Raiders need to get it going outside

It's no secret JaMarcus Russell has found a comfort zone throwing over the middle to tight end Zach Miller. It's the quarterback's work to the outside where his wide receivers are that is one of the reasons Oakland's offense keeps stalling out.

The Raiders' problems on offense are wide-ranging, and although there's reason to be encouraged with the return of left guard Robert Gallery and the long overdue season debut of wide receiver Chaz Schilens, the truth of the matter is that it'll take a lot more than that to fix all that's wrong there.

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell has taken the brunt of the blame but with two rookie wide receivers starting all season, it'd be foolish to pin all the problem on one guy. The inability of Russell, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy to be more productive is obviously the biggest stumbling block the offense has faced this season.

"When you break it down (and) look at where our issue is, we're just not getting the throws outside in terms of numbers," head coach Tom Cable said. "If you're not throwing it out there, you're certainly not getting any completions."

The Raiders are last in the league in total offense and passing and are 31st in scoring. Murphy has 16 passes for 232 yards and one touchdown while Heyward-Bey has caught five passes – five – in eight games. We won't even get into the comparisons with Michael Crabtree right now. It's too easy at this point.

But the fact that two starting wide receivers could go eight games into the season with just 21 catches combined is ludicrous.

"We've tried to put our fingers on it," Cable said when asked why Russell is so comfortable throwing to Miller and struggles with the wideouts. "All we can really put our hand on is the fact that it's not happening. You really try to force him into that in terms of how you script it, practice it."

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The game against the Chiefs will be blacked out locally after the Raiders failed to sell out by Thursday's 1:05 p.m. deadline. This one wasn't even worth asking for an extension for. That's sad because this used to be a great rivalry. Now it's two teams struggling to get off the floor.

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Greg Ellis hasn't practiced all week but the Raiders aren't ruling him out. Cable said there's a good chance the veteran defensive end will work out with the team on Friday, and if everything goes well, he could get cleared to play. It might be in Ellis' best interest to rest him another week since he's coming off surgeries on his knee and shoulder, plus rookie Matt Shaughnessy has been playing pretty well as of late so that gives Oakland a little more freedom to rest Ellis. If Ellis does play, it will be on an extremely limited basis.

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Wide receiver Javon Walker strained a hamstring in practice but it isn't likely to affect his status for Sunday. With Chaz Schilens due back and the Raiders committed firmly to the two rookies, Walker was probably going to be on the inactive list anyway.

And for the record, it's still puzzling to me why this guy can't get on the field. Given what's gone on with the offense, Walker's experience could be a big asset. The Raiders can't give a clear reason why he's not playing more, but it's clear he upset someone in the organization.


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