NFL Nation: JaMarcus Russell

There will be no contract haggling between the Oakland Raiders and first-round draft pick Khalil Mack. The No. 5 overall draft pick has signed his deal, the team announced Thursday.

And that is a good thing for all involved. He is the highest-drafted rookie to sign thus far and, according to a league source, it is the standard four-year rookie deal.

The rookie salary structures are essentially slotted, leaving little room for holdouts, such as the one that helped derail the career of JaMarcus Russell.

For example: last year’s No. 5 pick, Ezekiel Ansah, signed a reported four-year, $18.595 million deal with an $11.9 million signing bonus with the Detroit Lions.

That’s some serious coin. Still, for Mack to put pen to paper the day before the first day of rookie minicamp? That speaks volumes to how serious he is about getting to work, as he said repeatedly last week, first on a conference call with reporters immediately after being drafted and then again the next day at the Raiders facility.

“I know the Oakland Raiders are nasty, man, they like to play nasty,” he said on Thursday. “I’m a football player that likes to, yeah, I’m a football player that likes to get in there and be a little nasty, but in a good way.”

Mack getting the business end of a contract done before his first-ever professional practice is nothing but a good way to handle things.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The conundrum, for lack of a better word, facing the Oakland Raiders as they considered their second-round pick, the fourth choice of the day, went something like this:

Take a player who, if all actually goes well, does not play a down next season, even if he is the presumptive franchise quarterback of the future.

Or ...

[+] EnlargeDerek Carr
AP Photo/Eugene TannerIf everything goes according to plan, Derek Carr will play little if at all for the Raiders this season.
Select a player who can presumably make an instant impact for the Raiders as they enter Year 1 of their reconstruction.

Oakland went with the former and it makes all the sense in the world, unless it doesn't.

Confused? Don't be, because while tabbing of Fresno State's Derek Carr was met with confusion in some corners at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway, he is part of a long-term plan by the Raiders. It's one that Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie witnessed firsthand in Green Bay.

Think Aaron Rodgers biding his time behind Brett Favre for three years with the Packers. Now, I'm not suggesting Matt Schaub is Favre, but you get the gist. The Raiders want Carr, who ran a high-octane spread offense his last two years almost exclusively out of the shotgun, to learn the intricacies of an NFL offense at the knee of Schaub.

And with the Raiders going all-in with Schaub as their starter for at least two years -- then again, they also seemed sold on Matt Flynn last year -- it gives Carr time to marinate in the NFL game.

“Right, we stayed true to our board,” Raiders director of player personnel Joey Clinkscales said. “We think Matt Schaub is our starter. We're confident with that and Derek will come in and he'll learn, and wherever he fits in he'll fit in. We're comfortable with the pick and knowing that he will come in and develop the way we would like to see him develop.

“He's a very mature kid. He's had a lot of life experiences that the regular 22-year-old hasn't had. He has a family, he's married, he has a child also. We're excited to get a guy like that in the program.”

The question, then, is this: Is Carr prepared to sit, or does he anticipate competing for the starting gig?

"That's for the coaches to decide," Carr said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters Friday afternoon. “The coaches know who they're getting, and I told them, I appreciate your calling, you know what you're getting. I'm going to come in and work, I'm going to come in and compete and I'm going to try and make the team better. I'm not a selfish guy, that's for sure, and I can't wait to get coached by those coaches.”

At Fresno State last season, Carr passed for 5,082 yards with 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions in completing 68.7 percent of his passes. And while his 74 completions of at least 20 yards led the FBS, 237 of his 659 passes were either at or behind the line of scrimmage, with an FBS-high 143 screen passes, per ESPN Stats & Info. “As a result, Carr's average pass attempt traveled 7 yards past the line of scrimmage, the fewest air yards per attempt of any top QB prospect,” per ESPN Stats & Info.

Plus, his completion percentage of 30.9 percent while under duress was the lowest of any top QB prospect, per ESPN Stats & Info. It all adds to the notion that Carr could stand to have a redshirt year, so to speak, in the NFL.

Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, Carr is the sixth quarterback taken in the first two rounds of the draft by the Raiders, following Jeb Blount (second round, 1976), Marc Wilson (first round, 1980), Todd Marinovich (first, 1991), Marques Tuiasosopo (second, 2001) and JaMarcus Russell (first, 2007).

