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Offense Rebuild Incomplete

People will be talking about JaMarcus Russell for weeks to come. Who was responsible for him being so terrible? Who will give him a second chance?

JaMarcus Russell is a “big” bust in every sense. He has struggled with weight and he will be in the conversation as the biggest draft bust in NFL history, even if he doesn’t take the title. As the NFL moves to a rookie wage scale, smack in the middle of the history books will be the $39 million that Russell pocketed over the course of three seasons.

You will have people come out on Russell’s side, as his high school coach already has. Various Raiders players will support Russell in the days to come, while many others will give a no comment or simply refuse to comment.

I’ve said before that Russell was not a bad guy, but a raw football player that didn’t have the work ethic to become a good football player. Maybe he was coming along and the Raiders would have liked to keep Russell provided he didn’t cost $9 million to have on the roster. No one knows.

The blame can be pinned on Russell alone, and many fans will be happy to pin it squarely on Russell’s shoulders. Apologists will cite a tumultuous coaching situation and locker room, poor offensive line and nothing but a very young group of offensive weapons. Not exactly the perfect environment for a number one overall selection with questionable work ethic.

Regardless of your opinion on Russell, I think even apologists aren’t sad to see Russell move on, where he might have a chance as a backup. The bashers are more than happy to throw a party and BBQ their Russell jersey if they haven’t already.

Speculating where Russell will land is a popular blog topic today. The futile exercise is hardly engaging and a complete waste of time.

What are worth discussing are the reasons for Russell’s failure. Russell was exhibit A, and he has been jettisoned to the waiver wire, but what about those offensive weapons? What about that offensive line? A defense that couldn’t stop the run?

Russell was a problem, but far from the only problem and maybe not even the biggest one.

The Raiders also addressed the offensive line, the defenses ability to stop the run, and the quarterback position all in one offseason. The Raiders are banking that the young talented offensive weapons will have a banner year.

The Raiders drafted Darren McFadden to be a dynamic playmaker out of the backfield. While he has shown flashes at times, he has a hard time staying on the field, because he is either hurt or fumbled the ball away to the defense.

This season will likely be the final chance for McFadden. NFL runningbacks are among the few positions expected to produce in the first few seasons. The Raider nation is hoping Hue Jackson can put McFadden to better use, and that McFadden can avoid the fumble problems and injury bug that has plagued him in his first two seasons.

Michael Bush needs to be the runningback carving up defenses and blowing up defensive backs, not the back that runs in mud and gets blown up by linebackers in the backfield.

Louis Murphy, Chaz Schilens and Darrius Heyward-Bey have the making of a nice receiver group, but there isn’t a proven commodity among them. Heyward-Bey needs to remove a lot of the negativity from his first season. Murphy needs to build on his first season success and Schilens needs to stay on the field long enough to be the possession receiver the Raiders have lacked since Tim Brown and Jerry Rice were sent packing.

The good news is the Raiders have plenty of young talent to spread around, which gives Raiders fans some hope for the upcoming season and beyond. The last thing the Raiders need is an old troublemaker like Terrell Owens to wreck the development of this young core. The Raiders intentionally failed to address the receiver position, hoping the young players will make a leap this season.

The area the team probably would have liked to address more was the offensive line.

Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell were nice draft additions, but the team didn’t add a sure fire starter on the offensive line during the offseason. The infamous Langston Walker is the favorite to start at right tackle and Robert Gallery is the only starter from last season that will not be locked in the competition this offseason. Gallery, however, hasn’t been able to stay healthy and that will surely be a concern for the Raiders.

One would presume the Ravens’ left tackle Jared Gaither would be an option by trade. I’m sure Hue Jackson has the details about Gaither and has shared them with the coaching staff and Al Davis. It could be that Gaither’s questionable work habits will scare the Raiders away, but his performance last season would make him a likely bargain for the tackle hungry Raiders.

A good left tackle like Gaither might cement the offensive line by allowing the players to be reshuffled. Reportedly the Bills are very interested, but the Raiders should be.

While dumping Russell was one piece of the puzzle to fix the Raiders anemic offense, fixing the woeful offensive line and getting the players at the skill positions to produce consistently will be the next steps.


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