Injuries leave Raiders uncertain at QB this week
A late-game comeback against the rival Denver Broncos looked as if it could be just the springboard JaMarcus Russell needed to get his struggling career back on track.
The problem is it might not even get him his starting job with the Oakland Raiders back. A day after Russell threw the game-winning touchdown pass with 35 seconds left in a 20-19 victory over the Broncos, coach Tom Cable said he would wait until Wednesday to announce his starting quarterback for this week's game in Cleveland.
Bruce Gradkowski would get the nod if he has recovered from his two sprained knees, and Charlie Frye would be next up assuming he gets over the concussion that knocked him out Sunday and gave Russell the chance to lead the comeback.
Cable wasn't exactly gushing Monday in responding to a question about whether Russell's game-winning drive proved that he can still be the quarterback to lead the Raiders in the future.
``There were some things in that game yesterday that he could have taken advantage of, before that last throw, or the last couple of throws and all that, would have really put that, in my mind, to make that kind of statement,'' Cable said.
``He made the ones that counted right there at the end to get it done. And that's a big deal for him personally. I think it's good for his teammates to see him go in there in that situation and get it done when it really had to get done.''
Frye went down early in the fourth quarter when his head hit the turf following a hit by Broncos linebacker Andra Davis. Russell came in and underthrew Louis Murphy on third down on his first pass of the game to end an Oakland drive.
Russell failed to get a first down on the next drive as Michael Bush dropped a low pass on third-and-2. Then trailing 19-13, Russell got the ball at his own 38 with 3:29 left. He promptly was sacked and fumbled on the first play, getting saved when Cooper Carlisle dove on the loose ball for Oakland.
Russell was later knocked out for a play before returning for a fourth-and-10 from the Denver 43 just before the 2-minute warning. He converted that with an 11-yard pass to Tony Stewart and followed with two more completions that moved the ball to the 10.
After two incomplete passes, Russell hit Chaz Schilens on a crossing route for a 10-yard score to give the Raiders the lead. He finished 5 for 11 for 47 yards and the score.
``It was good for him to go in there and lead us down the field,'' Schilens said. ``Hopefully that gives him some confidence. I was happy for him.''
Russell got benched after struggling through the first half of the season. He returned in last week's loss to Washington and was mostly ineffective and booed by the home crowd.
For the season, Russell has completed 47.8 percent of his passes, with 10 interceptions, five lost fumbles and just three touchdown passes. His 49.6 passer rating is the lowest in the league.
Russell, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, has also been criticized for his work ethic and his weight. His teammates hope this latest performance will help turn his career around.
``It's in JaMarcus' hands to say what he's going to do,'' defensive end Greg Ellis said. ``He showed what he can do yesterday.''
The win also could provide a boost for Cable, whose job could be in jeopardy because of a 9-17 record since replacing the fired Lane Kiffin early last season. A late-season win in Denver last year helped Cable shed the interim label and come back for a full season as coach.
Owner Al Davis has only once fired a coach in the same season that the team won a game in Denver. Davis fired Art Shell after the 1994 season in a move he later said was a mistake.
``We are fighting very hard for him,'' running back Darren McFadden said. ``Everyone on the team loves Coach Cable and at this point in time I don't think it is a concern if he is coming back or not, we are just trying to finish the season out strong.''
NOTES: TE Zach Miller hopes to return this week from his second concussion of the season. Miller missed Sunday's game after being knocked out in the closing minutes the previous week against Washington. ... Rookie WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is making progress with a sprained foot and could return to practice this week after missing the pas three games. ... RB Justin Fargas is day to day with a sprained knee.