Carr, meanwhile, said the Raiders have always been in his family's blood. His uncle Lon Boyett was a training camp tight end with Oakland in 1978.

And watching the trials and tribulations of his brother David, the No. 1 pick of the 2002 NFL draft by the Houston Texans, should only help him.

“Oh, my goodness, it's such a blessing,” the younger Carr said. “I learned everything that he did right and everything that he did wrong. He's told me. He told me that if he could do anything, he hopes he made the path smoother for me as I transition into the NFL.”

Watching from the sideline is probably the best path, at least early in his career.
Moore-Streater USA TODAY SportsDenarius Moore (left) and Rod Streater could be the vanguard of a receiving rivalry in Oakland.
One of the bigger issues for the Oakland Raiders in their decadelong malaise has been the inability to develop a dynamic group of receivers.

Oakland, which has not had a winning record since the 2002 season when it went to the Super Bowl, bypassed future superstars Larry Fitzgerald (2004) and Calvin Johnson (2007) high in the draft in favor of busts Robert Gallery and JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders made a blockbuster trade for Randy Moss. He essentially took a two-year vacation when he was in Oakland before re-energizing his career after he was dealt to New England.

Particularly in the past five years, Oakland has drafted a slew of young receivers in hopes of striking it rich. Promising players such as Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy have all come and gone without making a major impact.

Although the receivers in Oakland’s current stable are young and, for the most part, unproven, there is hope for a franchise that is perpetually waiting for receivers to reach their potential. The Raiders enter the 2013 season hopeful the wait is nearing its end.

“It’s as green as grass,” Oakland coach Dennis Allen recently said of his group. “But there is all kinds of talent here.”

I asked Allen whether he could see himself waking up one morning in the near future and proclaiming that his group of receivers has finally arrived.

“Absolutely,” Allen said. “It’s coming. We just need the guys to step up.”

Oakland has done a nice job of drafting promising receivers late in the draft or adding them as undrafted free agents. All of the receivers projected to make the Raiders’ 53-man roster have potential to be impact players. But they also have to show they can be consistent threats.

The focal points of Oakland’s receiving group are third-year player Denarius Moore and second-year player Rod Streater. They are expected to be the starters, and they embody this group of receivers. Moore was a fifth-round pick in 2011, and Streater was an undrafted free agent last year. Although both were training camp stars and have shown glimpses of their potential, neither has proved he is an impact player.

A lot of that has to do with their youth. Moore was a bit inconsistent last year, and he had some hands problems. Streater was incredibly fluid for an undrafted rookie, but, as to be expected, he didn’t always show up. Moore ended up with 51 catches for 741 yards and seven touchdown catches. Streater had 39 catches for 584 yards and three TDs. Oakland is hoping both players will make significant strides in 2013.

“I think we have a chance to be a good group,” Streater said. “There are a lot of good athletes in this group. We all are trying to get better together.”

ESPN analyst Matt Williamson likes the potential of Moore and Streater as a long-term starting tandem.

“I am really high on Moore, but he needs to stay healthy and be more consistent as a route runner,” Williamson said. “[Can he be] a true No. 1? That might be a bit of a stretch, since I rarely throw that term around, but he’s right on that cusp in terms of talent. Streater is a good complement to Moore, as he is bigger and more physical. He’s a possession guy to Moore’s explosiveness.”

Although the Raiders’ receiving success starts with Moore and Streater, the group has more to offer. Jacoby Ford has shown he can be a dynamic No. 3 receiver with explosive big-play ability. But he has had trouble staying healthy. He missed nearly the past season and a half with foot problems.

Juron Criner, a fifth-round pick last year, impressed on a daily basis last summer with one phenomenal catch after another. Yet he was pretty quiet in the regular season. Oakland added two more prospects this year with seventh-round pick Brice Butler and undrafted rookie Conner Vernon. Vernon is a prototype slot receiver who looked good in the offseason camps.

All of these players will have the time to develop together and show they belong on their own merits. New quarterback Matt Flynn thinks positive results are possible this season.

“We have some weapons on this offense that I think we can really take advantage of this season,” Flynn said.
JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 who hasn't thrown a pass in an NFL game in four years, is looking to catch on with the Super Bowl champions.

Russell told people while working out for the Chicago Bears late last week that he has a tryout upcoming with the Baltimore Ravens, a league source told ESPN's Ed Werder.

