Remember all the preseason predictions? We all had a couple. How many yards for JaMarcus Russell I asked. How many wins is a question we usually can’t resist before a single regular season game has been played.
One other prediction was a common theme this summer. First three games: Chargers, Chiefs, Broncos. Win two of those and maybe just maybe the Raiders might make some noise and be towards the higher side of all those preseason record predictions.
So the Raiders are two weeks into the season; have we forgotten? The Raiders record is 1-1 with that pivotal third game with the Broncos coming up this Sunday in Oakland.
The Raiders must go into this game and win, because losing two at home and winning the single game on the road in KC will do little to dispel the opinion of the Raiders league wide.
To top it all off, the Broncos are coming in 2-0 and could potentially take a commanding division lead if they were to defeat the Raiders on the road. The defense seems to be much improved, while it is clear the offense isn’t nearly as explosive.
So far, it looks like I am writing the pregame for next Sunday’s game, but don’t fear there is more to my madness.
Throw Sunday’s win away. You can’t throw away the win itself, but throw the rest away. You were able to finish, that was about the only good thing that came from the game. It is hardly tangible. Finishing off the Chiefs is nothing more than outplaying a bad team when it counted most. Outplaying a good team when it mattered most was a complete failure in week one.
The Raiders have proven they can outplay a "good" team, but not when it matters. They have proven they can be outplayed by a bad team, but not when it matters.
So which team is the Raiders? We can only assume that at some point the two games will collide and the Raiders will either outplay a good team when it matters or be outplayed by a bad team when it matters.
This Sunday in Oakland, a 2-0 bad team comes in and this one matters most.
Two interesting themes have emerged from the first two games.
The defense is improved. They were on the field a long time this past Sunday and outplayed the Chargers for three quarters. They are getting the job done having allowed only 17 points per game. That will need to continue, because it looks like the Raiders may be hard pressed to score 17 points per game on offense. Having settled in at 16.5 in the first two games.
Breaking Down JaMarcus Russell:
JaMarcus Russell has been somewhere between erratic and just plain terrible. The complaints are growing and people are diverting their eyes from the train wreck that is his accuracy. It is no doubt too early to judge Russell. He is 18 starts into his career. We have seen a better JaMarcus Russell before and maybe even a worse one. Figuring this out is the prime concern of Tom Cable, Ted Tollner and most importantly Paul Hackett.
317 yards in two games, puts Russell on pace for 2536 yards on the season, just barely more than last season.
You may want to throw Russell out now, but 35.2% completions isn’t likely to remain. He is a career 54% passer. Common sense says he will at least be near his average. Chaz Schilens return will surely help him.
While you would hope Russell would be improving and hovering around 60%, that may never be a reality. He may always be at or around 55%, but hopefully with the ability to make plays and limit turnovers. To quantify it for you, we are talking about completing 2-3 extra completions per game to get from 54% to 60% passing. It currently sits at 35%, which means to get it to 54% he will need to go 24 of 27 against the Broncos. The theoretic possibility is a clear indication it is very early.
I’m willing to bet by game 8, Russell will be within 1% of his career completion percentage. Why am I willing to place this bet?
Russell’s career completion percentage versus the Chiefs is 33.3%. They seem to be his Kryponite.
Russell’s career completion percentage versus the next six opponents:
NYG: No History, but 58.2% allowed in two games
PHI: No History, but 57.4% allowed in two games
SD: 60.3% (his 40% on Monday night significantly hurt his percentage).
Average: 63.3% (Not including teams he has no history against)
Average of 27 attempts per game in 2009 equals about 17 completions per game.
Over next six games that is 102 of 162 to add to his 19 of 59 so far this season equaling 121 of 221 and 54.8% at the end of the eight games.
Russell has seven career games below 45% in completions, he is 2-5 in those games, both wins coming at the expense of the Chiefs.
The Raiders will win few games when Russell is as bad as he was on Sunday, but there is good news. In his previous sub 45% games, he rebounded to throw well in five of them. The bad news is one of the two where he didn’t rebound was this past Sunday.
The Raiders didn’t spend all offseason working with Russell for him to be worse. I have a hard time believing Tom Cable, Ted Tollner and Paul Hackett would all stake their coaching lives on Russell’s improvement if they didn’t believe he could do it. Hackett wouldn’t have taken the QB coach job. Tollner wouldn’t have accepted the job as passing game coordinator. Cable may have, just because it is his only shot, but he could have given up on Russell and persisted to keep Garcia and he didn’t.
I am going to be more patient with Russell. I learned the hard way by giving up on Nnamdi Asomugha. I wanted the Raiders to move him to safety. I did the same thing this offseason, calling for the Raiders to move Michael Huff to cornerback. I gave up too on Fargas, at one point thinking he should be cut because he was such a scrub.
I know as fans it is difficult to tolerate Russell when he is playing so poorly, but I think it is too early to tell on Russell. By the end of the season at about 30 starts and we should know what we have, but if we are willing to wait another 16 games (a la Eli Manning), we can put it to bed for good.