Oakland Raiders' Jason Campbell to Break out in 2011
Is he the next Jim Plunkett?
What matters at this time is Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell plays well enough for the Raiders to win ball games. The former first round pick in 2005 is entering his seventh year of a career that he hasn't quite been able to get on track.
At least not yet.
I say that because I am predicting a long overdue breakout season for Campbell in 2011. There are a few factors that tell me that things will be different in 2011 from what they were in his first six years.
Turn the page to check it all out.
Campbell is now the undisputed leader of the Raiders offense.
He played well down the stretch of the 2010 season to earn the title Raiders head coach Hue Jackson gave him this offseason. During the lockout, he ran with the title by hosting a players-only offseason minicamp with fellow Raiders captain Richard Seymour.
This is in stark contrast to 2010, when then Raiders head coach Tom Cable did everything he could to get Bruce Gradkowski on the field. We all know how that went as Gradkowski is now a Bengal and Campbell now knows he's the guy in Raider Nation.
That's important for a quarterback to be his head coach's guy.
For the first time since he was in high school, Campbell is in the same system in back to back years. This is important because the quarterback needs to know the offense like the back of his hand.
That's why Peyton Manning and Tom Brady can go through checks at the line of scrimmage for what seems like five minutes before the ball is snapped. This is in no way to compare Campbell to the two Hall of Fame quarterbacks but it shows the value of a quarterback knowing everything there is to know about his system.
Jackson has gone from offensive coordinator to head coach so Campbell gets a new coordinator. But that's not a problem, Al Saunders was with Campbell before in Washington and Jackson's mentor in Baltimore.
That means Jackson gets a familiar face back and the Xs and Os don't change from last year.
Campbell being familiar with his personnel is equally important for the timing and chemistry with receivers. That also goes back to his checks because he knows what he can check into based on the skill set of the personnel on the field on a given play.
Any football player benefits from less thinking and just playing.
Campbell was quoted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson saying, "When you're in a new offense, you have to always think. I want to just play and not think so much. Being a quarterback, it's better to just playing instead of thinking about everything all the time. http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post?id=42752
Improved over the Years
Despite the circumstances he was under in Washington, he statistically improved every year. That did happen in his first year in Raider Nation but you can look at some other top notch quarterbacks in their first year with their new team.
Jay Cutler had a quarterback rating of 76.8 in his first year with the Chicago Bears. Donovan McNabb had a quarterback rating of 77.1 in his first year with the Washington Redskins. (The team Campbell came from).
Campbell, in his first year with the Raiders got benched but finished with a quarterback rating of 84.5. The other quarterbacks are much more accomplished but were much worse than Campbell their first years with new teams.
You can say that 2010 was a microcosm of Campbell's career as he improved as the season went on. Current Raiders and former Redskins tackle Stephon Heyer recognizes the difference in Campbell from his days in D.C.
Heyer said, "He has gotten better over time. His pocket presence, his huddle presence, is definitely better than it used to be. It looks like he's more of a leader. He's more comfortable. I can see that more so than ever."
Wouldn't you say Heyer has see enough of Campbell in both places to know the difference?
No More Excuses
The different offensive coordinator excuse isn't going to fly forever. That excuse ends now because he has the same offense in 2011 as he had in 2010.
What does that mean?
It means Campbell knows that he can't keep making that excuse and he needs to play well this year. He's already a hard worker but knowing that this is do or die time has Campbell even harder at work.
There will be no complacency for Campbell from Jackson's vote of confidence this offseason.
Get That Money!
How's this for another reason to work harder?
Campbell's contract expires after this year.
He is a former first round pick and I'm sure he's acquired a lifestyle with the money from that contract. Based on how he plays this year, that lifestyle while either be majorly upgraded or downgraded.
If he does well and the Raiders win, Davis is going to double or more than double his $4.5 million salary. If he doesn't, he may end up as the Raiders backup, another team's backup or out of the league altogether.
I'm sure part of the reason he is hard at work is so he can taste the riches he would get from a successful season.