While I'm n0t endorsing the Ravens signing Russell, I can't say this development surprises me. The Ravens don't have established backups behind quarterback Joe Flacco. Tyrod Taylor has completed 18 passes in two NFL seasons, and Caleb Hanie has four career starts in five NFL seasons.

And the Ravens were impressed with Russell when he was coming out of LSU in 2007.

“We did a pretty decent job, and obviously they continue to do a phenomenal job in Baltimore, with [general manager] Ozzie Newsome and his group,” former Ravens coach Brian Billick said last year. “JaMarcus Russell was the highest-rated player I’ve ever seen on any of our boards."

Russell has worked hard on his conditioning, losing nearly 50 pounds. But he reportedly hasn't lost any arm strength.

“We’ve worked with over a dozen NFL quarterbacks, and the strongest arm I’ve ever seen is Joe Flacco’s,” Brian Martin, founder of the TEST Football Academy, told Fox Sports. “JaMarcus’ arm right now is as strong and as accurate as Joe’s.”

It remains to be seen whether Russell will back up Flacco.

Bears unlikely to sign QB JaMarcus Russell

June, 7, 2013

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the top pick in the 2007 draft who's been out of the league for three years, showed up at the expected weight and displayed a "big arm" and "good, positive demeanor" during a Friday workout for the Chicago Bears, sources told, but the team is unlikely to offer him a contract.

Russell looked a bit rusty but was solid overall, the source said, but with three quarterbacks already on the roster -- Jay Cutler, Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard -- it appears Chicago won't be moving on Russell or the other two signal-callers who participated in the session at team headquarters -- Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards -- anytime soon.

For Michael C. Wright's full report, click here.
Friday, for the first time in nearly three years, JaMarcus Russell participated in NFL-related activities.

He worked out for the Chicago Bears. The Bears are not expected to sign Russell at this point, but it is a start for him. He worked out for the Redskins and the Dolphins in 2010 after being cut by the Oakland Raiders in May, 2010. The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007 is widely considered one of the biggest NFL draft busts of all-time.

As Russell was looked at by the Bears, another high-profile former AFC West quarterback, Tim Tebow, is wondering how long it will take for him to get back into an NFL building. Tebow has heard crickets since being cut by the New York Jets this spring.

There has been exactly zero interest around the league in him. The word is the former Denver quarterback could perhaps garner some interest if he is willing to switch positions, most likely to tight end. Thus far, Tebow has been reluctant to leave his quarterback days behind him.

With Russell getting another look, many league observers have wondered why he, but not Tebow, is getting another chance?

My take on the situation is neither former AFC West player is owed anything. Russell is beyond fortunate Chicago looked at him, and Tebow would be as well if another team gives him a look.

Nothing is owed to these players. They were both given chances. They were both first-round choices. The Raiders and the Broncos put in a ton of money and time into these two players. Both teams wanted these players to be stars. They didn’t work out, albeit for two completely different reasons.

Russell was immensely talented, but he didn’t show the heart and the head to succeed. Tebow had a hall of fame work ethic. But he couldn’t show he could be an NFL-style quarterback. That is kind of important in the NFL

So while Russell gets some NFL relevancy Friday, Tebow is still waiting for his call. If either truly gets another chance to be an NFL quarterback, it is up to them to make it work.
The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, among others, tried to maneuver in the 1983 NFL draft for a shot at selecting John Elway.

So did the Los Angeles Raiders.

Now, former Raiders coach Hue Jackson says via Peter King that the team also badly wanted Colin Kaepernick, another strong-armed quarterback whose athletic background included baseball.

King's piece has plenty of detail, including a captivating visual: Raiders owner Al Davis throwing a glass across the room when San Francisco traded up to select Kaepernick with the 36th choice of the 2011 draft.

Of course, teams miss out on players they wanted in every draft. Some of those players wind up leading their teams to the Super Bowl, as Kaepernick did last season. Other players fail to make much of an impact.

Since 1983, when Elway landed in Denver via the Baltimore Colts, the Raiders have drafted the following 13 quarterbacks: Tyler Wilson, JaMarcus Russell, Andrew Walter, Marques Tuiasosopo, Billy Joe Hobert, Todd Marinovich, Major Harris, Jeff Francis, David Weber, Steve Beuerlein, Rusty Hilger, Randy Essington and Scott Lindquist.

