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Camp questions: Can Gradkowski start?

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Ninth in a series analyzing questions and issues as the Raiders report for training camp in Napa next Wednesday:

Is Bruce Gradkowski really competing to be the starter?

Bruce Gradkowski went from Jon Gruden’s golden boy to the depths of the NFL to a miracle worker in his hometown in short order.

Once Tom Cable got the OK to bench JaMarcus Russell, Gradkowski hijacked a season seemingly headed for 2-14 and helped make it a slightly more palatable 5-11.

(I’d argue that even though Russell emerged from the bench to lead an improbable win in Denver, the momentum generated from Gradkowski’s insertion in the lineup before being injured kept the team together).

He guided the Raiders to an upset win over playoff-bound Cincinnati at home and a come-from-behind win over his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers in what might be the Raiders’ most stirring win in the last seven years.

Don’t forget that in the Chiefs game in which he took over for Russell, Gradkowski had the Raiders deep into Kansas City territory when one of his passes bounced off the hands of Darrius Heyward-Bey and ended up an interception. The Raiders lost, 16-10.

Keep in mind Gradkowski was fighting with Charlie Frye for a roster spot in training camp, with Russell the anointed starter and Jeff Garcia brought in to be the veteran backup. If Garcia didn’t take a look at Russell and surmise, “No way I’m playing behind this guy” and ask to be released, there’s no guarantee Gradkowski even makes the roster.

Before coming to the Raiders, three teams had given up on Gradkowski _ Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Cleveland _ teams playing at a level at or worse than Oakland.

Yet Gradkowski played better than he ever had, even as a rookie starter in Tampa, and played a hugely important role in giving the offense a spark after the listless tenure of Russell _ something that contributed to Russell’s eventual exit.

When Jason Campbell was acquired from the Washington Redskins, he immediately said in an NFL Network interview it was his impression after conversations with Cable and Al Davis that he’d be the starter.

Cable said that no, Campbell would compete for the starting job. By the time Campbell met the media in Oakland, he had softened his position considerably.

Meanwhile, Gradkowski suffered a torn left pectoral muscle lifting weights. That left most of the work with new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to Campbell, with Gradkowski starting light throwing as the Raiders finished organized team activities. Both Cable and Gradkowski expect the quarterback to be ready to go by the first practice a week from today.

So is it really a competition?

Doubtful.

Not when Gradkowski is under for contract at around $1.8 million per year after being tendered as an unrestricted free agent, and Campbell was brought in at more than $3 million and extended an additional year to over $4 million.

Campbell is a veteran of 45 starts, has a 61.2 completion percentage with 55 touchdown passes and 38 interceptions. He wasn’t brought in to “compete” with a spunky underdog.

Not that what Gradkowski did was all for naught. He caused the Raiders, as well as every other team in the league, to give him serious consideration for a roster spot as an ideal backup quarterback.

Gradkowski would never look at it that way, nor should he. He wants to start, but his enthusiasm, mobility and skill set make him ideal to come in for a starter who is either injured or struggling and still give his team a chance to win.

Still only 27, Gradkowski could have himself a long and fruitful career as an NFL backup, and given attrition at the position, get another chance to work the kind of magic he did last season before one day becoming a coach at some level. I’m guessing that’s how the Raiders envision him, anyway.

Previous camp questions:

Will wee see T.O.?

Can less be more for Cable?

Can the starting linebackers hold up in coverage?

How good is Mike Mitchell?

Can Mario be super?

Can Higgins return to ’08 form?

Where is Seymour’s ripple effect?

Can Bush be a beast?

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • HairyBush

    if he’s the firecracker he’s supposed to be, i think he elevates everyone.
    ————————
    exactly what I said yesterday, I think they will feed off of eachother.

  • souldogdave

    Gradkowski will start only if Campbell lets him. The battle between the other QB’s on the roster will also be interesting.This is a year of big change for the Raiders.How the O-line shapes up will be very important.Also,stopping the run.Coach up the new blood, and let’s roll.By Oct., we’ll be ready for the Chargers.

