ALAMEDA — Beating the New Orleans Saints on Sunday was Tom Cable's primary objective in his first game as Raiders coach.
To that end, the trip was an abject failure. Not all was lost, however. Cable said he gleaned valuable insight into the status of quarterback JaMarcus Russell's development.
"We really found out a lot about where he is," Cable said in his weekly news conference Monday. "And it's obvious he's still in a stage of development. It's obvious maybe he can't handle that much."
Cable instructed offensive coordinator Greg Knapp to install a game plan that involved more passing plays than that of the first four games. Russell attempted 35 passes and completed only 13 in the Raiders' 34-3 loss.
On the bright side, Cable said eight of Russell's incompletions came on balls that should have been caught. The downside is, five of Russell's passes sailed right into the path of Saints defenders.
Former coach Lane Kiffin resisted the urge to unleash Russell because he wasn't convinced that Russell was ready for a starring role. Instead, he brought along Russell at a steady pace and had him focus on not being sacked and not turning over the ball.
Russell's completion percentage through five games dropped to 50 percent. Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck (49.2 percent) is the only NFL starting quarterback with a lower figure.
"I don't think it was a setback," Cable said. "In his development and where we all want him to be as an organization, it was a tremendous lesson. He's going take this thing and grow a mile and a half from what happened (Sunday). Maybe that sounds funny, but you have got to remember, before you can ever learn anything, before you can succeed at anything, you have got to fail."
As usual, Russell took everything in stride. "It was another step forward," the second-year quarterback said after the game. "I just got to keep (moving) forward and just keep grinding, keep hard at it."
Cable said he and Knapp will sort out the things that Russell does best and focus on those things, which doesn't preclude game plans that rely upon the passing game as much as it did Sunday.
Running backs staying
Cable said he and the Raiders are all ears when it comes to entertaining trade offers.
However, a CBS report that aired Sunday about the Raiders dangling running backs Justin Fargas and Michael Bush isn't "accurate in any way," Cable said.
The league trade deadline is today at 1 p.m. It's conceivable the Raiders will make a move, though nothing is imminent.
"We'll listen to anybody," Cable said.
Teams are wasting their time if they harbor any illusions of prying away either Fargas or Bush, Cable said.
"No, I would not be," Cable said, when asked if he was shopping his running backs. "No. No one would be doing that, I don't think. Those are two really good players on this football team."
Cable didn't back down from his belief that his players didn't play as hard as expected against the Saints.
"We can play with better effort than that," Cable said.
He said he isn't sure why his team's preparation didn't manifest itself in a more spirited effort. Just the same, he said, it's unacceptable.
"When it was time to put it out there, I don't think we did," he said. "That's not being negative or being down on them; that's calling it like it is. And that starts with me. I didn't push them hard enough last week."
Saints coach Sean Payton apparently noticed the same thing.
"Oakland got tired, just from watching the tape, and I certainly felt that way (Sunday). There were about six or seven plays where we were snapping the ball, and they weren't aligned or set or ready."
The second opinion sought by defensive end Derrick Burgess confirmed what Raiders doctors discovered. Burgess' right triceps is strained. Therefore, his status for now is week-to-week, Cable said. Burgess sustained the injury against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 21. He missed the Saints game and is questionable for the New York Jets game Sunday. ... Wide receiver Ashley Lelie rebounded well from the blow he took to the head in Sunday's game, Cable said. "He was fine (Monday) morning," Cable said. "His concussion symptoms seem to be gone. I just talked to him; he feels great right now." ... Darren McFadden (turf toe) shed the protective boot he has worn on his right foot for almost a month. "He says he feels better," Cable said. "He's a little bit sore, but not sore like he had been in the past." As a result, Cable said, McFadden likely will practice on a Wednesday for the first time in several weeks.
— Steve Corkran