Those players were, by definition, quarterbacks the Raiders really wanted. To hear selectively about the ones that got away makes me wonder how many other forgettable ones the team also wanted at various points. We're unlikely to hear about those.

We should also acknowledge the role an organization plays in developing quarterbacks. Kaepernick had more than one season of seasoning in the 49ers' system before joining a talented, superbly coached offense, one that was backed by a strong defense. He gets credit for doing his part, but the situation obviously would have been tougher in Oakland.

The 49ers deserve tremendous credit for landing Kaepernick in the second round. They went into that 2011 draft without knowing how well Alex Smith would perform. They had the seventh overall choice and could have taken Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder. Instead, they used that pick for Aldon Smith, who has already set their franchise single-season record for sacks. Kaepernick, meanwhile, is looking far more dynamic than every other quarterback the 49ers were in position to select in that draft.

Note: The headline refers to JaMarcus Russell. Some in the comments section thought "Russell" referred to Russell Wilson. I'm sure the Raiders would like to have him, too, but they'll have to settle for Matt Flynn.

AFC West blogger Bill Williamson and I first met as competing beat reporters covering the Seattle Seahawks in 1998.

Warren Moon's contract holdout was the big story that year.

Williamson and I spent part of Monday discussing another quarterback unhappy with his situation. Carson Palmer, on his way out of Oakland and possibly heading for the Arizona Cardinals, has "deserted" a team for the second time, Williamson contends.

I took an opposing view on this one in the video atop this item. Whether or not Palmer has handled things well in Cincinnati and Oakland, the Raiders were the ones coming to him asking for a pay reduction. Palmer is well within his rights to resist such a reduction, even if it means taking less money elsewhere.

Teams routinely release players who refuse to accept cuts in pay. No one accuses them of deserting their players. It's just business. And if it's business when teams use whatever leverage is available to them, I'd say it's business when players do the same thing -- particularly during the offseason, and particularly when the team initiates discussions the way Oakland initiated them.

Williamson and I also discussed Matt Flynn's prospects in Oakland.

One more note on Palmer, courtesy of Williamson: The Raiders were 8-16 in games Palmer started, compared to 7-18 in games JaMarcus Russell started. Palmer had a much higher Total QBR in those starts (52.3, which is around average, compared to 23.7 for Russell).

Russell comeback: It won't be easy

January, 23, 2013

So, JaMarcus Russell says he wants to play in the NFL again. Good for him.

It doesn’t mean he will. Russell has big obstacles in front of him before securing an NFL contract.

Russell, the No. 1 pick of the 2007 draft, and considered one of the biggest all-time NFL draft busts, hasn’t played since Oakland cut him in the spring of 2010. Russell is 27.

He has attempted comebacks in the past. Russell will have a difficult time getting interest from the NFL because he has been out of the league so long, his poor physical condition, and the poor reputation he earned while in the NFL.

NFL teams keep an open mind, but I’m sure no teams are changing their calendars this spring in anticipation of seeing Russell. If he does get in shape, can shake off the rust, and gain the trust teams, there will be interest. But there are no guarantees of any of that happening.
Rolando McClain was supposed to be different.

He was supposed to break the chain of poor first-round drafting by the Oakland Raiders. Oakland took McClain with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft. It was well received because McClain was expected to be a sure thing. He was a star on a defense of stars for Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide.

Many teams wanted him. McClain earned immediate kudos for asking for his playbook as soon as he was drafted. He was going to be the anti-JaMarcus Russell.

It went downhill from there.

McClain was not a good NFL player and it seems like his time is up in Oakland before his third NFL season is over. ESPN’s John Clayton is reporting McClain will be cut Thursday.

The situation became murky Wednesday when McClain missed practice and the team said it was because of a team-related issue. McClain then took to social media, saying he was no longer a Raider.

McClain never lived up to his billing on the field. He was out of shape, slow and often out of position. He didn’t show the instincts expected from a top-10 pick. He was convicted on a gun charge last year, but it was recently overturned on an appeal, according to his attorney.

The new Oakland regime was charged with salvaging McClain’s time in Oakland. He didn’t make improvements and his playing time dwindled in some games. Now, it is over.

McClain will be the 27th player to leave since new general manager Reggie McKenzie took over. Last week, fellow starting linebacker Aaron Curry was cut.

Changes like this show that the Raiders are rebuilding and patience is needed with the new regime. McKenzie is trying to reconstruct a team with a bad salary cap situation and small draft classes. Getting rid players of who didn’t work out like McClain is also part of the process. Perhaps more cuts are on the way.

