Oakland Raiders Quarterback Jason Campbell Is Ready
I BELIEVE IN YOU, JASON!
Sorry, I guess I've watched Deion Sanders on NFL Network one time too many. But I can't help but believe that Jason Campbell is ready to lead his Oakland Raiders in 2011.
There has been lots of talk about Campbell in Raider Nation lately.
Can he put up big numbers, become an elite quarterback or make the Pro Bowl?
He doesn't have to do all that!
Before you shoot that down, Plunkett wasn't one of the sexy quarterbacks of the '80s but he did win two Super Bowls. So all Campbell needs to do is lead the Raiders to the playoffs in 2011, and I believe he can.
Like Plunkett was, Campbell is supremely talented with good work ethic but didn't have the supporting cast early in his career. But his supporting cast and journey now has him ready to lead the Raiders to the playoffs.
Turn the page for a closer look.
Journey: No Respect in Washington
While in Washington, Campbell was constantly made the scapegoat for all of the Redskins' woes. Tight end Chris Cooley and receiver Santana Moss were all he had to work with, and they were hampered by injuries.
Add to that the fact that the offensive line didn't protect him very well.
But still, they blamed Campbell.
Left tackle Trent Williams was then drafted to protect McNabb's the blind side as well as other offensive pieces being added.
The result wasn't pretty, as McNabb and the Redskins had a horrendous season in 2010.
Shanahan seems to blaming McNabb these days, as he benched him at the end of the season.
Journey: First Year as a Raider
Jason Campbell then comes to Raider Nation and has to learn his sixth playbook in as many years. But this time, he had to learn his new teammates as well.
Yet he has already taken the Raiders to places they haven't been in a long time, like a .500 record.
That isn't a major milestone by any means, but finishing .500 is a start in the right direction for a franchise that has been under .500 the last seven years prior.
In 12 games, he threw for 2,387 yards, 13 touchdowns, and eight interceptions with a quarterback rating of 84.5. Those aren't sexy numbers, but it was his first year with the team, and the offensive line didn't protect him very well.
Again, I use McNabb, who just completed his first season with a new team.
He threw for over 3,300 yards, 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with a quarterback rating of 77.1.
Journey: What He Overcame
Campbell came to Raider Nation and still didn't get any respect.
He played with a shoulder stinger on this throwing shoulder that he got in the preseason due to lack of protection. Stingers last around 4-6 weeks, so it contributed to Campbell's struggles early in the season.
Raider fans would chant "BRUCE" for Bruce Gradkowski after Campbell threw his first incompletion in a game. Davis compared Campbell to Plunkett right after acquiring him, then fans made Campbell feel like he was replacing him.
It also didn't help that his head coach at the time (Tom Cable) wanted Gradkowski in the game at all costs.
Campbell was then yanked from the starting lineup until former Raider quarterback Gradkowski fell to injury. The Raiders then won four in a row with Campbell at the helm and and he was dumped in favor of Gradkowski again.
But Campbell never complained.
Journey: How He Overcame It
I have to give some credit to newly promoted Raider head coach Hue Jackson for Campbell overcoming.
There was the story where he called Campbell into his office to tell the quarterback not try to be perfect and give his receivers a chance to make plays.
He also encouraged Campbell to make plays out of the pocket and run if necessary. From there, he would rediscover the legs that led Auburn to an undefeated record in his collegiate days.
I'd have to say that was the most important thing he did, because the Raiders' offensive line didn't protect the quarterback very well in 2010. He was able to break long runs and extend plays to find receivers down the field.
He was no longer a robot sitting and waiting in the pocket.
Journey: Strong Finish in 2010
In my opinion, the best way to measure a player after just one year with the team is improvement.
Did the player finish better than he started?
The answer here is a big yes.
Due to an injury to Gradkowski, Campbell would get another opportunity and it wasn't hard to tell that Campbell was prepared for it.
Over the last five games of the season, Campbell threw for 1,065 yards, six touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also had a completion percentage of 65 percent and and quarterback rating of 96.8 during that stretch.
They also averaged 33 points per game.
That's a strong finish!
In His Favor: Leadership
Hall of Fame corner Deion Sanders on NFL Network consistently says, "I want a guy that's been through something leading my team."
The Oakland Raiders seem to agree with that sentiment.
Campbell has won the Raider locker room over with all that he overcame to play well down the stretch last year. Jackson has gone on record since the end of the season and called the Raiders "Campbell's team."
So what would Campbell do with it?
My biggest question going into this whole deal with Campbell was his ability to lead men.
But now, his leadership is on full display, as he and Richard Seymour have conducted offseason workouts with the team at an undisclosed location.
Campbell has gone on NFL Sirius Radio as well as twitter to let Raider Nation know that the work is being done.
He also mentioned that his work with receivers Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey has been going on for quite some time.
That's just what Raider Nation wants to hear!
In His Favor: Familiarity
Campbell is getting ready to play with the same offensive system for the first time since high school. Jackson brought his offense to Raider Nation specifically to suit the big-armed Campbell.