  • J Wiggle

    Tommy Kelly is a BEAST !!!!

  • HairyBush

    Bo Schembechler Jackson Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:01 pm
    HairyBush Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 11:49 am
    Vince Evans baby! yeah I said it

    ::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    I am a huge Vince fan. Wish we had him in his 20s and not his 50s, although he still looked smooth then too.
    ——————
    Who did Vince play for before the Raiders?

  • Vegas

    Are you Polish?

  • Bears

  • HairyBush

    Bo Schembechler Jackson Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:04 pm
    Bears
    ————–
    thanx, it would have bugged me.
    BTW Vince Evans @ 55 years old is still better than Jamarcus!

  • J Wiggle

    Statistically speaking, Tommy Kelly was one of the best DTs in the league. Why on earth are we even talking about getting rid of him or putting him on the bench?

  • J Wiggle Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Statistically speaking, Tommy Kelly was one of the best DTs in the league. Why on earth are we even talking about getting rid of him or putting him on the bench?
    ———————————–
    I don’t think that’s true, any links to prove it?

  • J Wiggle

    Vegas posted the stats several times …

    I’m sure you can google them

  • Statistically speaking = dollars and cents

  • HairyBush

    J Wiggle Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:07 pm
    Statistically speaking, Tommy Kelly was one of the best DTs in the league. Why on earth are we even talking about getting rid of him or putting him on the bench?
    —————————
    I don’t know if that is true or not, if it is, it doesn’t change my opinion. I go with what I see over stats. What I see is TK not beating the guy in front of him enough, ecspecially considering his salary.

  • J Wiggle

    Not that what Gradkowski did was all for naught. He caused the Raiders, as well as every other team in the league, to give him serious consideration for a roster spot as an ideal backup quarterback.

    Gradkowski would never look at it that way, nor should he. He wants to start, but his enthusiasm, mobility and skill set make him ideal to come in for a starter who is either injured or struggling and still give his team a chance to win.

    ——————————————————-

    And there it is …

  • J Wiggle

    JFB …

    Where are you with the TK stats mayne ?!?!?!

  • MTraidernation

    KoolKell Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:04 pm
    Vegas

    Are you Polish?

    ******

    i am. AND a gradkowski fan.

  • Nnamdi21

    RaiderRockstar Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 11:56 am
    Is Kelly expendable?

    Depends on Desmond Bryant and William Joseph to a degree I would imagine…

    ***

    don’t forget that Seymour & Houston will be playing DT on occasion. In fact, either player could be a full-time starter there if need be

    =====

    WORD!

  • Nnamdi21

    IF Gradkowski beats Campbell for the starting slot it would mean Campbell is a bust and be a huge disaster for Oakland.

    The job is Campbell’s to lose.

    Grads was and is a back up at best and a rejected scrub at worst.

  • lefty12

    going into the 2009 season Kelly was rated as the #10 DT in the league-source-Bleacher report.They go on to say if he had a better supporting cast he would be higher and will only get better.

  • RaiderfanNY

    I’d love to see Gradkowski get a real shot. He gave us life last season after the offense had been dead for years.

    The guy has everything you want except the big arm. But he’ll play better the more he’s out there.

    I would happily watch Campbell lead the team to wins. But I’d rather see Grad do it. He deserves it.

    Tommy Kelly, by the way, doesn’t have it. He’s had ample time to show that he’s more than a role player and he hasn’t shown it. The only reason he got the big contract was that Big Al didn’t want to see him go to Denver.

    Desmond Bryant better be the real deal or we will be terribly weak at DT.

  • CJ Legend 34

    I like Grads and all the guy has heart and can move around but in my opinion he is a great second string QB. Does not seeme to have the arm and the “it” factor to be a play-by play starter.

    He really threw up a couple of wobblie jump balls in the Pittsburgh game that happened to go our way. Murphy made a heck of an andjustment on one horrble pass by Grads but we won and he was the QB, I will give him that.

