Monday, February 15, 2010

Offensive linemen top 49ers, Raiders draft needs

Is it me or do we debate the future of pro quarterbacks in the Bay Area with the same frequency and intensity that they debate the future of health care in Congress?
JaMarcus Russell leads his team on an improbable game-winning touchdown drive in Denver, repeatedly signals God in the Mile High City, gets a game ball from his head coach and a little bit of confidence for the first time in months and the Raiders tell him the next day that he’ll stay on the bench if Bruce Gradkowski can run this week or Charlie Frye can recite the alphabet. In other words, unless Tom Cable changes his mind this week, the other quarterbacks would have to be either cripple or concussed for Russell to start this Sunday.
Meanwhile, Alex Smith throws three interceptions in the first half in Philadelphia, gets publicly criticized by his head coach for poor play in the City of Brotherly Love, gets an apology from said coach the next day and earns another chance to start. This is gall.
Well, isn’t about time that both of our pro football franchises draft another QB? This merry-go-round of mediocrity, misery and Monday morning quarterbacking mystery has gone on longer the Chris Cohan Era with the Warriors. Get off the pot or make shift.
The chances of Russell or Smith turning a corner in their NFL careers seems as likely as a toboggan turning a corner going downhill in Tahoe. At some point this weekly argument about the future of our starting quarterbacks has got to run into a giant snowdrift and simply disappear. It’s driving me nuts because the cycle never ends. It’s as annoying as Ned the insurance man in Ground Hog Day.
Let’s just say all the constant whining and wailing about Russell and Smith every single week makes me so sick that I want to name them H1 and N1.
The Raiders have invested three years and about $36 million in Russell and he’s nothing but a third-stringer in their minds right now. He has fallen further and faster on the depth chart than Tiger Woods. Unless Russell gives Al Davis a reason to believe in him and defend him in the next few months – how ‘bout an overhead projector breakdown of Russell re-negotiating down his contract figures? – then Russell is either gone or evolves into the next Alex Smith in the Land of Shawn Hills.
The Raiders have tried to give Russell better coaching and protection and more competition and commiserating to light a fire under him to discover that he’s about as fire retardant as William “The Refrigerator” Perry.
So what’s Davis to do? Draft another quarterback, baby. A Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. It’s soooo Al. He covets Heisman Trophy caliber players like Tiger does mistresses.
It appears that the Raiders, next to last in the league in passing this season, may have a shot to pick 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma with their first selection in the first round, though the Raiders could risk it and wait until early in the second round and 2007Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow of Florida could fall into their laps. Then again, Al Davis didn’t wait for Sebastian Janikowski to slip into round two.
Logically, the Raiders would do better to take an offensive lineman. Either Oklahoma State’s 6-foot-5, 303-pound Russell Okung or 6-foot-5, 318-pound Trent Williams of Oklahoma – the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of tackles in the 2010 NFL draft -- should be on the board when Oakland makes its first pick on April 22. Then the Raiders could select someone such as Texas quarterback Colt McCoy (who completed 73 percent of his passes the past two years) or Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead in the second round and give them a year to develop from the sideline watching Gradkowski play Gradlousy.
Then again, Al loves speed and Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain would bolster a Raiders run defense that ranks 28th in the NFL in stopping the run. Roll tide with Rolando, and roll away Russell Error.
The 49ers have two first-round picks which gives them flexibility to maneuver and move up in the first round to take Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen or Bradford, who passed for 88 touchdowns with only 16 interceptions in his Sooners’ career. But that’s not the call in Singletary’s Show and Tell World.
Realistically, the 49ers sound committed to Alex Smith for one more year so I suppose they could go after Washington’s Jake Locker in 2011 if things get worse. And, unlike the Raiders, the 49ers have a young quarterback (Nate Davis) on their roster they’d like to groom.
That line of thinking means the 49ers will be thinking to improve their offensive line. With the first-round pick the 49ers acquired from Carolina (if the Panthers lose their last two games they could finish as high as eighth in the draft order) the 49ers could have an outside shot at OU’s Williams. If not, they could grab Florida cornerback Joe Haden then maybe pick up Rutgers’ Anthony Davis (6-5, 322 pounds) or Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell (6-7, 310 pounds) in the middle of the first round and follow Samurai Mike’s creed for smash mouth football. The 49ers, even with Frank Gore, are only 26th in the league in rushing.
If the 49ers go offense with their first first-round selection, they might go defense with the second first-rounder and USC safety Taylor Mays could provide some smash mouth in the secondary. The 49ers are 28th in the league in defending the pass. Of course, putting more pressure on the opposing QB has been an Achilles heel in San Francisco, so Georgia Tech 6-4, 275-pound defensive end Derrick Morgan, if he declares for the draft, could give them a pass rusher on the edge.
We’ll have to wait until Feb. 24 to take a serious peek at the 2010 NFL draft when prospective draftees strip down to their underwear at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. Until then, it’s JaMarcus and Alex and the revolving door of doubt each and every week.
Enjoy it while it lasts. I’m going to go get my H1N1 shot.


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