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.

Defense remains in demand, but Raiders won't reach 'to satisfy a need'

Defense remains in demand, but Raiders won't reach 'to satisfy a need'

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders needed cornerback help and got some by drafting Gareon Conley 24th overall. General manager Reggie McKenzie insists he didn’t select solely to fill a need.

“This was totally the draft board,” he said Thursday night. “I mean, it was hands down the best player left on our board.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio chipped away at that stance a bit, clearly happy to get a good player in an area where he can help right away.

“A lot of us guys say that this time of year though, don’t we?” Del Rio said with a laugh. “Definitely was a happy moment for us.”

Conley was a top 15 talent, with stock driving south by a sexual assault allegation made public this week that is being investigated by Cleveland. He has not been charged or arrested in regard to the April 9 incident.

The Raiders are confident he’ll be cleared, leaving them with an excellent value that could provide long-term production in the secondary.

Cornerback wasn’t the only Raiders need. They’re in desperate need of an inside linebacker – they passed on Alabama’s Reuben Foster – and could used depth at defensive tackle and safety.

McKenzie says he’ll continue to follow his draft board over reaching for a specific position. The Raiders were happy to acquire Conley, and hope more value comes their way.

“Well, hopefully there’s Day 2 that will fall the same way,” McKenzie said. “We’re going to still follow our board. We know our needs, but, we will not let, we feel, a great player slip by just to satisfy a need. We will follow our board, that’s for sure. There are a lot of good players, so we’re expecting a good day tomorrow.”

Matching need and value is the ultimate goal. If that occurs, expect a defensive slant to the rest of this draft. They need early impact players and depth at every level of their defense. They might consider an offensive tackle, with uncertainty at right tackle and Donald Penn unsure if he’ll play beyond the 2017 season. It seems unlikely the Raiders go for a running back unless it’s late, after acquiring Marshawn Lynch this week.

There’s plenty of talent heading into the second round. Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham is the best inside linebacker on the board, with Florida’s Alex Anzalone and LSU’s Kendall Beckwith behind him. Malik McDowell and Caleb Wormley and are intriguing defensive line options. Cam Robinson is considered the best offensive tackle left on the board, though he's likely gone before the Raiders pick.

Raiders' first-round pick Conley opens up on emotions after off-field issues

Raiders' first-round pick Conley opens up on emotions after off-field issues

ALAMEDA – Gareon Conley’s name has been sullied, at least temporarily. He feared it would be long enough to send him free falling down the NFL Draft.

The Ohio State cornerback and top-15 prospect was accused of rape stemming from an April 9 incident in Cleveland, an allegation he called “completely false.”

The Raiders clearly believe him. That’s why they drafted him No. 24 overall on Thursday evening, and expect him to be a long-term solution in their secondary.

Conley wasn’t sure how far he’d fall after being beaten down by one rough week, when the allegation went public. Reggie McKenzie’s first-round selection and subsequent call was more emotional than expected.

“It made it 10 times more special,” Conley said Thursday night in a conference call. “Just having that doubt in my mind, just not knowing (how far I would fall). Just having faith and having doubt, I didn’t know what was going to happen. When it came, it shocked me. It felt unreal, honestly. It still feels unreal.”

Being a top pick was expected after an excellent career at Ohio State. The rape accusation threatened to destroy his draft-day dreams. Conley has not been arrested or charged in relation to the incident, though an investigation is ongoing.

Conley said he volunteered to take a polygraph test that was shared with NFL teams, and reportedly passed the one he took. He said in a statement there are witnesses and video evidence proving he didn’t do anything illegal.

Conley spent the last few days trying to proclaim his innocence. 

He is scheduled to meet with Cleveland police on Monday to discuss the April 9 incident -- he'll also submit a DNA sample, according to ESPN -- where group sex was suggested and a woman claimed she was sexually assaulted.

Conley believes his name will be cleared in time.

“I’m very confident it will be resolved," Conley said. "I took a test today that helps. Then when I made my statement and all the evidence that I have, I feel confident it’ll be resolved.”

Conley admits he shouldn’t have put himself in a compromising position, which occurred at a Cleveland hotel earlier this month.

“I could’ve made way better judgment,” Conley said. “I mean, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I definitely could’ve made a better decision.”

Conley hopes to move beyond it quickly and start focusing on football. He is scheduled to fly west for a press conference on Friday.

Conley is thankful to the Raiders for believing in him despite his recent troubles.

“It’s off the charts, honestly,” Conley said. “Just to know that they have faith in me, not even just as a football player but as a person like that, it speaks highly of them, and I really appreciate it. It’s an honor to be a part of the Raider organization.”