Russell Debut Could Come Slowly

The Raiders turned to Daunte Culpepper for their start this week, but eventually JaMarcus Russell will see the field.

Chances are that when QB JaMarcus Russell makes his debut with the Raiders, it will be in a limited, scripted performance where he will run a package of plays which he has run in practice, then go back to the bench.

Coach Lane Kiffin seems reluctant to throw Russell into a starting role after the rookie missed all of training camp and the preseason. It also doesn't help that the offense is struggling in the passing game.

Quarterback Josh McCown thinks Russell may be able to overcome some of his problems simply because of his raw ability.

"I think the luxury that he has is his right arm," McCown said. "As far as timing, he could be later with the throw and still get away with it because he has such a strong arm. There are a few guys in the league that can do that, but not very many."

  • Kiffin said he felt badly that things didn't work out with Mike Williams, a player he had recruited to USC whom he had tried to resurrect with the Raiders. Williams, a No. 10 overall pick in Detroit after sitting out a college season, made the Raiders' 53-man roster but was cut after dropping a fourth-down pass against Tennessee just past the first-down marker.

    "A number of things can happen when you get drafted that high, with a kid used to having no money and getting $13 million or whatever it is," Kiffin said. "People can lose their motivation sometimes. I wish Mike nothing but the best of luck. We gave him a great opportunity. I stuck with him as long as I could. He wasn't able to take it as serious as he needed to be able to stay in this league, and it's really a sad story."

  • Things don't figure to get any easier for the Raiders over the last seven games of the season. Oakland compiled a 2-7 record against foes with a combined 38-43 record (.469 winning percentage).

    After they face Minnesota, the final six foes — all AFC West opponents plus Indianapolis, Green Bay and Jacksonville — are a combined 37-26 (.587).

  • After being gouged on the ground by a 100-plus-yard runner for five consecutive games, the Raiders shut down the Chicago Bears, allowing just 78 yards on 34 carries. Bears leading rusher Cedric Benson had 79 yards on 29 tries.

    Benson came in with an anemic 3.2-yard average, but Ron Dayne came in for Houston the week before at 2.9 and had 122 yards on 21 carries.

    While the opponent had something to do with the Oakland's success, Kiffin thought it also had to do with the Raiders.

    "We didn't have missed tackles," Kiffin said. "All the guys played well up front — Terdell Sands played his best game by far. Not even close. The safeties tackled and were aggressive. When you look at it, we haven't given up a lot of 6- and 7-yard runs. We give up 2, then 2, then 40. And we didn't let them get the big one."

  • The Vikings are giving up just 75.9 yards per game rushing, ranked No. 3 in the NFL, so it is liable to be slow going for the Raiders on the ground.

    The good news is that with Daunte Culpepper starting at quarterback, the Raiders have a superior pure passer over Josh McCown, who has struggled with his throws.

    The bad news is that Culpepper operates most efficiently out of the shotgun formation, and which removes any sense of mystery regarding run or pass.

  • Veteran Tim Dwight probably secured the job as punt return specialist for the time being after his performance against Chicago. While the Raiders had no big returns, Dwight raced up to the 50-yard line to catch a punt.

    "Most guys let that drop and then it bounces and you lose 15 yards. Those are hidden yards right there," Kiffin said. "Tim's the best at doing that. He's fielded a ton of punts in his career."

  • CB Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) was limited in practice Wednesday but hopes to play against Minnesota.

  • CB Fabian Washington is a good bet to start after making it through practice with a calf injury that sidelined him against Chicago.

  • C Jake Grove, who missed the Chicago game with a knee injury, practiced Wednesday and should be available to back up Jeremy Newberry.

  • S Hiram Eugene, a reserve safety who plays occasionally in dime defenses and is a core special teams player, missed practice with a wrist injury, but coach Lane Kiffin hopes to have him back for the game.

  • RB Michael Bush remained on the exempt list but likely will be activated on Nov. 21. Bush has not played in a game since the season opener at Louisville last season, when he suffered a broken leg.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 1 — Takeaways by the Raiders defense in the fourth quarter of nine games this season. The only one was a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown by Thomas Howard against the Broncos.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know the people in Minnesota love good football. I had a great time when I was there, but I'm here now. When we step in there, I know it's going to be loud and crazy. That's what the game is about, and that's what we love about it." — QB Daunte Culpepper, on returning to Minnesota to face the Vikings.

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