I don't know what the Raiders are going to do with Darrius Heyward-Bey because there's a new kid in town. As Heyward-Bey was slow to start practicing, rookie Denarius Moore has blazed a trail through camp.
Stanford Routt or anyone that's been lined up across from Moore gets a little nervous before the snap. That's because Moore could potentially embarrass either one of them on a given play and he has.
What's most important is he has the attention of the quarterback.
Jerry McDonald quoted Campbell saying of Moore, "He's like another Jacoby Ford." Then after a big play in practice, he quoted Jackson saying, "Mama, there goes that man again!"
What will he do in the regular season?
Raider Nation need not cry over the loss of Zach Miller.
Kevin Boss is just as reliable a pass catcher as Miller is but just doesn't have the amount of targets. This is obviously due to the fact that Boss has played with some much better receivers.
But I believe Boss is a better fit for what the Raiders do because he is a superior run blocker. He is also faster to get down field and his advantage (6'7"-6'5") makes him a better red zone target.
He has six more touchdowns in 15 less games than Miller for his career.
I know, the season hasn't started yet but Schilens is usually on some type of disabled list by now. This is even more assuring that my previously made prediction of a healthy Schilens for 2011 will come true.
So far in camp he has looked great, and hasn't gotten up limping after going to the ground on a play. This gives the Raiders the Andre Johnson type of No. 1 receiver they have been looking for for years.
The 6'4", 225 pound Shilens runs a 4.33 40, has a 43 inch vertical leap, runs good routes and has hands like glue. He has better measurables than Johnson as well, with better hands, but health has kept him from playing.
This is the year he becomes a top receiver, helping Campbell become one of the better quarterbacks.
Louis Murphy is another one of those track men at the receiver position for the Raiders. However, he is a football player that was on pace to be the Raiders first 1,000-yard receiver before being derailed by injuries.
I've seen where many have printed that Murphy drops too many balls.
That might have been the case in 2009 but in 2010 Murphy had a drop percentage of 6.7 percent. That can't be too bad because Johnson, the game's universally known best receiver, has a drop percentage of 6.5 percent.
Murphy was on pace for 1,000 yards for a reason last year and I look for him to step up to No. 1 if Schilens goes down. Either way, Murphy will help Campbell in 2011 as he is the quintessential deep threat that Davis has always coveted.
Jacoby Ford will be out for 2-3 weeks because of a broken hand.
Ford broke out in the second half of the 2010 season and Jackson vowed that he'll be a "household name" in 2011. Ford did look like he would live up to Jackson's hype early in camp before the injury cut into his camp.
I look for Ford to come back from his injury as both a deep threat and slot receiver in 2011. His running skills after the catch will help Campbell as short passes will be turned into big gains and touchdowns.
His return skills will have Campbell in good starting field position too.
McFadden is the player the Raiders are built around. Opposing defenses put eight in the box to stop him. That gives aforementioned weapons more room to operate as safeties will be concerned about McFadden.
It is for that reason that McFadden will be Campbell's best friend as he looks to build on his 2010 breakout season. He was looking like he is on a mission to do just that in camp before breaking his orbital bone.
He's expected to miss 2-3 weeks but there's no real cause for concern as the orbital bone is in the face so that doesn't give him a bodily injury to come back from. He can continue to run around and stay in shape while his body stays fresh from not having contact for that 2-3 weeks.
Remember, the Chargers used to shut LaDainian Tomlinson down for the preseason. I don't expect McFadden to miss significant playing time in 2011 as he provides Campbell with additional help as a receiver out of the backfield.
That's even more opportunities for Campbell to benefit from a long run off of a short pass.
Campbell even has his other best friend in Michael Bush as he signed his tender to help out in the running game. As if there weren't enough weapons, he has a 4.4 running fullback in Marcel Reece and 4.4 running tight end in rookie David Ausberry to throw the ball down the field to.
Who are you going to double without getting hurt elsewhere?
Put these weapons together with Campbell knowing the offense and having the belief of is head coach. This sets Campbell up as a serious breakout candidate for the 2011 season for the Raiders.
The only real question is the offensive line, namely left tackle.