Who is the true #1?
After Sunday's victory over the St. Louis Rams, Tom Cable and his staff have a few decisions to make. In the home opener Bruce Gradkowski replaced Jason Campbell after halftime, Jared Veldheer rotated drives with Mario Henderson, and John Henderson started for the injured Richard Seymour. All three men played key roles in the Raiders' first victory of the 2010 season.
As week 3 approaches coach Cable is going to have to figure out what will be the best formula to a victory over the Cardinals. The biggest decision, obviously, will be who starts at QB. Jared Veldheer played some solid football at LT when rotating with Mario Henderson. The will continue to split time but the coaches will soon have to decide who should be the full time starter. As for the DT position, I don't think Richard Seymour's spot as a starter is that much in jeopardy but he might lose some snaps to John Henderson after he played a HUGE role in shutting down Steven Jackson.
Well, Raider Nation, it didn't take long for the starting QB to get benched in favor of the spark plug Bruce Gradkowski. The knock against Bruce is his size and that he is injury prone. Jason Campbell is your prototypical QB. Tall, strong armed, and fairly mobile. Bruce is shorter than Jason but as you can see in the picture, Gradkowski appears thicker than Campbell. Look at their arms.
The offensive line has issues in pass protection to say the least. Gradkowski has proved that he can get it done behind a shaky offensive line. He can get out of the pocket and make things happen. He also doesn't hesitate on the first read. If it's there he takes it. He gets the ball out before the rush gets to him evidenced by his TD pass to Murphy with a Ram defender right in his face.
Jason Campbell doesn't seem comfortable behind our O-line. He holds the ball when he needs to be "cutting it loose" as Tom Cable puts it. Campbell needs to stand in the pocket and be able to read the field to be effective. Behind our offensive line he doesn't have time to do that. He is either going to have to start getting the ball out quicker or start rolling out and making plays on the run.
Unless our offensive line starts playing some lights out football in the passing game Bruce Gradkowski might be better suited to lead the way.
On Sunday Jared Veldheer didn't start at Center. That job went back to Samson Satele. He did, however, get a lot of playing time and played a key role in the win over the Rams. He and starter Mario Henderson alternated drives at LT.
Now, IMO, Henderson has had more than enough time to lock down that position. The fact that Veldheer is splitting time with him tells me that the writing is on the wall for Mario Henderson. He didn't play well last season and he looked very slow out of his stance against the Titans last week. Unless losing some snaps to Veldheer lights a fire under him, his days starting at LT may be coming to an end.
I like what I see in Veldheer. He has a nastiness to his play. Coming from a small school some thought he might be intimidated going against NFL defensive linemen. From his first snap in the preseason he proved that he has what it takes to be a successful offensive lineman. The experiment at center was the best idea for a man that stands 6'8". He is better built for the LT position. If he can pick things up quickly he will take more and more snaps from Mario Henderson and eventually be the full time starter.
Over the last two offseasons the Raiders went out and acquired to big name defensive linemen in Richard Seymour and John Henderson. Both have been Pro Bowlers and both have been two of the most dominant defensive linemen in the NFL. The Raiders made both moves to help shore up the problems against the run.
Seymour was primarily a 3-4 DE in New England before being traded to Oakland where he split time between DE and DT in his first season in Oakland. Entering his second year with the Raiders he was made a DT after drafting Lamarr Houston who coincidentally was a DE in college. John Henderson has been a true 4-3 DT his entire career so you'd think he's more comfortable at the position.
Either way which ever man starts I think both will get their fair share of snaps. Defensive line coach Mike Waufle likes to use a rotation of linemen during the game, keeping guys fresh. After Sunday's performance against Steven Jackson, the coaches are going to have to decide whether or not Henderson should see more snaps. He anchored the defensive line against the Rams. He continuously clogged up the middle making it easier for McClain and Co. to get to the ball carrier.
Who knows maybe John Henderson will end up taking snaps from Tommy Kelly when Richard Seymour gets back from his hamstring injury.
Obviously, Tom Cable has some important decisions to make. Who ever he decides will be the starter at these positions I will support and role with him. I just hope the decisions he makes gives us the best chance at another victory.
I'd go with Gradkowski at QB. The offensive line we currently have can't give Jason Campbell the time he needs. Gradkowski can improvise and make plays outside of the pocket. Campbell might be the better pure QB but Gradkowski is better suited to lead this team behind the offensive line we have.
At Left Tackle I would give the job to Jared Veldheer. He has a lot more potential and upside than Mario Henderson. The rookie still has a lot of room to grow where as Mario Henderson is probably as good as he is going to be already.
We need to continue to stop the run. We gave up over 200 rushing yards against the Titans and less than 100 against the Rams. Seymour started against the Titans and Henderson started against the Rams. I know it's not a fair comparison but Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson were the #1 and #2 rushers from last season so you can take what you want from that. Henderson might be the better run stuffer as he is the bigger/heavier man and has played 4-3 DT his entire career.