TSX: Raiders Receivers Must Step Up
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Posted Nov 18, 2010


Coming out of their Bye Week, Oakland hopes to continue their great run in the second half of their season. The goal is now to win the AFC West title but there are still plenty of issues that remain for this young squad. The Raiders face a tough challenge as they prepare for arguably the league's toughest team in the Pittsburgh Steelers.

HOT TOPIC

The Raiders understand after the bye week that they will need more production out of their wide receivers to maintain control of the AFC West. Through nine games, neither of the Raiders' two leading receivers, tight end Zach Miller and running back Darren McFadden, are wide receivers. Wideouts have accounted for only 38 percent of their total receptions (57 of 150) and 49.5 percent of their passing yards (887 of 1,789). There are three receivers in the NFL -- Atlanta's Roddy White (70), Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne (63) and Cincinnati's Terrell Owens (59) -- with more catches than the Raiders entire corps of wide receivers.

Only two of Oakland's 11 touchdown passes through nine games have been two wide receivers, one to Louis Murphy and another to Darrius Heyward-Bey. Coming off the bye, chances are the Raiders will need some increased production right away as they face a Pittsburgh team which is better attacked through the air than the ground. New England quarterback Tom Brady provided somewhat of a blueprint by going 30 for 43 for 350 yards and three touchdowns in a 39-26 win, flooding the field with receivers and going with a pass-first offense to set up the run.

Or the Raiders could simply look at their own effort last season against the Steelers, when Bruce Gradkowski threw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a 27-24 upset in Pittsburgh. In that game, Gradkowski was 20 of 33 for 308 yards, but most important, was 12 of 21 for 248 yards and all three touchdowns to his wide receivers. Murphy had four catches for 128 yards and touchdowns of 75 and 11 yards, Johnnie Lee Higgins had four catches for 63 yards and Chaz Schilens four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.

"It feels good going back to Pittsburgh, one of the best games of my career," Murphy said. Murphy missed the first game of his career -- including high school, college or pro -- before the bye with a bruised lung but has been cleared to play. Heyward-Bey, however could be slowed by a sore hamstring and Schilens hasn't played this season while recovering from knee surgery.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--Given that coach Tom Cable had hinted strongly the previous week that he was leaning toward going with the hot hand, it came as no surprise when he said Jason Campbell would start at quarterback against the Steelers over Bruce Gradkowski.

"(Jason) will start at quarterback. He's earned the right to do that," Cable said. "Four out of the last five games are wins. And Bruce will back him up and we'll move forward from there."

Cable isn't overly concerned about having a carved-in-stone starter since both men have had success. "I think this team probably looks at both of those guys in the right frame of mind when it comes to leaderships," Cable said. "I think both have proven to this team what they're capable of and what they bring to the table, and I think guys respect that."

Asomugha agreed.

"As long as we're winning, everybody's happy," Asomugha said. "You look at Bruce, and he's still excited we're winning games. As long as we're winning, everything is OK."

--Asomugha has seen the Raiders score a big win before, only to follow it up with a face-plant and a loss -- usually more than one. Until Oakland went on its current run of success with wins over Denver, Seattle and Kansas City, there hadn't even been back-to-back wins since the last two games of the 2008 season. So Asomugha is resistant to the label of "fluke."

"We've done it three straight weeks," Asomugha said. "A fluke might be one week or it might be three straight three straight quarters, but we've done it three straight weeks and the confidence level has not gone down at all. It's only risen."

--It turns out Tom Cable has turned to the silver screen as a way to motivate the silver and black. Spliced into game film will be messages from some of Cable's favorite movies.

"We've watched, 'Patton, Braveheart, Goodfellas,' right tackle Langston Walker said. "He's big into that. It's his way of motivating us."

Cable said the idea came from individual talks with players during training camp. One of the questions was, "What is your favorite movie and why?" Cable's favorite? "Miracle," the story of the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey team starring Kurt Russell.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Jason Campbell has a quarterback rating of 104.3 in the Raiders' three-game win streak (46 of 80, 743 yards, five TDs, one interception).

--RB Darren McFadden has 365 yards on 53 carries and eight receptions for 80 yards during the Raiders' three-game win streak.

--FB Marcel Reece has 17 rushing attempts, 13 receptions and three total touchdowns a year after Raiders fullbacks had just four runs from scrimmage, 19 catches and no touchdowns in 16 games.

--WR Louis Murphy has not caught more than two passes in a game since Sept. 26, when he had five catches for 119 yards against Arizona.

--WR Darrius Heyward-Bey has started 18 games for the Raiders and has one or zero receptions in 13 of them.

--TE Zach Miller has already established a career high with four touchdown receptions.

--DT Tommy Kelly has already established a career high with five sacks and has all of them in his last five games.

--LB Kamerion Wimbley has 4.5 sacks through nine games after having 15.5 in his last 47 games with the Cleveland Browns.

--CB Stanford Routt has a career high with eight passes defensed in nine games after having seven last season and in 2007.

--PK Sebastian Janikowski has a career-high 24 touchbacks through nine games with a previous career-best of 22 set in 2008, 2007 and 2002.



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