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Should JaMarcus Get the Ball Week One?

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There is dissension in Cali among Oakland’s coaching staff and personnel on how to properly utilize LSU rookie QB JaMarcus Russell. One side thinks Russell needs time to learn the in’s and out’s of the NFL and that he should sit behind veterans Andrew Walter and Josh McCown. The other side thinks Russell should start right away if he shows in training camp that he can handle the position. Look for this internal difference in opinion to continue until the start of the regular season, with Owner Al Davis likely having the final say.

Why he should Start: Russell should start right away because the Oakland Raiders have no other QB worthy enough to start over him. McCown and Walter are decent backups at best; they cannot even hold his cleats, let alone the starting job. They should not even be considered to start a single NFL game in their entire careers, they should be as far away from the field as possible holding the clipboard and the headset calling out signals as “spectators.” They are just as unproven as he is, and Russell has all the talent in the world – why shouldn’t he start? Oakland is in a re-building mode and they should start the process by letting Russell take over the reins starting Week 1. He could already have the best arm in the NFL, to along with mobility and pocket presence. Russell will also benefit from facing the awful secondary of Detroit in Week 1. He will get to face Cleveland’s lowly defense in Week 3 to help build up his confidence, not that he lacks any confidence to begin with. It will help him that he will go against two of the worst defensive backfields in the NFL. Both of these teams have shaky units stopping the air attack, and a tough time getting to the QB with the pass rush. This would be a great start to a “Hall of Fame” potential career for Russell and the Raiders. Russell should start Week 1 at home against the “roar-less” Lions for the same reason Indy’s QB Peyton Manning started right away for his team – he had the arm and talent to do so.

Week 2 at Denver, against Champ Bailey, and that vaunted “D” will be a huge test for JaMarcus, but having two home games versus mediocre teams right off the bat will get him started off on the right foot. Russell has played through a lot of tough SEC games in his collegiate career, including road games at Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, and other tough teams, not to mention home games in Death Valley for the LSU Tigers (big crowds). Another reason he should start for Oakland is because he is used to the “big” game, tough, opposing road crowds as a visitor, and a packed house (LSU) to succeed early on for Oakland. Teams would also have to game plan around Russell’s abilities and gear/shore up the defensive coverages to stop the deep ball, aerial attack. He could bring back memories of old (1976, 1980, 1983 Super Bowl Champs) with his play on the gridiron, by going to the air for six on any given play. Having “true” Raider fans reminisce to the times when Stabler went to Biletnikoff and Casper, Plunkett going to Cliff Branch and Kenny King, and Gannon throwing deep to Tim Brown and Jerry Rice. Too many reasons point in Russell’s favor to start in Week 1.

Why he should not Start: Starting as a Rookie QB in your first NFL game as a pro is usually unheard of nowadays. The NFL game is way different than that of the game played on the College level. The teams are much better, the game play is faster, and the players are definitely smarter, bigger, and stronger. You cannot even come close to comparing the two. He may also be a holdout, missing some valuable training camp time/reps with the 1st team offense. Russell does have the “NFL” arm strength, mobility, and size as a QB – but does he have the ability to read defenses, throw into tight spots with accuracy, threading the needle, and can he produce, winning right away? In this case, that’s a lot to ask for of a Rookie QB. Why not have him come in either right before/after the bye in Week 5, to take over the starting role. You do not want to have him in too early because Oakland’s line is terrible and he will get beat up, getting sacked 4-5 times a game if he is not prepared/ready for that kind of pressure.

Final Verdict – Let him Start Week 1: Reasons for him to start are too easy to overlook: 1. Andrew Walter 2. Josh McCown 3. Arm Strength/Skills (he got game) 4. Detroit (Week 1) 5. Cleveland (Week 3) 6. Nothing to lose. 7. Fans Pick. Russell will start in Week 1 right away because of those 7 simple reasons. Everyone knows he is able to throw the ball downfield 80-90 yards and is mobile enough to escape the pass rush, picking up extra yardage. They also know of his size at 6-foot 6, 263 pounds, having the “NFL” strength, and the body to take his toll of hits. Russell also can play in front of big crowds on the road (experiences in tough SEC battles.) He is ready for the NFL and can accomplish what most QB’s can only dream about, having talent most QB’s only wish they could have. Russell is going to be prepared for the spotlight, scrutiny, critics, opposing defensive coverages, and is ready to face the high expectations.

He will take on the challenge of helping bring the Raiders back to the good ‘ole days of winning – re-visiting the seasons when Kenny the “Snake” Stabler, Jim Plunkett, and Rich Gannon were under center for The Silver & Black. Russell will have the opportunity to excite the crazy Oakland fans of the “Black Hole” and make new Head Coach Lane Kiffin and Owner Al Davis proud by leading the Raiders back to their winning ways of the John Madden and Tom Flores eras, where it was all about winning – “Just Win, Baby” and a “Commitment to Excellence.” Those days might not be too far away from bringing back, as QB JaMarcus Russell will have the “final” say in what direction the Raiders will go next. Raider Nation might not want to forget the NFL Films Archive section when the Raiders were atop of the National Football League because Russell one day might re-write the record books, making history for The Silver & Black – he is that “good” – to have the Raiders mentioned in a statement again, saying: “The Raiders are one of the best teams in the NFL.”


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