Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell went 9-of-24 for 67 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The sad thing for Raiders fans is that it wasn’t even his worst start of the season.
But it might have been Russell’s last start of the season. Russell was yanked for Bruce Gradkowski, and after the game coach Tom Cable refused to commit to Russell as the starter going forward.
Gradkowski marched the Raiders down the field late in the fourth quarter and seemed to be getting Oakland close to a come-from-behind win, but when he hit wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey with a perfect pass late in the game, Heyward-Bey acted like a volleyball player, batting the ball up in the air where Chiefs safety Mike Brown picked it off.
Cable did maintain that Russell has talent, but the coach sounded exasperated at how long it’s taking Russell to make that talent translate into productivity.
“Some guys take longer than others,” Cable said. “He’ll get there at some point. He’s a talented guy. There’s no question about that.”
The mistakes in the passing game wasted a very good effort by the Raiders’ running attack, especially running back Michael Bush, who carried 14 times for 119 yards. With Bush, Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden, the Raiders have real talent at running back — they just don’t have a passing game that can give them a balanced attack.
The Chiefs do have a balanced offensive attack. Now that Larry Johnson is gone, running back Jamal Charles is officially the man in Kansas City, and he had a big game against the Raiders, carrying 18 times for 103 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown. The touchdown showed that Charles can provide the Chiefs with the kind of big-play threat that Johnson wasn’t providing — Johnson’s longest run this season went for just 19 yards.
“I told the coaches I can make the 40-yard runs, I can make the 60-yard runs,” Charles said after the game. “Just give me the chance to prove myself and what type of player I am. I’m not going to be the biggest back, and I’m not going to be the strongest back, but I will go out there and give you my all.”
Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel still doesn’t look like quite the same guy he was in New England last year, but he had a few big plays on the way to completing 19 of 34 passes for 216 yards. With Dwayne Bowe (six catches for 91 yards) and newcomer Chris Chambers (three for 60) as his favorite receivers, Cassel is starting to look like the offense in Kansas City is an offense in which he can feel comfortable.
The Chiefs and the Raiders now sport identical 2-7 records, and neither team has much to be happy about this season. But for one day anyway, the Chiefs looked like a team assembling a competent offense with Charles, Cassel, Bowe, and Chambers.
The Raiders, on the other hand, looked like a team that made a couple of major draft-day blunders with Russell and Heyward-Bey.