McClain may be able to salvage his career elsewhere in the right situation. I’m sure some teams will be interested in him. Oakland will hope he is claimed so the rest of his contract is taken on. But that may not be easy. I could see McClain passing through waivers.

Like every NFL team, I think the three other AFC West teams could look at McClain because he can fit in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. But each team will have to decide if trying to salvage McClain is worth their time.

As for Oakland, newly signed veteran Omar Gaither will likely play at middle linebacker for the time being.

Oakland will look for a middle linebacker in the offseason. One target may be Notre Dame’s Manti T’eo if he is available when Oakland picks in the NFL draft. He is expected to be a top-five pick. Oakland is currently on pace to pick fourth. Te’o is considered a can’t miss prospect.

Sound familiar?

What's next for Raiders at QB?

October, 16, 2011
Jason CampbellAP Photo/Ben MargotRaiders quarterback Jason Campbell is likely out for the rest of the season following this hit.

OAKLAND -- On a day of immense emotion, the Oakland Raiders suffered a crushing blow that will force them to make a huge decision in the post-Al Davis era.

Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell is expected to miss the rest of the season with a broken collarbone. Campbell was injured in the second quarter of the Raiders’ 24-17 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. A source close to the situation said it is unlikely Campbell will return this year. Raiders coach Hue Jackson did not give a timetable for Campbell’s injury, but he sounded like a man who knows he needs to make other quarterback plans.

The injury put a damper on what is developing into a very strong season for the Raiders, as well as on a poignant day where the Raiders paid tribute to Davis. Oakland’s owner died Oct. 8 at the age of 82. It was the Raiders' first home game since Davis’ death.

Campbell was one of the Davis’ favorite players and his acquisition in 2010 helped the Raiders begin a revival as they moved away from colossal draft bust JaMarcus Russell. Campbell was making great strides under Jackson and offensive coordinator Al Saunders this season and was the perfect game manager for an offense that features the NFL’s best running game.

Now, the Raiders have to quickly figure out what they are going to do. For now, it looks like backup quarterback Kyle Boller will be given the first opportunity to start.

The Raiders must decide now if they think Boller is capable of keeping them in contention. Oakland is 4-2 and trails San Diego (4-1) by a half game in the AFC West. The Raiders host Kansas City next week, then have their bye. They then host Denver. So, the Raiders -- who are two games over .500 for the first time in nine years -- have a manageable next few weeks.

Boller was just OK Sunday as the Raiders won on the steam of a kick return for a score by Jacoby Ford, a touchdown pass on a fake field goal from punter Shane Lechler to Kevin Boss and improved defense. Boller was 8 of 14 for 100 yards. He missed badly on some passing attempts.

[+] EnlargeOakland Raiders quarterback Kyle Boller
AP Photo/Paul SakumaKyle Boller will likely be given the first opportunity to start at quarterback for the Raiders.
Still, Boller is experienced. He has started 46 NFL games, the last coming while with the Rams in 2009. He played under Jackson in Baltimore. Several Raiders receivers said Sunday they will have confidence in Boller if he is their starter. Ford said he will expect to see Boller as the starting quarterback “until I’m told otherwise.”

Ford should expect Oakland to consider other options in the next couple of days.

This is the first big personnel challenge for the Raiders since Davis’ death. Jackson and Mark Davis -- Al Davis' son -- are currently making decisions with input from others including former Raiders employees John Madden, Ron Wolf and Ken Herock.

If the Raiders decide to pursue a quarterback outside of the organization who can start, the list probably will begin with David Garrard. He is a free agent who was cut by Jacksonville. He would give the Raiders a veteran presence. But he hasn’t played in six weeks, so there is a rust factor.

Perhaps Oakland would consider calling Denver about Kyle Orton, who was replaced by Tim Tebow last week. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday morning that the only way Denver would trade Orton is if a team suffered a major injury and called the Broncos.

Would the Broncos deal the free-agent-to-be inside of the division, though? I bet they would.

I’m sure the quarterback Jackson would most like is Carson Palmer. He coached him in Cincinnati. Yet, the Bengals have maintained they won’t deal Palmer. The trade deadline is Tuesday.

