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Scouting report: Oakland Raiders


Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell has a 39.8 passer rating through three games.

The Texans (1-2) host the Oakland Raiders (1-2) Sunday in a Week 4 matchup at Reliant Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. CT.

Head coach Tom Cable and the Raiders were held in check in Week 3 at home against the Broncos, falling 23-3. Their only victory of the season came in Week 2 versus Kansas City. Cable is a first-year head coach.

OFFENSE Quarterback: Starter JaMarcus Russell has struggled so far in 2009 and enters Week 4 with a passer rating of 39.8. Russell has thrown four interceptions and just a single touchdown, which came in the fourth quarter of a Week 1 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Sunday against the Broncos, Russell was 12-of-21 for 61 yards, was picked off twice and sacked three times.

In 2008, the former LSU Tiger threw 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He finished with more than 2,400 passing yards and a career-best 77.1 passer rating.

Bruce Gradkowski is the backup and has completed the only two passes he has thrown, which were in Week 1. As a rookie with the Buccaneers in 2006, Gradkowski started 11 games, tossed nine touchdown passes and nine interceptions and put up more than 1,600 passing yards.

Running back: The Raiders feature a diverse group of running backs, led by starter Darren McFadden. The second-year back from Arkansas is averaging 3.6 yards per carry, gaining 148 yards on 41 attempts. McFadden has fumbled three times, losing one, and scored his only touchdown of the season in the Week 2 triumph at Kansas City. He's also caught six passes for 48 yards.

Michael Bush is the backup, and his production has dropped week-by-week since he gained 55 yards against the Chargers in the season opener. In 2009, the former Louisville Cardinal has 110 yards on 27 attempts, with his lone touchdown of the season coming against San Diego. Bush has caught six passes for 41 yards.

Justin Fargas gained more than 1,000 yards in 2007, but he has carried the ball just two times in 2009 for a grand total of eight yards.

Wide receiver: Leading the way receiving-wise for Oakland is Louis Murphy, who's caught the lone Russell touchdown of the season. In 2009, he has eight receptions for 138 yards. Murphy opened the season with a solid performance, catching four balls for 87 yards against San Diego, but in Weeks 2 and 3 caught two passes apiece.

Murphy is the only Raiders wide receiver with more than a single catch in 2009. First-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey caught an 18-yard pass in the second quarter of Week 2 but has been shut down for the past six quarters. Todd Watkins caught a pass for 28 yards against the Chiefs but didn't have any receptions in Week 1 or Week 3.

Tight end: With eight receptions, Zach Miller is tied with Murphy for the team lead. He's second on the club with 113 receiving yards. In 2008, Miller finished with 778 yards, topping his 2007 rookie total of 444. He has caught four touchdowns in his three-year career.

Tony Stewart is the second tight end. The nine-year veteran has one catch for 13 yards.

Offensive line: The Raiders up front are anchored on the left side by tackle Mario Henderson, while Chris Morris is the center. The team's been without left guard Robert Gallery, who's out with an injured knee. Gallery's absence has meant more playing time for backup Erik Pears. Cooper Carlisle and Cornell Green hold down the right side of the line for Oakland.

The unit has struggled in 2009, paving the way for a ground game averaging only 3.9 yards a carry. They have allowed six sacks.

DEFENSE Defensive line: Defensive end Richard Seymour headlines the Raider front. The former All-Pro with the Patriots was acquired on Sept. 6 in exchange for a 2011 first-round draft choice. Seymour's career in Oakland began with a bang, as he recorded a pair of sacks in the opener against the Chargers to go along with his six tackles. He cooled off in the following two games, finishing with just three total tackles in both.

Seymour has three Super Bowl rings after an eight-year run in New England. He started 105 of 111 games over that span, which began in 2001. He had 460 tackles and 39 sacks, and in 2002 was selected to the first of five consecutive Pro Bowls.

At the end opposite Seymour is former Cowboy Greg Ellis, who signed a free agent deal in the offseason. With a dozen years under his belt, Ellis has three sacks and nine total tackles thus far in 2009. Ellis spent eight seasons as a defensive end before moving to linebacker in 2006. With 12.5 sacks in 2007, he was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year and selected to the Pro Bowl. Ellis has 77 career sacks, 10th among active players, and tallied 505 total tackles, 21 forced fumbles and scored two defensive touchdowns in his career. Since 1998, he's played in 162 games with 156 starts.

