Another step in Russell's learning process

When a boy first learns how to ride a bike, he will naturally take a few spills before he's able to ride straight ahead. In his first two outings, the Raiders put the training wheels on Russell, who operated in a somewhat-controlled environment at home while playing only a pair of series at a time.

On Sunday, he took over for starter Josh McCown late in the first quarter and finished out the game, and the results were not good at all. The Jaguars' vaunted defense turned up the heat on the rookie quarterback and maintained it throughout the course of the game.

Russell completed only seven of his 23 passes for 83 yards in his first live action away from McAfee Coliseum, and let's just say that it was a learning process for the young guy as the Jaguars sacked him twice and hit him repeatedly as the Raiders wound up on the wrong end of a 49-11 massacre.

He didn't throw an interception in any of his previous two games, but Jacksonville's relentless pressure along with an opportunistic secondary made Sunday's game a completely different story. He made several poor decisions with the football, causing him to throw three interceptions while two other passes easily could have been picked off.

In other words, what happened with Russell on Sunday was kind of like taking the training wheels off and sending him down a steep hill.

One thing that was quite evident was that when he was rushed out of the pocket, he slinged passes over the middle when there was clearly no safe place to throw other than out of bounds. On the first play of the second quarter, he did just that and was intercepted by safety Reggie Nelson. He got a reprieve on that play when tight end Zach Miller stripped Nelson of the ball and recovered the fumble at Jacksonville's 25-yard line, which led to Sebastian Janikowski's 41-yard field goal.

Another mistake that he made was that he seldom looked away from his intended receiver, and the very-good Jaguars secondary took advantage. Two possessions following the Nelson play, for instance, he never took his eyes off the left side of the field as he tried to throw to receiver Ronald Curry with 7:40 left in the second quarter.

"He's a classic rookie," Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin said. "He let some plays affect him. He's got to learn to let those plays go. As we learn more about him, he'll continue to improve."

While three Jaguars defenders waited for the pass as it left Russell's hand, cornerback Terry Cousin made the leaping interception, which led to a touchdown three plays later.

"I wish things could have gone better, but you live and you learn," Russell said.

While the game was well in hand some time before, however, a milestone helped turn things around a bit for Russell. With six seconds left in the game, he hooked up with Miller in the end zone for his first NFL touchdown pass.

"It was nice getting the first one from him," said Miller, who caught three passes for 27 yards to go along with that score. "We both are rookies, so there's a connection there.

"I felt like we had a kind of a feel for each other the whole game," he continued. "He came to me a lot of times, so going into the next game and then next year, I think it will be a big-time connection with him throwing to me."


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