Of course, there’s another name out there. Yes, Brett Favre. He is 42 and has maintained he is retired. But wouldn’t that be the ultimate tribute to Davis, adding a beaten-up gunslinger to save the season?

That scenario is much more of a pipe dream than reality and the Raiders must face reality in this situation.

If they stick with Boller, I could see them bringing back Trent Edwards to back up Boller. Boller beat out Edwards for the backup job this summer. The Raiders also probably will try to speed up the developmental of rookie Terrelle Pryor. He is expected to be activated from the roster-exemption list Monday. His five-game NFL suspension ended last Monday.

Pryor was expected to be a project. He is still a project, but if other options fail, he could be pressed into action. But he is far from being ready.

This major flux at quarterback is definitely not what this team needed. It's also devastating for Campbell. He fit in well with this team after not succeeding in Washington. Now, the future of Campbell, 29, is up in the air. His contract expires at the end of the season. There were indications that the Raiders could give him a new deal. Now, that is likely on hold.

Jackson said Sunday the biggest thing the team will miss is Campbell’s leadership.

They also will miss the balance he gave the Raiders' offense. With Campbell out, teams will key on stopping the running game, which could limit the offense. The ever-optimistic Jackson vowed that his team will “be just fine.”

There is a lot to like about this team. But the loss of Campbell certainty casts a cloud over this season.
Al Davis knew in recent years that he would not be around forever. Rebuilding his beloved Oakland Raiders was his lone mission.

[+] EnlargeJaMarcus Russell
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireJaMarcus Russell won seven games in three seasons with Oakland.
With his health declining steadily the past couple of years, Davis worked diligently at reconstructing his franchise. That was a primary reason why he cut JaMarcus Russell –- the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 –- in May 2010. In a meeting to tell Russell he was being cut, Davis told the quarterback he wished he could devote several years to Russell’s development, but he simply didn’t have time.

Davis wanted to build a Super Bowl winner right away.

The Raiders aren’t quite there. In the final game he witnessed his team play last Sunday, the Raiders were outclassed by a better New England team. However, the Raiders are going in the right direction.

In his final couple of years, Davis showed he could still be a top evaluator.

Yes, he had some major draft, free-agent and trade whiffs in the past decade. Davis’ decision-making was the reason why the Raiders were a bottom feeder for the past decade. That’s undeniable.

However, his decision making of recent years is the reason why the Raiders are considered a team on the rise. Also, undeniable.

Davis’ last great call of his life may be Denarius Moore. He could forever be known as Davis’ last gift to the Raiders.

Davis drafted Moore in the fifth round this year out of Tennessee. He has quickly developed into a top receiver for the Raiders and draft gurus are admitting Moore was one who got lost in the shuffle. Davis also scored in the fourth round last year with explosive receiver Jacoby Ford. Other mid or late-round finds include tackle Jared Veldheer, defensive ends Matt Shaughnessy and Trevor Scott, safety Tyvon Branch and receiver Louis Murphy.

Davis also deserves credit for making Hue Jackson a head coach. Jackson is changing the culture in Oakland and he is intent on seeing through Davis’ last wishes of making the Raiders a winner again.

If the Raiders do win their fourth Super Bowl title in the foreseeable future, Davis’ fingerprints will be on the Lombardi Trophy. Just like the first three.

Pat Yasinskas' QB Watch

September, 14, 2011
Cam Newton and Andy DaltonGetty ImagesCarolina's Cam Newton, left, and Cincinnati's Andy Dalton are the latest examples of quarterbacks who started the first game of their rookie seasons.
There’s an ancient NFL proverb that says you shouldn’t play a rookie quarterback right away. If you do, the logic goes, you might ruin him.

In breaking and somewhat related news: The world is flat.

Yeah, Christopher Columbus shot the second one down, and let’s turn to Cam Newton and Andy Dalton to take care of the first. Let’s label the exhibits Rookie QB 1 and Rookie QB 2.

Just look at the evidence Newton and Dalton put on the field Sunday as the only two rookie quarterbacks to start the season. Newton threw for 422 yards, the most ever by a player making his NFL debut.

And this was a guy who some fans and draft gurus said wouldn’t be able to run an NFL offense?

Then there was Dalton. He wasn’t as flamboyant as Newton, and he left the game with an injury. But, before he did, Dalton was a very efficient 10-of-15 passing for 81 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions to help the Cincinnati Bengals kick off the post-Carson Palmer era with a victory against Cleveland.

