Preview: Raiders @ Cardinals
Oakland Raiders (1-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Natural Grass
TV: CBS (Spero Dedes, Randy Cross)
PREDICTION: Raiders 20-15
KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Derek Anderson could be on a short leash. While coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn't want to turn to rookie Max Hall, Anderson's inability to consistently move the ball forces his hand to consider all options. The Cardinals are adopting more of a run-first approach, but that won't work if the defense doesn't stiffen. Trouble has been, the defense is being asked to stay on the field too long because of third-down failures by the Cardinals' offense. Whisenhunt need only peer across the field this week at Bruce Gradkowski for reason to audition Hall. Gradkowski, now starting for Jason Campbell, brings an edge to the offense and has been able to produce not just yards and points, but wins.
FAST FACTS: Gradkowski has six touchdowns and one interception in four starts for Oakland. ... Fitzgerald leads the NFL with 475 receptions since 2005.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski takes to the podium the same way he does to a huddle -- full of enthusiasm and positive energy.
"I think I've always had that edge," Gradkowski told reporters the day after learning he would be the Raiders starting quarterback against the Arizona Cardinals. "I've always been a competitor, played every sport, wanted to win at everything. The guys on the other side, they're trying to take your spot and make you look bad, so you've got to do the same."
It was the "us vs. them" mentality Gradkowski brought to the field that helped convince coach Tom Cable to make a quarterback change jut six quarters into the season.
Cable talked about the lift Gradkowski brought to the team and the difference he made with the same supporting cast.
Gradkowski said he isn't consciously trying to fire anyone up. It just happens that way.
"The energy I bring to the huddle is just trying to be myself," Gradkowski said. "I don't think about it beforehand or do anything fake. You've got to have fun when you play the game and enjoy it. It's the competitive edge that makes you want to compete and win.
"I think the main thing is to just have fun out there and take it one play at a time."
Campbell, when approached by reporters, politely declined interview requests and said he'd been asked by the team not to talk.
Gradkowski realizes that should he struggle, based on what happened to Campbell, he may not have a lot of time to get things turned around.
"We just want to win and will do whatever it takes to win," Gradkowski said. "You really can't think about it. You just go out, take one play at a time and do what you're going to do."
Based on last season, when he replaced JaMarcus Russell after the 10th game of the season and delivered wins against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh before going down with two MCL tears with three games to play, Gradkowski thinks he's built up a level of trust.
"This year it's a little more comfortable stepping in, just knowing what I did last year and playing with guys I played with last year," Gradkowski said. "They know how I play and what I bring to the table."
Running back Beanie Wells is expected to play Sunday after missing two games with what the team said was a bruised knee. The injury actually turned out to be a minor surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Wells participated in padded practices this week for the first time since suffering the injury on Sept. 2 in the final preseason game. His workload increased as the week progressed, and barring a setback, he should be able to play on Sunday against the Raiders.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt cautioned that Wells is not in "football shape" and that no one should expect him to carry 25 or 30 times a game.
As a rookie last season, Wells never carried more than 17 times a game. Realistically, the Cardinals are probably looking at 10 to 15 carries, depending upon how the game goes.
Tim Hightower will remain the starter, and LaRod Stephens-Howling will play a role as the third-down back. Wells probably will get double-digit carries only if he gets hot and the Cardinals have a lead late in the game.
Hightower gained 115 yards last week, 80 of it coming on a touchdown run in the second quarter.
--C Samson Satele was credited with solid run blocking in the Raiders win over the Rams by coach Tom Cable.
--RB Michael Bush practiced without limitations for the second straight day and could play against Arizona 27 days after surgery on his fractured left thumb.
--QB Jason Campbell will be the No. 2 quarterback ahead of Kyle Boller.
--DT John Henderson missed practice with a foot injury and will be a game-time decision, although coach Tom Cable thinks he will play.
--LG Robert Gallery missed practice again with a hamstring issue and was termed by coach Tom Cable as "very questionable."
--S Michael Huff missed part of practice because of illness.
--DT Richard Seymour was limited in practice but is expected to face Arizona.
--LB Quentin Scott, cut by the Chicago Bears on the final cutdown, was signed to the practice squad and Slade Norris, a fourth-round pick by the Raiders in 2009, was released.
--QB Derek Anderson continues to struggle with accuracy, especially under pressure. He completed just 1 of 9 on third and fourth downs last week, including an interception.
--RB Tim Hightower scored on an 80-yard run last week, the third longest run in team history. Hightower has scoring runs of 70 and 80 yards in his last three games. Oddly enough, the Cardinals lost both games.
--RB Beanie Wells is expected to make his season debut after missing two games with what the team was calling a bruised knee, but in actuality was a minor surgery to repaid a torn meniscus.
--RB LaRod Stephens-Howling is a dangerous return man and will play in some passing situations. He is dynamic in the open field.
--WR Steve Breaston is fine after missing a day of practice with a bruised knee.
--WR Stephen Williams caught two passes last week but he also lined up wrong once and dropped a pass. He needs to decrease the number of mental errors he's making.
--WR Larry Fitzgerald is closer to 100 percent than he has been all season. Fitzgerald suffered a sprained knee ligament in the preseason opener.
--PK Jay Feely has made one of two field goals this year, but the miss came from 54 yards. Feely's kickoffs have been decent and he's been making 50-plus yarders consistently in practice.
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