Russell has much to improve on before first career start Print
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Monday, 24 December 2007 14:18
NFL Headline News

 ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -Lane Kiffin had a long list when asked what rookie quarterback JaMarcus Russell needed to improve on after struggling in the first extensive playing time of his NFL career.
``Where do you start?'' the Oakland Raiders coach said Monday. ``Ball handling in the run game. Footwork in the passing game. Decision making, timing, accuracy. You name it, it was out there on film yesterday. So he's got a long ways to go.''
Russell's last chance to get there this season will be in Sunday's finale against San Diego.
Despite committing four turnovers and going just 7-for-23 while playing most of the final three quarters of a 49-11 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Russell will get his first career start this week against the AFC West champion Chargers.
The Raiders (4-11) have brought Russell along slowly after making him the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft. Russell missed all of training camp and the season opener in a contract dispute and had played only five series before getting the bulk of the time against the Jaguars.
Kiffin had expressed concern about playing Russell too soon, talking about how it can be difficult to rebuild a quarterback's confidence if he struggles early in his career.
That will be the task this week, when Russell will have the benefit of getting all the practice time with the first team.
Kiffin criticized Russell for ``extremely poor decision making'' in the game. Russell threw three interceptions and lost a fumble, but Kiffin said he was lucky not to have five passes picked.
``I haven't been around decision making like that before, as far as just throwing the ball up across the field like he did a number of times,'' Kiffin said. ``I'm sure that didn't help his confidence. Your first time playing an extended amount of time like that, to not have success can't help.''
Russell threw three interceptions in a game just twice in three seasons as LSU's starting quarterback. But the remarkable physical talents that allowed Russell to make what Kiffin described as ``video game'' throws in college doesn't always work against NFL defenses.
``That's definitely part of the learning curve,'' Kiffin said. ``We can talk to him about it all the time, about what not to do and see it in practice. Unfortunately it came out yesterday and he's got to learn from those mistakes that you can't do that in this league. You're not going to get away with it.''
Russell had as many turnovers as completions until his final drive in garbage time that ended with his first career touchdown pass, a 2-yarder to Zach Miller that cut Jacksonville's lead to 49-9 with 6 seconds remaining.
He followed that with a successful two-point conversion pass to Ronald Curry, giving him a positive finish to an otherwise miserable day.
``Things didn't go too good,'' Russell said after the game. ``I'm proud of the guys to keep fighting and never give up and always go out there and get a drive going.''
Kiffin said he also had not heard anything from the league as far as possible discipline for defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who was ejected after receiving three personal fouls late in the first half.
Referee Jerome Boger said after the game that Sapp ``bumped'' umpire Garth DeFelice during the argument, an action that could lead to a suspension or a fine.
Sapp was unavailable after the game and stayed in Florida to spend the holiday with his family. Kiffin said Sapp assured him that he did not push the official. The Raiders game film did not show the play.
``That was my No. 1 concern for him personally,'' Kiffin said. ``But it was a poor decision on his part. One of our things is protecting the team and when you go out and you get personal fouls you're not protecting your team, because you're doing something that is something on your own and isn't helping us win. It's hurting us, putting us in a poor position.''
 

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