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