger he is, the harder he hits opponents.


Mad scientists Tollner and Hackett have the biggest challenge from a physical perspective with Russell's dogs.

He has poor footwork coming away from center, as evidenced by how many times he's slipped or tripped, and he gets into his drops a little more slowly than he should.

He's not smooth and agile; more often, he looks clumsy and disoriented. That's a big problem, one that is simple fundamentals and needs to be quickly and efficiently addressed.

He throws off his back foot far too often, much like many strong-armed quarterbacks, thinking that his arm strength will compensate for his weak base.

But that's when disaster happens. Tollner and Hackett are breaking his mechanics down and rebuilding him slowly.

All indications are that he's picking up his footwork quite well, and showing a lot of improvement in his foot positioning when he throws from various angles.

That's good, because he seems to naturally want to throw off his back foot, and poor fundamentals like that can cause arm injuries, or at the very least, bad throws and interceptions.


Russell has a lot of work to do in a lot of areas, but with his natural gifts, he has the ability to make quick improvements in all these areas.

Tollner and Hackett are well known quarterback gurus, and Mr. Hackett especially will be key in identifying what fundamentals J-Rock needs to improve, how he needs to improve them, and the best way to improve them.

He's finally got some specialized coaches, some continuity on the line and the coaching staff, and some weapons on offense. Everything is in position for him to succeed.

If he doesn't, then he can blame himself for not getting his head and his heart to the same level as his physical talent.