Walker ready but Raiders holding off

Former Raider quarterback Rich Gannon has been very outspoken since trading in his cleats for a microphone. The 2002 NFL MVP offers up his latest views on current Oakland QB JaMarcus Russell, who is the target of growing criticism. Gannon's comments may surprise you.

Rich Gannon is a color commentator for CBS and hosts a daily NFL radio show on Sirius satellite along with Adam Schein. On Wednesday, the topic of discussion turned to Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell who has struggled for most of two games.

Gannon, never one to pull punches, offered up his take on Oakland's third-year quarterback and was blunt in his assessment after watching tape of every snap Russell has taken this season.

"I just think he's missing too many opportunities and he's holding back this offense right now," Gannon said. "A couple of things are very glaring. You see a lot of times he falls away from throws. He seems to bail. I think a rush up inside bothers him. He needs to get more bend in his knees when he throws. He's very upright and not a lot of bend in his knees. It may have something to do with his weight. He seems to be more comfortable operating out of shotgun than he does under center. He doesn't do a very good job seeing out in front of throws and I think that comes with experience, really understanding and anticipating coverages. So that's not something he does. When you look at the offensive game plan, the passing game, I think they've condensed the plan. It's not very complicated. Fundamentally, right now, he is not very sound. His mechanics, his footwork, it's inconsistent."

Gannon pointed out that while Russell has developed a good sense of timing and rhythm with tight end Zach Miller, he's had trouble doing the same with his receivers and has a tendency to lock on to his intended targets.

"Sometimes he predetermines where he's going to go with the ball," Gannon said. "You can see that he makes up his mind very early in his drop. And the other thing is he misses a number of throws, almost a majority of his throws if you go back and look at it, they're high which tells you that more of that weight is not on the front foot, that he's leaning back, he's throwing off of his back foot. These are some things that really jump out at me."

Yet Gannon was quick to defend Russell as well, citing the unstable circumstances that have surrounded the young QB early in his career.

"There are a number of things that you need to take into consideration," Gannon said. "First and foremost, he's had a number of different coaches, a number of different play-callers, a number of different coordinators, different QB coaches, in just his three short years in the league. That, I think, has had an impact on him, a negative impact. The second thing is the inexperience and lack of production at the wide receiver position has hurt him as well. Finally, after looking at all the film, I am convinced that all the things that he is struggling with can be corrected. So that's a positive."

Gannon also was very complimentary of the job done so far by Tom Cable, Oakland's head coach.

"I give Tom Cable a lot of credit, not a little bit of credit, a lot of credit," Gannon said. "He knows exactly what he has in terms of his personnel and he is not going to try to beat you throwing the ball 35 or 40 times. He understands the strength of that football team right now, and last year as well, without question is not the play of the quarterback, it's the three running backs he has in Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush. And that, combined with the fact that they have an offensive line that was really bad a year ago in terms of pass protection, and with a young quarterback and with inexperience at the wide receivers, he'd be crazy not to run the football.

"So I tip my hat to Tom Cable and what he's been able to accomplish the first two weeks of the season. They are a better football team defensively, they can run the ball, and that has to be the m.o. as they head down the road the next six or eight weeks until JaMarcus can come along, until their young receivers can develop. But I think guys like Greg Ellis and Richard Seymour, their ability to stop the run, something they didn't do a very good job of a year ago, that has to be the strength of this football team. Tom Cable knows what he has and he's done a good job the first two weeks in making sure that's a point of emphasis."

Javon Walker is as surprised as anyone about his limited role in the Raiders offense so far this season. He was even more stunned to find out what Tom Cable's reasoning behind the move has been. Javon Walker was on the field against Kansas City last week for all of four plays, one of which came on special teams. That's clearly not the role Walker saw himself in during training camp when he went through a rigorous rehab program following offseason knee surgery.

Part of the reason, according to Tom Cable, is that Walker is still having problems getting in and out of his breaks and cuts while running routes.

To which Walker could only laugh.

"I don't know what he looking at," Walker said Wednesday. "I feel like I'm doing fine. I'm sure there's more stuff going on than what we know, but I'm saying I can run (and) play. This is the NFL. Everybody does their job to the best that they can do it and that's what I'm doing. So, it ain't nothing wrong with my in and out, coming out of breaks. I do it with the best of them. I do it with any other receiver here. Plain and simple."

To be clear, Walker didn't seek out the media to complain about his lack of playing time nor did he broach the subject himself. But when told about Cable's comments, the veteran wide receiver was clearly caught off guard.

"I'd rather sit knowing that it's for other reasons, not knowing if it's coming in and out of breaks," Walker said. "I look at all the receivers that's my size, my ability in the league, and I analyze it each and every week and I'm doing the same thing. I'm doing the same thing that any receiver here is doing. So I can sit as long as there's other reasons behind it, but it ain't sitting because I can't come in and out of breaks. I can do that. I'm doing it every other day at practice."

Cable said a number of factors have gone into Walker's reduced role, primarily the young receivers on Oakland's roster.

"I think just in terms of the numbers, who has been productive, that's number one," Cable said. "And we're about to get very healthy there too."

Walker, though, insists he's healthy and ready to be a part of the offense whenever the Raiders come calling.

"Like I said, I'm here to do whatever I need to do to help win," Walker said. "But, just to clear it from my point of view, I can do anything any other receiver can do."

 

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