JaMarcus Russell is not the worst quarterback in the National Football League. After two weeks of play, Russell is ranked 30th–not 32nd. Despite his 19 completions on 54 attempts (35.2%) for 317 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions, Russell is 1-1 this season with two fourth-quarter comebacks.
Some would argue that if Russell was just an average signal caller, the Raiders would be 2-0, and both victories would’ve been easy wins. Without speculation, the numbers are speaking for themselves. Russell has a 46.6 QB rating, which is a little more than half (Roethlisberger is ranked 16th with an 85.6 rating) of what it should be to make him just an average quarterback in the NFL.
One person who isn’t too happy that Russell is getting boos during the game, ripped in articles like these, and criticized heavily on talk radio, is his teammate Louis Murphy. Murphy, a rookie from Florida, had the pleasure of playing with the most popular quarterback in the country in college–Tim Tebow. So, his defense of one of the least popular, in terms of favorites, is somewhat telling.Murphy was asked why Russell has so much trouble throwing out-patterns when he has been accurate between the hashes. “I really don’t know what’s going on. Really I feel he’s doing fine, honestly,” said Murphy, who has six receptions for 113 yards and one 57-yard touchdown.
He went on to explain that it’s the entire offensive unit at the bottom of Russell’s problems by saying, “We’ve had some dropped balls–nobody’s mentioned any of the dropped balls. Nobody’s mentioned the wrong routes. JaMarcus, he’s taking a lot of slack, a lot of criticism for our lack of play too, as receivers, running backs, the entire offense, O-line too. That’s what it is. We have to get on the same page and I think we’ll be successful.”
In two games, Russell has been sacked only three times. If that stat were to be calculated out to a 16-game season, he would end up being sacked only 24 times. The running game is ranked 17th in the league with a 107.5 yards-per-game average. What it probably comes down to is the lack of experience in the receiving corps.
Murphy agrees that the lack of experience is part of the problem with Russell. “It’s still a learning process, a learning curve. But we’re in the season so there’s no excuses for that now,” he said about being a rookie receiver.
“We have to come out and make sure we have our timing down and execute what we’ve been practicing. We’ve practiced it. It works well in practice but when we get into games we forget it. We have to stay focused on what we have to do. Don’t let any outside distractions come in.”
On Sunday, Murphy and the rest of the offense will get the opportunity to help their leader break out of his slump–if it actually is just a slump. There might be a problem with that. The Denver Broncos are ranked 10th against the pass, allowing only a 59.9 QB rating.
Of course, I take it personally. I feel like on some of the plays if I had done something differently, like on the third-down conversion, if instead of running 8 yards I had gone 12, it would have been an easier throw. I got to take some slack off him. The receivers aren’t stepping up. We have to step up and make plays to make him look good.
– Louis Murphy when asked if he feels bad about Russell getting criticized.
In week one, against San Diego a chorus of boos rang throughout the stadium after every stalled drive. Most of those boos were directed at Russell, who continually missed his targeted receivers on overthrows and throws behind them.
On Sunday, Russell should prepare for the same if he performs no better than he has thus far this season.