  • J Wiggle

    TK was 4th in the league amongst DTs in tackles

    Kyle Williams Buffalo 66 tkls
    Kelly Gregg Balt 63 tkls
    Marcus Stroud Buff 56 tkls
    Tommy Kelly Oak 55 tkls
    Mike Patterson Phi 55 tkls

    TK was 8th amongst DTs in solo tkls with 37

    NFL.com

  • Raider E

    Kelly had 55 tackles, 5 TFL, and 1 sack.

  • HairyBush

    J Wiggle Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:26 pm
    TK was 4th in the league amongst DTs in tackles

    Kyle Williams Buffalo 66 tkls
    Kelly Gregg Balt 63 tkls
    Marcus Stroud Buff 56 tkls
    Tommy Kelly Oak 55 tkls
    Mike Patterson Phi 55 tkls

    TK was 8th amongst DTs in solo tkls with 37

    NFL.com
    ——————-
    As I said before, stats only mean so much to me. For instance- take into consideration how much time the Raider defense spends on the field.

  • Seems as if the Raiders will have a decent rotation on the D-Line this year.

  • For all you bishes that don’t think Gradkowski is worth the sweat on your tiny ballz, watch this sh1t again.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHHoqGFDjzw

  • Grads feels the pressure, steps up, and throws a PERFECT pass. How you like them apples? I still think Campbell should be the starter though.

  • HairyBush

    Dr. Steven Hawking Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:30 pm
    For all you bishes that don’t think Gradkowski is worth the sweat on your tiny ballz, watch this sh1t again.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHHoqGFDjzw
    ——————–
    Do u have any videos of the goober over exherting himself and tearing his pectoral? J/K Grads has heart

  • Dont diss a man for tearing his t1tty mussle bro, he has heart. He reminds me a “bit” of Gannon.

  • J Wiggle

    HB,

    What do you need TK todo? The stats say the guy is performing.

    The coaches seemed to think that the defensive issues were with the LBs, Warren, and Ellis. Especially the run defense.

    Again, I’m just asking why we are talking about cutting or benching a productive player. It’s debateable whether he’s earned his salary or not. I get that. But the guy is clearly doing things on the field, or at least enough so that he shouldn’t be cut, lol!

  • MTraidernation

    lefty12 Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:22 pm
    going into the 2009 season Kelly was rated as the #10 DT in the league-source-Bleacher report.They go on to say if he had a better supporting cast he would be higher and will only get better.

    *****

    BAM!! exactly what i think. i think we’re gonna see a “settled in” seymour this year. i think we’ll see a trickle down effect too. seymour plays better, kelly plays better, the whole line improves, which will in turn make the secondary stronger. oh yeah, we’ve got a stud MLB. good things, my friend, good things.

    if the raiders don’t improve drastically on defense i’ll be shocked. they’ve made all the right moves this offseason, and it’s gonna pay off.

    the ONLY thing i didn’t like was letting morrison go. he was a team guy, a raider. morrison > ricky brown

  • HairyBush

    Dr. Steven Hawking Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:33 pm
    Dont diss a man for tearing his t1tty mussle bro, he has heart. He reminds me a “bit” of Gannon.
    ——————-
    Gannon’s little nephew I guess. Seriously I like Grads, as a backup though. I can’t see him in a championship game or superbowl.

  • Remember, Grads was 20/33, 308 yds, and 3 TD that game, In Pitt nonetheless. Great game.

  • He reminds me a “bit” of Gannon.

    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    Just smarter. Grads would never try to drop his dome and run over Derrick Brooks. And if he was fortunate enough to win an MVP then sh!t his pants in the SB, he wouldn’t bad mouth the team.

  • HB

    Maybe, maybe not, within time he might be something, possibly. Not a Gannon, but similar styles. Plus, Gannon wasn’t all that till late in his career. I agree with you, Grads as backup though, but worth hanging on to and investing in. Dude has the heart.

