Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Red Hot Raider Pepper

Isn't it ironic? Just last week I received my new JRuss 6" figure in the mail (see my previous post). Raider Tom, who customizes Raider figures using other NFL players from the McFarland series, modeled my JRuss figure after a Culpepper Series 2 model.

Fast forward to this week. The Raiders sign Culpepper to a 1 year contract. I like the signing of Culpepper for a few key reasons:

> First and foremost is that it instantly increases the level of competition at the QB position. Head Coach Kiffin has emphasized the need to create an environment where competition is front & center. He made this point the centerpiece of his press conference the day he was hired. His actions over the past few months has backed up this claim. The quality of depth at each position has risen.

> McCown & Walter will need to raise their game. McCown will be fighting to be the week 1 starter. Walter will be competing to just make the final 53 man roster.

> It is essentially a low risk signing that gives Head Coach Kiffin more flexibility and options before the season starts and during the 2007 campaign.

> Culpepper, an 8 year veteran who is a physical carbon copy of JRuss, is the ideal mentor for our newly drafted #1 pick. The question is which Culpepper did we sign? Was it the injury plauged QB who struggled mightily the last 2 seasons, the All Pro caliber QB form of 2000 to 2004, or something in between? The skill set and ability is there. The real question boils down to the level of mobility & health of the current Culpepper.

My take on the QB Depth Chart:

1. Josh McCown: I give McCown a slight edge to be the week 1 starter over Pepper. McCown will hear Pepper's footsteps if he struggles in camp.

1A. Daunte Culpepper: Needs to show he is 100% healthy, shake off some rust, and digest the new playbook quickly. If McCown is the opening day starter but falters in the 1st 5 weeks, Pepper can step in.

3. JaMarucs Russell: Missing 7 days of training camp (so far) due to his contract holdout has stunted his development. 2 things are causing the holdout. JRuss' agent is waiting for Calvin Johnson to sign first to set the floor & the structure of the contract in terms of the guaranteed bonus portion. A few obvious factors will dictate if/when JRuss gets on the field in 2007. It will depend on when he signs. To put the Russell holdout in perspective, refer to Leinart's holdout last year. Leinart held out for 2 weeks and still became the Cardinals starter by week 5. If it is a relatively short hold out (2 weeks or less) there is a reasonable chance for JRuss to start by at least mid season. If it is a protracted holdout there is a good chance that JRuss will be idle most of 2007. Other factors; how steep will the learning curve be? the performance of McCown/Culpepper; the performance of the teams in terms of wins/losses.

> Andrew Walter: With the signing of Pepper, AW will probably be cut, traded, or shelved on IR with a phantom injury. He could become a serviceable back up but his lack of mobility will severely handicap his chances to become a #1 QB under Kiffin's offensive system.

> Jeff Otis: Start clearing your locker. Your next.

> Cody Pickett: Signed 2 days ago. Cut today.

I love the fact that we have 2 capable, veteran QBs (McCown & Culpepper) to be a temporary, 1 year bridge for the Raiders long term future. The long term future success is going to be built on the mind of Kiffin and the broad shoulders of JaMarcus Russell. We drafted Russell to be our franchise QB. His holdout and what happens in 07' doesn't change that fact. By having these 2 signal caller battling it out for the #1 role, there will be no need to rush Russell onto the field prematurely.