Where JaMarcus Russell is concerned, it's all good.
As for Javon Walker, well, Week 1 of the regular season is still three weeks away.
A day after the Raiders' 17-16 road loss to the Tennessee Titans, Raiders coach Lane Kiffin was still glowing over the performance of Russell, who led the Raiders to their only touchdown of the game in the first half with a 10-yard strike to Zach Miller.
Walker, on the other hand, was called out for his failure to catch Russell's first pass and challenged by the head coach to play up to the standards of a free agent contract which earned him $11 million simply by signing his name.
Russell completed 10 of 17 passes for a modest 75 yards in playing the first half, with all his highlights coming in a six-play, 61-yard drive that resulted in the touchdown pass to Miller.
On the touchdown drive, Russell was 5-for-6 for 61 yards and a touchdown, his quarterback rating a Tom Brady-like 148.3. His other seven drives resulted in six punts and a field goal. He was 5-for-11 for 14 yards, a rating of 52.3, and the 26 yards on the drive to Aaron Elling's 56-yard field goal were on a single run by Darren McFadden.
When asked about Russell's work other than the touchdown drive, Kiffin had no complaints.
"There was nothing to point at him as far as not doing things right,'' Kiffin said. "It was either things weren't there or a guy wasn't making plays for him. I thought he played extremely well when you look at his composure, his energy, his excitement.''
"I was pretty good out there today,'' he said after the game. "At the same time, you can always work to improve yourself in every aspect of your game.''
Walker, in the eyes of his head coach, falls into that category as well.
Faced with a third-and-two on Oakland's first possession, a Russell pass glanced off Walker's hands for an incompletion. He later got open only to have a Russell pass sail over his head.
When camp broke, Kiffin conceded he has been critical of Walker since the receiver contemplated retirement early on in Napa. He said Walker had improved his practices of late and sounded encouraged.
The gloves were off Saturday, when Kiffin brought up Walker's third-down drop in his opening statement. Later, his criticisms were more pointed, also alluding to a fade pattern in the first exhibition game against the 49ers that Walker did not catch.
"That's discouraging because he was paid an awful lot of money, paid like one of the top five receivers in the NFL,'' Kiffin said. "We need him to make those plays.''
Brown in the lead
Ricky Brown is the favorite to become the Raiders strong side linebacker after having an impressive game against the Titans.
Brown, primarily a special teams player, is competing with Robert Thomas and Sam Williams, both who have started in the past.
"It's Ricky's job to lose,'' Kiffin said.
Kiffin said a decision between Jake Grove and John Wade at center could come this week. Drew Carter will start the next game against Arizona and continue his attempt to wrest a starter's job from Ronald Curry, Kiffin said.
Rookie seventh-round pick Chaz Schilens "played the best of all our receivers'' against Tennessee and helped his chances to make the 53-man roster. Schilens had three receptions for 45 yards ... Running back Louis Rankin, an undrafted free agent from Washington, was removed after a 6-yard run on Oakland's last possession because he ran out of bounds instead of staying in bounds and stopping the clock. His replacement, Adimchinobe Echemandu, promptly ran 72 yards on one play and then also ran out of bounds. The Raiders eventually lost with one second remaining on a Titans field goal. "If either one of those plays, they stay in bounds like they're coached to do, we're not even in that situation at the end,'' Kiffin said ... Johnnie Lee Higgins, who lost a fumble at the 5-yard line which resulted in a Titans touchdown, will return kicks again against Arizona in large part because there are no viable replacements, according to Kiffin.
— Jerry McDonald