And Dalton slid all the way to the second round of the draft?

There’s a lesson to be learned from what Newton and Dalton did on Sunday. You can start a rookie quarterback right off the bat. And this theory’s not exactly brand new.

Take a look at recent years. Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez have played quickly and fared well. As a matter of fact, can you name the last early draft pick who truly got "ruined" by playing too soon?

I say it’s David Carr, and that was a long time ago and in unique circumstances. Carr was playing on the expansion Houston Texans, who never really did anything to build a quality offensive line during his tenure.

You can throw out names like Joey Harrington, JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young and Alex Smith. But I think those were guys who were going to struggle no matter how soon they played.

Yeah, maybe in a dream world you can let Aaron Rodgers sit behind Brett Favre for a few years. But the NFL’s not a dream world, and maybe it’s time for those still clinging to the myth that a quarterback has to sit to let go.

Maybe it’s time -- or at least close to time -- for the Vikings, Jaguars and Titans to realize they’ve got nothing to lose by playing Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker sooner rather than later.

In a new age when first-round rookie contracts are limited to four years with an option for a fifth, there’s a sense of urgency to find out what a quarterback can do. Yeah, you can make the argument that’s throwing a guy to the wolves. But the Panthers threw Newton to the Cardinals and the Bengals threw Dalton to the Browns and no one got ruined.

This is the inaugural edition of Quarterback Watch. We’ll be here every Wednesday throughout the season, examining the trends and themes involving quarterbacks and looking at whose stock is on the rise and whose is declining.



Keith Hawkins of ESPN Stats & Information passes along this: Ten of the 11 quarterbacks drafted in 2007 have changed teams now that Kevin Kolb is heading to Arizona.

This doesn't reflect poorly on Kolb, who has sat behind quarterbacks with multiple Pro Bowls on their resumes, so much as it does on that quarterback class in general.

JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn were the only first-round quarterbacks that year. Kolb, chosen 36th overall and with the fourth pick of the second round, was the third quarterback drafted. John Beck and Drew Stanton joined Kolb as second-rounders that year. Stanton is the only one still with his original team, provided he re-signs, as expected.

A few other notes from Hawkins:
  • None of the 11 quarterbacks from the 2007 class has a winning record as a starter.
  • Trent Edwards is the only one with to hit double figures in victories as a starter (14-19 record).
  • Stanton (2-2) and Troy Smith (4-4) are the only ones without losing records as a starter. Kolb is 3-4.
  • Eight of the 11 have started at least one game. Isaiah Stanback, Jeff Rowe and Jordan Palmer have not.
  • Among those with starts, Beck is the only one without a victory as a starter (0-4).
  • Russell (7-18) and Quinn (3-9) have a combined 10-27 record as starters.

Check out the full list if you've got a strong stomach.

As the Cardinals pointed out in their news release Thursday, Kolb is the only quarterback in Eagles history to pass for at least 300 yards in each of his first two starts. He has been named offensive player of the week in the NFC and has an 81.2 career rating.
We’re still waiting for movement on Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the top free-agent prize on the market. There has been some developments.

The San Francisco 49ers are going to unload cornerback Nate Clements. That means they are clearing salary-cap room at the same position Asomugha plays. More smoke, folks, more smoke.

The Jets are currently considered the 49ers’ fiercest competitor for Asomugha right now. The Jets still have cap room left after agreeing to a monster deal with receiver Santonio Holmes earlier Wednesday. Jets star cornerback Darrelle Revis says his team wants Asomugha badly.

While the Raiders wait to see what happens with Asomugha, they will wave goodbye to quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. He has agreed to a deal with Cincinnati.

It was evident throughout the offseason that Gradkowski would leave. He was a favorite of former coach Tom Cable. Jason Campbell will be backed up by Kyle Boller. Gradkowski had somewhat of a cult following in Oakland. Despite his limitations, he did often ignite the Raiders’ offense. He was a good Raider, who always gave the team his best effort. He was the anti-JaMarcus Russell and he’ll always have a warm spot in the hearts of many Oakland fans for that very reason.
  • The Raiders signed rookie running back Taiwan Jones, fourth-round pick. It will be fun to watch the speedy Jones in training camp.
  • The Brandon Mebane talks are heating up. Denver is one of a few teams trying to grab the Seattle defensive tackle. Denver has a huge need and could pay big to get Mebane.