On the interior, nine-year vet Gerard Warren has seven stops so far in 2009. Warren has played in 119 games and has notched 262 tackles, 30 sacks and seven forced fumbles since entering the league in 2001 with the Browns. Last season in Oakland, Warren started all 16 games at tackle and collected 39 tackles, five quarterback hurries, one pass defensed, one forced fumble and four sacks.

The other tackle, Tommy Kelly, has eight total tackles in 2009. In 2008, the six-year veteran from Mississippi State was one of six Raiders to start all 16 games. He also ranked third on the team with 4.5 sacks, for losses totaling 26 yards. Kelly accumulated 55 tackles (31 solo) and added eight quarterback hurries. For his career, he's seen action in 65 games with 53 starts in five seasons and has 17.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and six passes defensed.

Linebacker: Middle linebacker Kirk Morrison is a five-year veteran who has been in the starting lineup since his rookie season of 2005. Last Sunday against Denver, Morrison finished with nine stops, seven of them solo. In 2008, he led the team and established a career-high with 135 tackles, which was the fifth-best total in the NFL. Morrison also contributed one sack, one interception, one pass defensed and two forced fumbles.

Outside linebacker Thomas Howard has been consistent through the first three games of the season, finishing with nine total tackles in Week 1 and eight total tackles a game in Weeks 2 and 3. The productive performer earned a starting job as a rookie in 2006 and has since started 47 of 48 games in his three seasons. The former UTEP Miner tallied 110 stops as a rookie and followed that up with 95 tackles in 2007 and 97 tackles in 2008.

Last season, Howard ranked third on the team with 97 tackles and 80 solo stops. He also recorded one sack, one quarterback hurry, one interception, five passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

Ricky Brown is the other starting outside linebacker. He posted seven tackles Sunday versus the Broncos. Brown has 21 stops on the season along with a forced fumble. Brown played in seven games in 2008 and started six of them, tallying 37 tackles with one pass defensed and one forced fumble. He was injured for much of November and December.

Secondary: Nnamdi Asomugha is the headliner of the defensive backfield, and the cornerback hasn't seen many balls thrown to his side of the field in 2009. Because the action typically stays away from him, Asomugha has managed to notch just seven combined tackles through the first three games. He also has yet to pick off a pass, but that's a credit to his prowess as a defender and the respect that opposing offenses pay him.

Asomugha earned his first Pro Bowl selection as a starter following the 2008 season. He has played in 92 games with 69 starts and 10 interceptions in six seasons. In 2008, he was named All-Pro by the Associated Press and collected 40 tackles, defensed a team-high nine passes and had one interception.

Opposite Asomugha at the other cornerback spot is Chris Johnson, who has 14 total tackles so far in 2009. The six-year veteran has seen action in 41 games, including 28 with the Raiders over two seasons. Last year in Oakland, he appeared in 15 games, starting seven contests. Johnson tied for the team lead and set a career high with three interceptions, and also totaled 35 tackles, 12 passes defensed and one forced fumble.

Strong safety Tyvon Branch has been busy the first three weeks of 2009, as he's registered 25 total tackles and led the Raiders with 10 in Sunday's loss to Denver. As a rookie in 2008, Branch notched 10 tackles and picked off one pass.

Special teams: The Raiders are as skilled at kicking the football as any team in the NFL. Perennial All-Pro punter Shane Lechler has boomed 15 punts in 2009 for an average of 52.2 yards per. He crushed a 70-yarder against Kansas City for his longest punt of the 2009 season. Since leaving Texas A&M, the four-time Pro Bowler (2001, 2004, 2007 and 2008) has established himself as the NFL record-holder for best average per punt in a career at 46.8 yards per punt.

Kicker Sebastian Janikowski leads the Raiders in scoring in 2009 with 18 points. Fifteen of those have come courtesy of field goals, as Janikowski is a perfect five-for-five with a long of 54 yards against Kansas City. Last year, he became the Raiders' all-time scoring leader (905 points), eclipsing Pro Football Hall of Famer George Blanda's previous franchise mark of 863 points. Janikowski has led the team in scoring in each of his nine seasons, playing in 141 games and seven postseason contests, including Super Bowl XXXVII. He also owns the highest field goal percentage in Raiders history at 77.2.

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