Jason Campbell was brought in to be the starter and alter the direction of the sinking ship that was captained by JaMarcus Russell. If he plays well and continues to improve upon his number as he did in Washington, the Raiders will have found stability at the most crucial position in the NFL. Bruce Gradkowski is the ultimate back up; he’s professional, fiery and gets the most out of his abilities. Kyle Boller did everything needed to win third in the depth chart. It helped that Charlie Frye was sidelined, but credit should be given because of the way he performed during the summer.
Vital Cog:Campbell – If this route doesn’t work, Gradkowski will be in at quarterback, and then who knows what happens.
Michael Bush was expected to carry the workload. But an injury to his wrist that is heavily wrapped after surgery could sideline him for up to the first four games of the campaign. So it’s time for Darren McFadden to shine and provide the playmaking the Raiders expected out of him coming from Arkansas. Michael Bennett jolted this grouping by showing burst and a fresh set of legs. His presence will be needed if any of the rushers misses substantial time. Rock Cartwright is a solid veteran that can do it all in small dosages and Marcel Reece will be the lone fullback for Hue Jackson’s rushing attack.
McFadden – He was an explosive runner, a threat as a receiver and Mr. Everything in college. Since with Oakland, he’s been a mystery. Can Hue Jackson pull out the potential?
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
This may be the most questionable group on the Raiders offense. Youth, inexperience and projects headline this corps, which will need a surprise effort out of someone to make this offense go. Louis Murphy may be the best at this point out of a bunch that has very good acceleration. Darrius Heyward-Bey looks more polished and has increased confidence, but will that lead to the production needed to justify his selection so high last year in the draft? Yamon Figurs, Nick Miller and Johnnie Lee Higgins are either way too inconsistent or have not been on the field long enough to prove they can contribute at the pro level successfully. As for Chaz Schilens, more injuries will delay his start to the season. Tight end Zach Miller could be pro bowl bound because he’ll have a passer with way more ability than Russell. That alone will make him a top threat in the AFC at his position. The Raiders like Brandon Myers and will continue to bring him along slowly on special teams and as Miller’s back up.
Heyward-Bey – Murphy should be fine and if Schilens is healthy, they could string some solid performances out of the two. But the speedster from Maryland could really make this an uprising with steps towards becoming a legitimate starting caliber target.
Jared Veldheer – Oakland’s mammoth third round draft choice – will start at center. “I’m just very excited with the opportunity and I can’t wait to play (against the Titans),” Veldheer said. “All I did when I got here was worked as hard as I could at any position they put me at. I knew that would take me to where I needed to be.” Oakland offensive line has not been cohesive enough to validate having a rookie in the mix, and that may affect their play this season. Robert Gallery at left guard is solid, but he even has had injuries that have not allowed him to play a full compliment of games. Mario Henderson is erratic at left tackle and if Oakland wants Campbell to have success, they can’t allow free shots to the passer as they’ve had in recent seasons. Samson Satele lost his job to Veldheer, but he’s not a run blocking menace. Cooper Carlisle is the only other veteran on this unit with experience that can give Oakland spurts of steady play. Athletic freak Bruce Campbell is not ready to make his debut in the starting line-up. Langston Walker at right tackle has the look of a starter, but can he anchor himself and show Raider fans that his second stint by the Bay will be a success? Erik Pears and Khalif Barnes are pedestrian options as reserves.
Veldheer – The rookie is being put in a tough situation with a veteran quarterback who has been through a lot of instability in his career as a Redskin. If Veldheer can prove to be powerful when run blocking and play respectably when protecting Campbell, he won’t be supplanted.