There wasn't a week in the ' 2007 season where JaMarcus Russell's name wasn't mentioned. It didn't matter if he was in street clothes, suited up on the sidelines or lining up under 4 Brett Favre White jersey
center.In Week 1, the former LSU quarterback was still unsigned. That was the early season topic. In Week 10, the team was 2-9 and Russell was on the bench. The No. 1 question then regarded when he would start. In Week 16, he was finally starting. That question was answered, but the talk of a "new era" was just beginning.Through it all, two other first-year players were very quietly making their marks on the field, with little recognition along the way. The spotlight was rarely directed off Russell and toward any of his fellow draftees.Second-round tight end Zach Miller and sixth-round fullback Oren O'Neal both deserve a bit of that limelight.Miller capped off the 2007 season tied for second on the team in catches, while O'Neal took home the Raiders' annual "Plunkie" award, which goes to the team's rookie of the year, named after and presented by Bay Area Hall of Famer Jim Plunkett.Miller, who was drafted 37 slots after Russell, hauled in 44 passes in his first season with Oakland, good for 444 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end finished just 11 receptions behind the team's leading pass catcher (Ronald Curry), and capped off his rookie campaign with a career-high eight-grab game in Week 17.As a rookie in 1988, all-time Raiders leading receiver Tim Brown caught 43 passes for 725 yards and five TDs. Miller is the first rookie Raider to surpass that reception total in 20 years.The 22-year-old was also an instrumental part of helping to make Oakland the sixth-best rushing offense in the NFL, starting in all 16 games and blocking for three different primary running backs.Another important but much more discreet contributor to that same cause was O'Neal, who took part in 14 games as a rookie.O'Neal didn't get a single carry all season long, and had just a lone 1-yard reception, but he was a key lead blocker for 1,000-yard rusher Justin Fargas. After a slow start to the season, O'Neal began splitting time with No. 1 fullback Justin Griffith later in the year and even earned a Week 16 start. The 245-pounder helped pave the way for four combined 100-yard efforts by Fargas and Dominic Rhodes to close out the final five weeks of the '07 season."It feels real good to Jets 6 Sanchez AFL50th jersey
know that the coaches feel you've done a pretty good job and your hard work is starting to pay off," O'Neal commented after earning the team's rookie of the year award."I'm real excited about our future," he added.Luckily for Russell, both Miller and O'Neal are two up-and-coming players who will at some point make his quarterbacking job a bit easier. When that time comes, he'll have no problem sharing the spotlight.