  • LOL BO, post 83. I agree, the Raiders MADE Gannon, he needs to STFU and respect the Shield.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5amyBAqGHq0

    Schillens wasn’t soft this game. This is the last highlight worth watching of JaBlowhard Russell EVER again.

  • HairyBush

    J Wiggle Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:34 pm
    HB,

    What do you need TK todo? The stats say the guy is performing.

    The coaches seemed to think that the defensive issues were with the LBs, Warren, and Ellis. Especially the run defense.

    Again, I’m just asking why we are talking about cutting or benching a productive player. It’s debateable whether he’s earned his salary or not. I get that. But the guy is clearly doing things on the field, or at least enough so that he shouldn’t be cut, lol!
    ——————-
    I never said I wanted him to be cut. I would like to cut down his snaps, as well as his salary. I stated in an earlier post that I feel hanging on to him would be better than anything we could get in free agency. As I say with every player on the Raiders- I would rather they make my statements incorrect and win games then me being able to say I told you so. Raider victories are #1 priority. If TK comes out with a flame lit underneath his ass, great! He just hasn’t given me reason for excitement to date. (barring his pants coming off in the Denver game lol)

  • lefty12

    Thanks Steven,I could watch that all day.The funny thing is all the things people say about Grads today they said about Gannon before he came here-carreer back-up,so-so arm,fiery,great competitor,etc.Not saying he should start over JC,just saying.

  • lefty12 Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:41 pm
    Thanks Steven,I could watch that all day.The funny thing is all the things people say about Grads today they said about Gannon before he came here-carreer back-up,so-so arm,fiery,great competitor,etc.Not saying he should start over JC,just saying.

    ———————————

    My point exactly brother. Well said!!

  • Gruden + Gannon – Al Davis = MVP.

    Frankly, Gannon was always pretty good, but couldn’t dodge the backup casting.

  • HairyBush

    Dr. Steven Hawking Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:35 pm
    Remember, Grads was 20/33, 308 yds, and 3 TD that game, In Pitt nonetheless. Great game.
    ———————–
    I agree, great game. can he do it consistently??????
    Mom can’t cook for him and the team before every game to get them going lol

  • This is a bad azz video on Gradkowski as well.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjZGWIIPTMw

    Don’t get me wrong, I still think JC should start, but Grads is a better backup then given credit for.

  • LFAO HB post 91. She must have cooked up one mean azz polish sausage that day.

  • Raider E

    Hey JFB, was it Cliff Branch that you saw in New Mexico? at Wal Mart?

  • lefty12

    KK-some truth to that statement,but I don’t believe Gruden was coach the year Gannon won MVP.Wasn’t Callahan coach that year?

  • I am no FN pumped up for this season I CAN’T wait for it to start. I am not drinking kool-aid or calling out playoffs, but it sure as he11 will be alot better than the past 7 seasons.

  • HairyBush

    I’m out-Later

  • RaiderRockstar

    The coaches seemed to think that the defensive issues were with the LBs, Warren, and Ellis. Especially the run defense.

    ***

    Jwigg: so basically TK cost Morrison & DL Coach Board thier jobs. Kelly promised to be a key component stuffing the run and getting after the QB. did neither very well. the tackle stats are deceiving because he’s a DT and only 5 of 55 were behind the line of scrimmage. Teams ran the ball on us so much that Tyvon Branch had the most tackles of any defensive back in the league! and Kirk Morrison looks like a tackling machine too (on paper). TK is an overpaid underachiever.

    several months ago you defended Gerard Warren, now you’re saying that he was a part of the problem?

  • Lefty, yes. Callahan was throwing the ball 40-50 times per game. But, because Gannon had mastered Gruden’s O.

  • MTraidernation

    why is there this myth one needs a great arm to play QB?

    joe montana, ken stabler, steve young…

    working hard, mastering a playbook and throwing accurately are BY FAR more important than being able to throw a ball 80 yards.

    raider fans are the first people that should know that.