Gutierrez: Raiders 2010 Review -- quarterbacks

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Gutierrez: Raiders 2010 Review -- quarterbacks

Jan. 26, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVERAIDERS PAGE RAIDERS VIDEOPaul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.com

Theres no question quarterback is the most important position on the football field. And with JaMarcus Russell reduced to a bad memory, the Raiders upgraded under center with the draft weekend acquisition of solid-if-not-spectacular Jason Campbell, the return of folk hero Bruce Gradkowski and the dismissal of Russell.

Still, then-coach Tom Cables magnificently bad mismanagement of the position -- we understood his man-crush on Gradkowski; we didnt understand him acting on it so frequently -- defined the season and set in motion the Raiders QB Carousel. Cable turned Campbell into a sympathetic figure, Gradkowski into a teachers pet, designations neither man wantedor deserved.

As a team, the Raiders passed for 3,471 yards and completed 56.8 percent of their passes with 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. It was only the 21st-ranked passing offense in the NFL in 2010 so new coach Hue Jackson, who will maintain play-calling duties, has something to work with besides continuity. Besides, owner Al Davis is watching.

A look back, then, at Oaklands signal-callers as we continue our Raiders player-by-player review

RELATED: Raiders depth chart roster stats

Jason Campbell -- It took all of six quarters for Campbell to wear out his welcome and for Cable to flip the switch on the QB Carousel. Pulled at halftime of the home opener against St. Louis, Campbell was shellshocked. He did not reclaim the starting gig for good until Gradkowskis season came to an end with a trip to I.R. on Dec. 2 and Campbell did not look back, winning three of the final five games with passer ratings of 105.5, 127.6, 69.1, 90.5 and 91.2. For the season, Campbells numbers fell from his steady ascent of the previous three years in Washington, but thats what happens when you get benched three times and start 12 of the 13 games in which you appear. Campbell had a season passer rating of 84.5 (a tick below his career-best 86.4 in 2009) after completing 194 of 329 passes (his lowest completion percentage since 2006) for 2,387 yards (ditto) with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Seemingly constantly nicked up with stingers, he was also sacked 33 times. And just in case you harbored any questions on if Campbell is the unquestioned starter heading into next season, Davis erased any doubts at his epic media conference on Jan. 18. Davis reiterated his comparison of Campbell to two-time Super Bowl champion and Raiders icon Jim Plunkett while saying Campbell was better coming out of Auburn in 2005 than current Heisman winner Cam Newton is this year. (I) saw in Jason Campbell someone down the road who can really throw the football, can run, and there are some things we have to do with him, Davis said, but I think the guy (Jackson) whos going to be handling him in the future knows what to do and how to do it. Plus, Campbell is the only Raiders QB still under contract for 2011. With Jackson calling plays, at least hell be able to play in the same offensive system in consecutive seasons. A rare luxury for him dating to his college days. In my opinion, Jackson said, over the last seven, six weeks of the season(Campbell) played flawless. He played almost as good as you can play as a quarterback in our league.

Bruce Gradkowski -- The QB formerly known as Bruce Almighty deserved better than this. Gradkowskis legacy as a folk hero in the streets of Raider Nation after his wondrous comeback victory at Pittsburgh the year before gave Gradkowski much capital. But Cable flushed it all away with his mismanagement and Gradkowski did not do much on the field to keep the throaty chants of BRUUUUUUUUUUCE from turning into BOOOOOOOOOOOOS. Sure, Gradkowski came off the bench to lead the comeback victory over the Rams. But he lost consecutive games against Arizona and Houston and, later, at home to Miami. Gradkowski appeared in six games, starting four, and had a season rating of just 66.3 (a massive drop from last years 80.6) after throwing for 1,059 yards on 83 of 157 passing (52.9, lowest in seasons with at least four games played) with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. No doubt the fiery Gradkowski showed he is best coming off the bench as a sparkplug, a fact not lost on Davis. I also realized that as good as Gradkowski is for a single game, we cant hold up the injury factor from happening, Davis said. He incurs injuries, and that worries the hell out of me. Gradkowskis 2009 season ended prematurely when he sprained both knees in the seasons 13th game. He tore his left pectoral muscle in an offseason weightlifting mishap before enduring a groin injury in training camp. He went down with a right shoulder separation in the seasons fifth game and re-aggravated it in his next start, seven weeks later. And despite his insistence he could again return for a playoff push, he was summarily shut down, literally and figuratively.

Kyle Boller -- the former Cal star and NFL starting quarterback in Baltimore was the quintessential No. 3 QB solid, dependable, ace studier in the QB Room until injuries forced him into action. Boller appeared in five games, all in relief, and mostly handed the ball off until the starter was ready to come back in. He had a passer rating of 30.2 in completing two of his four passes for 25 yards with an interception and a sack. At one point early in the season, it appeared as though the Raiders were setting up Boller to start against Koming. Instead, he played at Denver, at San Diego, at Jacksonville, home against Denver and in the season finale at Kansas City.