When Jackson has moved up to head coach, he hired his mentor Al Saunders to coordinate his offense. A new coordinator won't be a problem, because the offense will have same verbiage.
On top of that, Saunders is a familiar face who coached Campbell in Washington.
The word here is comfort.
Supporting Cast: Running Back Darren McFadden
Having a healthy Darren McFadden was a big reason Campbell played well down the stretch. He will be an even bigger reason why Campbell leads the Raiders to the playoffs in 2011.
After having a breakout year in 2010, opposing teams now know they have to game plan for McFadden double time.
That cover-two that defenses like to run to stop the deep ball will have to be put on the shelf at times when McFadden is killing them.
But it doesn't stop with just the run.
McFadden is an excellent check-down weapon for when the deep ball the Raiders are known for isn't there.
As it was in the Jaguars game in 2010, the result can be the same as a completed deep ball.
Supporting Cast: Tight End Zack Miller
I know he has a shaky tender on him depending on the C.B.A., but I am confident Zach Miller will wear the Silver and Black in 2011.
The 2010 Pro Bowler will be the Raiders' No. 1 third-down option this year and will have plenty of room with the track team of receivers down the field.
He will also be a big reason why the Raiders score points because of his ability in the red zone. Throughout his career, Campbell has always loved and depended on his tight end.
2011 shouldn't be any different.
Supporting Cast: No. 1 Wideout Chaz Schilens
With a 4.33 40-yard dash time, Chaz Schilens is a part of the Raiders' track team. But Schilens is also 6'4", 225 pounds, has excellent hands, can jump, and has no fear of catching the ball over the middle.
This makes Schilens the Raiders' No. 1 wideout.
Of course there are the questions about Schilens' ability to stay healthy, but this offseason is different. This is the first offseason Schilens has gone into without having surgery.
Therefore, I expect him to stay healthy and be productive.
Supporting Cast: Deep Threat Louis Murphy
Louis Murphy flashed and showed the clutch gene as a rookie back in 2009. Last year, his season was marred by a shoulder injury that affected his ability to raise his arms.
In 2011, barring an injury to him, Raider Nation will get a chance to see who Murphy really is. He was on pace for a 1,000-yard season before the injury, so I'm going to say he can do so in 2011.
No one seems to be able to run with him on the field and he has ice in his veins with the game on the line.
Supporting Cast: Slot Man Jacoby Ford
Sure, Jacoby Ford is a deep threat who will go up and take the football from a defender. But this little guy gives the Raiders a whole lot more than that.
He is quick as well as fast, so he can get separation on underneath routes from the slot. He is also a return man who won't hesitate to use that skill to take it to the house after the catch.
This gives the Raiders' receiving corps the ability to beat you in another way.
Supporting Cast: Fullback/Deep Threat Marcel Reese
There's no need for five-receiver sets on this team!
The outside receivers will obviously be down the field with Miller and McFadden underneath. They can use bracket coverage on Miller and or try to double McFadden.
Fullback/deep threat Marcel Reese is a fifth receiver because he has 4.4 speed and was a collegiate wideout. So if opposing defenses try the aforementioned tactics, Reese will kill them with the long ball.
Pick your poison, defense!
Question: Left Tackle
The Raiders did plenty to upgrade their offensive line in the draft with center Stephen Wisniewski and tackle/guard Joseph Barksdale. Bruce Campbell is also poised to see the field in 2011 after getting no such opportunity in 2010.
The left tackle is the only question for the Raiders in 2011.
Is Jared Veldheer going to adapt to the competition in the NFL or be moved to the right side in 2011?
Will the Raiders grab a free agent to do the job?
Does Barksdale figure into picture somehow?
It is important for the Raiders figure it out so the aforementioned tight end and weapons out of the backfield can run routes.
What good is it to have these weapons if they have to stay in and help protect Campbell?
Question: The Run Defense
Let's say Campbell and the offense shakes out well.
That in no way means Campbell will automatically take the Raiders to the playoffs in 2011.
The defense has to do its part and get Campbell the ball back.
With or without Nnamdi Asomugha, the Raiders' defense shouldn't have too many problems against the pass. Against the run is where the Raiders need to improve the most on defense.
The opposing team will simply run the ball to keep the Raider offense off the field.
What will the Raiders do about outside linebacker?
It does the Raiders no good to score 30 points per game if they allow 35.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Happy days may be here again for Raider Nation!
I truly believe this is the year that Campbell leads the Raiders to the playoffs. He will not be rattled, as he has gone through more than his share of adversity to become the Raiders' starter.
With that, he has won over the locker room, and his teammates will run through a wall for him. At the same time, he has and is continuing to develop chemistry with all of his weapons.
With a couple of questions, Campbell is surrounded with a cast that he can take somewhere for the first time in his NFL career. He also has the same offense for the first time in his NFL career, and it fits his skill set.
A Pro Bowl berth and elite quarterback status may or may not come.
But the important thing is he leads the Raiders to the playoffs.
"I BELIEVE IN YOU, JASON!"