Bruce Gradkowski made a strong argument for earning the starting job on Sunday.
The home opener started in impressive fashion for the Raiders. Oakland's defense was swarming to the ball and dominating the line of scrimmage. On special teams, Johnny Lee-Higgins made Tom Cable look even more foolish for ever starting Yamon "Mr. Muff" Figurs when Higgins took his first punt return 53 yards to the St. Louis 25 yard line.
The Oakland offense did not start as impressive as the rest of the team, but it was not the bumbling group that took the field against the Tennessee Titans. Darren McFadden continued to impress as he put up 32 yards in the first quarter and never stopped, finishing the game with 30 carries for 145 yards.
However, despite establishing a solid run game, the Raiders offense were not able to finish drives and only put three points on the board in the first half. New Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell played especially poorly, finishing the half going 8 for 15 for 87 yards and an interception.
Oakland fans made their opinion of Campbell's play clear as the clock ran down on the first half. As players began to jog into the locker room, the crowd showered the Oakland Raiders with chants of "Bruce! Bruce! Bruce!"
Well, the fans in the Oakland Coliseum got their wish when the Oakland Raiders offense took the field to start the second half. Leading the Raiders was none other than that fiery journeyman quarterback who just refuses to go away.
With Gradkowski under center, the Raiders offense looked like a completely different team. There was more life in every aspect of the game. Guys were catching balls and making plays after the catch. The offensive line was opening up holes and Darren McFadden was punishing defenders with his down hill running.
The offense was by no means a world beater, but it moved the ball well and put up almost as many points on the board in one half as it had in a game and a half up to that point. The stunning difference in the offense can not be attributed to anything other than the play of Bruce Gradkowski.
Gradkowski did not have an impressive stat line, finishing with a 70.6 passer rating, but he made good decisions and moved the ball. Additionally, Gradkowski's biggest contribution was likely what he did for the Oakland defense. In the first half, much like last week against the Titans, the defense hardly had time to rest. When Gradkowski came in the game, the Raiders defense was able to rest more and play more aggressively when on the field.
Now, the only question is whether or not the Oakland Raiders will stick with Gradkowski in Arizona next weekend or if they will give Jason Campbell another chance to hold onto his job.
The Oakland Raiders made a big deal out of trading for Jason Campbell during the off-season. They immediately offered him a contract extension and Al Davis even went so far as to compare Campbell to Raider great, Jim Plunkett.
Adversity, however, does not bother Bruce Gradkowski. In fact,outplaying the quarterback of the future in Oakland seems to be Gradkowski's specialty. In 2009, Gradkowski took the starting job from the former first round pick that Al Davis once commented was a great quarterback.
During the pre-season, there was talk of Bruce Gradkowski losing the back up job to Kyle Boller who played well in place of the injured Gradkowski. When Gradkowski was healthy enough to play, it took him only one half to convince the Oakland Coaching staff that there really was no question about the back up spot.
On Sunday, it may have taken Bruce Almighty only one half to take the starting job away from Jason Campbell.