J.T. OSullivan -- Signed as a free agent on Dec. 2 in the wake of Gradkowskis trip to I.R., the Pride of UC Davis never appeared in a game. And that was probably a good thing, considering the lack of preparation time at his disposal.

Charlie Frye -- A former starter for the Raiders who started the final three games of the 2009 season, Frye spent the 2010 season on I.R. after undergoing surgery on his koming in training camp. His leadership qualities and acumen portend a future in coaching.

Injury report: Joseph out, Latham questionable for Raiders vs Chiefs

Injury report: Joseph out, Latham questionable for Raiders vs Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph hurt his toe in Sunday’s victory over Buffalo, and was still in pain early the next week.

That gave him virtually no shot to play Kansas City on Thursday night with a short week to recover. The Raiders made his omission official on Wednesday, and ruled the first-round pick out of the AFC West clash at Arrowhead Stadium on their official injury report.

Veteran Nate Allen will take his place in the starting lineup. He played well in Joseph’s stead against the Bills, and has the versatility to play back or closer to the line of scrimmage as Joseph did.

The Raiders defense is still ailing on the interior, with defensive tackle Stacy McGee (ankle) ruled out of his second straight contest.

There is slightly better news for Darius Latham, who was deemed questionable after missing two light practices but returning in time for limited work on Wednesday. Getting him back would help a thinned rotation that heavily features Denico Autry, Dan Williams and Jihad Ward, who has struggled some of late.

The Chiefs have a healthy team despite the short week. Receiver Jeremy Maclin will return from a groin injury. Edge rusher Tamba Hali will play despite limted practice work, and defensive tackle Dontari Poe is questionable with a back issue.

Raiders Status Report
Doubtful

LB Shilique Calhoun (knee), S Karl Joseph (toe), DT Stacy McGee (ankle) Questionable
DT Darius Latham (ankle), LG Kelechi Osemele (knee), LB Cory James (shoulder)

Chiefs Status Report

Questionable
DT Dontari Poe (back), DE Kendall Reyes (knee)

NOTE: Kansas City’s WR Jeremy Maclin, OLB Tamba Hali and CB Phillip Gaines did not receive an injury designation, meaning they will play.

 

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

The Buffalo Bills were running right through the Oakland Raiders early in Sunday’s contest, a never-ending assault that took its toll on defenders in silver and black.

That was the case for the most optimistic, steadfast member of that unit.

“We were giving up big plays, and I was frustrated,” star edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “Actually, I was pissed off.”

Bruce Irvin sensed a disturbance in the force. The veteran pass rusher knew how to fix it.  A little pep talk would get Mack going again.

“We feed off each other’s energy. … That dude pulls me up. I was feeling a little down towards the middle of the game, and he was like, ‘Come on. We need you. Come on. Let’s go. He pulled me up and kept pushing.”

That wasn’t the turning point in yet another comeback win. It wasn’t the only reason why defense locked Buffalo down during a run of 29 unanswered points.

It showed how strong a friendship Mack and Irvin have formed since the spring, one that helps get the best out of the other. Bonds formed from insatiable work ethic, one evident even in the offseason program.

“We’re both so hungry to be great that it just brought us together,” Irvin said. “When I got here, we talked right away. Khalil and (quarterback Derek Carr) were the first two guys I sat down with, and I told them I was coming over to play with Khalil, to help turn this thing around and become one of the top units in the league. Khalil and I just bonded quickly, and it was like we had been friends forever. It’s like whole thing was meant to be.”

It has turned out to be a productive pairing. There are 15 sacks, 94 other quarterback pressures and eight forced fumbles between Irvin and Mack this season.

Mack has the bulk of those numbers, especially during a second-half run where he has been outright dominant and jumped into the conversation for defensive player of the year. Mack has been involved in four turnovers the last two games, including game-sealing strip sacks while recovering his own fumble in consecutive weeks.

“You all don’t want to talk to Robin,” Irvin quipped. “Batman’s right over there.”

Irvin has used that line after two home victories in a row. The fifth-year pro is more than Mack’s sidekick. He’s on a roll himself, with sacks in three straight games. He uses speed and agility to create pressure off the strongside edge, dealing with left tackles on a consistent basis.

“I’m in a good groove right now,” Irvin said. “Mentality, physically, I’m in a very good place right now. It’s really showing on the field these past couple weeks.”

Irvin has been a productive defender either making plays on his side or driving traffic back towards Mack. It works both ways, with Mack drawing significant attention that often leaves Irvin in more favorable matchups.

The combination has been impactful, especially on a defense that doesn’t’ get pressure from other sources. They’ve been productive in the clutch as well, with six sacks coming in the fourth quarter. Mack has big plays the last two weeks, and Irvin has a big sack late in a victory over Houston in Mexico City.

The Raiders defense is improving, and having Irvin rushing strong recently helps Mack and the entire Raiders defense.

“He’s always been in a good groove, but there are things going well for this defense,” Mack said. “I’m on the other side, and you have coverage going well. (Opponents) try to do all the chipping and those things that play a factor in doing what we do. The fact that he’s rolling right now is not a surprise.”