Raiders want Russell to go deep

With the spotlight square on JaMarcus Russell this season, the Raiders are hoping the third-year QB can bring back the deep passing attack that owner Al Davis relishes so much.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the Raiders' offense revolves around the running game. With a multi-pronged attack featuring Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas, Oakland would be foolish not to build from the ground game up.

But with six weeks left before the beginning of training camp, the Raiders want to see what Russell can do with the long ball. Specifically, the third-year QB has been given the green light this offseason to chuck the ball downfield whenever possible and as often as possible.

"You might retard a young guy by trying to be too cautious so let's rip it right now as you learn how to do this," Cable said following Wednesday's OTA practice. "That's the way I think anyway. That's the way I want to call it and it's just good to see him turn it loose. And (to) find out who can make those plays, too."

Russell has 15 career touchdown passes in his year-plus of starting, but only four of his TD throws have gone for more than 30 yards. One of them actually was just a quick slant that Johnnie Lee Higgins turned into an 84-yard score against Buffalo last season.

Russell didn't try many deep throws in practice Wednesday. Instead, the focus was on red zone efficiency and versatility.

Russell made a pair of nice touchdown throws from outside the red zone during 7-on-7 drills, first to a leaping Marcel Reece at the back of the end zone then to tight end Zach Miller.

Tight end Zach Miller is a great safety net but the Raiders want QB JaMarcus Russell to go for the deep throws more often.
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Once the offense went inside the 20 for a team scrimmage, Russell connected with Miller again after the tight end beat linebacker Jon Alston, made a nice throw into coverage just past cornerback Chris Johnson and into the arms of wide receiver Todd Watkins for another score then later had what appeared to be a third TD on a short throw to running back Michael Bush before Alston stripped the ball loose for a turnover.

"We can run the ball all day (but) once you get inside the 20, we're going to take shots at the end zone and that's what we were lacking," Russell said. "We'd get down there sometimes and try to run the ball all three downs and had to kick a field goal. If you don't take a chance at the end zone, how are you going to get there?"

The same thinking goes for the deep pass. If you don't take a chance, you'll never know.

"We've been hitting some deeper routes," Russell said. "We take chances when they're there. The more you work on it, the more you're going to have confidence in them in the game and be ready for that type of thing."

Wagaman's take: It's about time. As rookie wide receiver Louis Murphy told me last week, everybody knows Russell has a cannon. The problem, however, is that the Raiders haven't taken full advantage of it. Making him throw dump-off passes and rely on checkdowns negates his strongest weapon, which is his arm. With a stable of young, fleet receivers, the Raiders need to take the training wheels of the offense off and see if Russell indeed can be the revive the deep passing attack.

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