Raiders need better play from receivers Print
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Saturday, 16 August 2008 14:30
NFL Headline News

 ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -A slant pass from JaMarcus Russell went right through the hands of Javon Walker, leading to a punt on the first drive. Johnnie Lee Higgins later ran an in route instead of an out on third down, leading to another punt.
For a team building its offense around hotshot quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the play of the receivers has coach Lane Kiffin worried.
``It's a very big concern because we do want to do a number of things with JaMarcus in the passing game,'' Kiffin said Saturday. ``The more they make plays the more that builds confidence for him and for all of us.''
Russell went 10-for-17 for 75 yards and a touchdown in one half of action against the Tennessee Titans on Friday night. But four of those passes, including the touchdown, went to tight end Zach Miller and three others were completed to running backs.
Only three completions were to wide receivers, all of them caught by Ronald Curry, as Russell is struggling to build a rapport with newcomers Javon Walker and Drew Carter.
``This week will be the longest that they play together, they'll play into the second half,'' Kiffin said. ``Hopefully we'll get some chemistry going this week with our quarterback and receivers.''
Carter has just one catch for 4 yards in two preseason games as he competes with Curry to be the second starting receiver. Walker has the No. 1 job wrapped up but has yet to catch a single pass so far.
That's not what the Raiders expected out of Walker when they gave him a six-year, $55 million contract with an $11 million signing bonus in the offseason.
``There's a couple of balls there that we would have liked him to come up with,'' Kiffin said. ``At the end of everything, all that matters is how do you perform on game day. For him not to make those plays or the first game there was a fade that we throw to him that he didn't go up and get. That's discouraging because he was paid an awful lot of money, paid like one of the top five receivers in the NFL. We need him to make those plays.''
Walker played just eight games last season because of an injured right knee, catching 26 passes for 287 yards. He was released by Denver in February. Walker was a Pro Bowler in 2004 in Green Bay when he caught 89 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns and has scored 30 touchdowns over his past three healthy seasons.
But Kiffin criticized Walker for being out of shape during offseason workouts. Walker then was treated for a concussion and facial injuries after being discovered unconscious and beaten on a back street near the Las Vegas Strip following a night of partying.
Walker considered retiring during training camp and offered to return his signing bonus before owner Al Davis talked him out of it. Walker said last week he is in a much better frame of mind and was looking forward to the season.
Kiffin has problems with the play of his other receivers, who have struggled to get open even in practices. Higgins, who had just six catches as a rookie, got a tongue-lashing from his coaches after running the wrong route on his pattern.
``It's something Johnnie did a lot last year in practices and is why we weren't able to trust him to play that much in games,'' Kiffin said. ``Hopefully he's going to show us over these next two games that that isn't going to be an issue.''
The best receiver Friday was seventh-round rookie Chaz Schilens, who had three catches for 45 yards, but even he has been inconsistent in practices and is no sure bet to make the team.
``He played the best of all our receivers last night, including the front line guys, and it's good to see because he did not play well in the first game, on offense or on special teams,'' Kiffin said.
The best receiver in practice has been Todd Watkins, who has four catches for 49 yards in two games.

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