JaMarcus Russell Named Starting QB
Russell, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft has been maligned in the general public for a relatively slow start to his career. He held out to begin his career and had a pretty mediocre second season in 2008 -- completing 53.8 percent of his passes for 2,423 yards, 13 touchdowns, and eight interceptions, compiling a 77.1 quarterback rating.
Because of instant growth from some young signal-callers recently -- both Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco last season, for example -- some fans may tend to be less patient with Russell's progression as an NFL quarterback. We need to remember, though, just how difficult it is to emerge. Russell is only 24 years old. He has only started 16 games thus far in his fledgling career.
We've seen flashes of what he can be, it's just that inconsistency has been a problem. Russell had eight games with a quarterback rating higher than 85 last season -- including three of more than 110. He closed the season with three solid games, in which he accrued 6 touchdown passes and 626 yards.
He's carried that modest success over into the 2009 preseason. After two games, Russell sports a lofty 99.2 quarterback rating. He's only attempted 20 passes, sure, but the Raiders aren't a passing team. They have a solid run-blocking offensive line and three very capable backs in Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas. As long as Russell is efficient and careful with the football -- he's the only one of four Oakland quarterbacks this preseason who hasn't thrown an interception -- the chains will keep moving, and that's the Raiders plan.
While the announcement of Russell as Oakland's No. 1 QB was basically a formality, it will allow Russell to work through the next two exhibition games without the pressure of fighting to win the job. Instead, he can focus on perfecting his craft as he enters his second full season as the starter.