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Camp questions: Can Gradkowski start?

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

  • http://www.oakglenisafuktard.com MistaBrown

    SeyGlen checks out and KKKell slides back in? Talk about a wash out.
    :(

  • RaiderRockstar

    i think we’ll see a trickle down effect too. seymour plays better, kelly plays better, the whole line improves

    ***

    MT: we said the same thing last season

    Seymour, Shaughnessy, Kelly, Bryant, Richardson, Joseph, Scott, Howard, Brown, Nixon, Norris & Williams were all a part of a defense that couldn’t stop the run last year and still remain on the roster!

    heres hoping McClain, Goethel, Houston, Wimbley, Groves & Henderson make all the difference …

    Seymour & Kelly alone isn’t going to improve anything

  • RaiderRockstar

    SeyGlen checks out and KKKell slides back in? Talk about a wash out.

    ***

    Brown: I don’t know man

    I’ve never seen SeyGlenn post anybody’s so-called personal info on Jerry’s blog

    I’ve never seen Kell make wild statements about the greatness of Rob Ryan

    pick your poison. both dems

  • lefty12

    KK,funny thing is even though Gannon and Gruden were probably our best QB and HC since Plunkett and Flores,I wasn’t a huge fan of either.And after the SB when Gannon refused to take any blame and dumped on his mates,he dropped even lower in my opinion.I always thought Gruden was too conservative,but I admit they got results.

  • J Wiggle

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

    ——————————————————-

    What are you talking about?!?!?

    I said Warren was constantly doubled so WTF was Kirk Morrison’s issues?

    And the COACHES said he was part of the problem obviously since he was cut.

  • DKnight007

    The Pack also is going to be dangerous as long as their O-Line holds up….

  • CJ Legend 34

    Grads is like Gannon?
    Have we reached a new low?

    By the way Frye should not be on the team. Gym rat or not he looks weak on the field.

    JC to start, Grad is the back up.

    LMAO!!!!

  • http://www.car.org KoolKell

    Lefty, I wasn’t either. Believe it or not, I like traditional Raider football.

  • CJ Legend 34

    The O-line has to step up big this year. If the o-line does not improve we will have another loosing season.

    D-line better hit hard an early we need to get a little nasty!!!

    D@mn! I am so glad Russel is histroy this year. What a great feeling, he was terrible to watch. You never knew what was going to happen when he let the ball go.

  • lefty12

    CJ-you’re correct.Grads isn’t near the a$$hole Gannon is.

  • J Wiggle

    Teams ran the ball on us so much that Tyvon Branch had the most tackles of any defensive back in the league!

    ——————————————————-

    Who lines up between the DL and DBs?

    Don’t you find it at all relevant that we have 3 outta 3 new LBs this year?

    5 outta 7 of the front 7 has been replaced mayne …

    TK and Seymour are the only holdovers.

    Coaches are wrong on this one though, huh?

  • CJ Legend 34

    True dat, true dat!!!
    —————————————————–

    MTraidernation Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:56 pm
    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.

  • Just Fire Baby

    Months later and I still don’t see why you are such a fan of Bruce. And not just to be on the team, but to start for us.

    ********************************
    J,

    I am just not with the annointed starter stuff. Aaron Brooks, Collins and Jamarcus were just handed the keys and bombed.

    I want Campbell to start, only if he beats out the others for the gig. Give him the first start in Dallas, Grads the next week, and whoever does the best starts week 3. If that guy plays well, that is your starter.

    Playing the guy who gets paid the most and looks better in shorts and a red-jersey is asking for trouble, IMO.

  • http://www.oakglenisafuktard.com MistaBrown

    KKKell is the recession still over? The unemployment extension is because all that mope & change has the economy jamming right?

    lol

  • MTraidernation

    RaiderRockstar Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:57 pm
    i think we’ll see a trickle down effect too. seymour plays better, kelly plays better, the whole line improves

    ***

    MT: we said the same thing last season

    Seymour, Shaughnessy, Kelly, Bryant, Richardson, Joseph, Scott, Howard, Brown, Nixon, Norris & Williams were all a part of a defense that couldn’t stop the run last year and still remain on the roster!

    heres hoping McClain, Goethel, Houston, Wimbley, Groves & Henderson make all the difference …

    Seymour & Kelly alone isn’t going to improve anything
    ****************

    true. i just gotta believe that seymour wasn’t comfortable last year. he didn’t get to oakland until like 3 hours before openning kickoff, right? and played his best game flying by the seat of his pants. downhill from there. this year, with a full training camp, i think we’ll see what patriot fans already know.

    playing d-line is not nessecarily about beating the guy in front of you, but rather filling the gap(s) in front of you. i think we can all agree, LB play was and has been very average over the last few years. it’s not the d-line job to make EVERY play. it’s their job blow up running lanes and let LBs tee off. i think what we’ve seen is 2(TWO) units playing poorly, not just the dline. when LBs aren’t making plays, the dline looks bad

  • Just Fire Baby

    The way I size it up, the choice is between a good backup and a not very good starter.

    It should be a toss-up and an actual competition, Jerry Mac be damned.

  • http://www.oakglenisafuktard.com MistaBrown

    JFB is gonna ride this Grads thing till the bitter end just like tj rode Russells ball sack. At least no racial bigotry from JFB.

  • ottocrat

    Gawddamn, is training camp really less than one week away? Unbelievable.

  • J Wiggle

    JFB,

    I hear you, but even if we go with your description JC is a level above BG.

    I don’t really think BC is a pro bowler or anything, but I think he has a better chance to be successful than Grads because of his “tools”. Bigger, stronger arm, plus all the intangibles than Bruce brings.

    I don’t think he’s been anointed, so to speak. It may be unfortunate that Bruce got hurt, but BC has gotten all the reps and the WRs and folks are raving about the guy.

  • RDRZ408

    TK was good when he played along with Sapp after he left well not that good

  • Just Fire Baby

    So far Campbell has done everything you can ask of him. I have been real happy with reports of him taking the offensive line to a BBQ, and going to lunch in the city with the WR’s.

    I raved all last year at how important that stuff is, in regards to Bruce, and was laughed off, with people telling me the only thing that matters is between the strips and talent.

    Bunch of BS, IMO. QB’s jobs are to date the hottest girls, be the coolest guy, and a hard-working likable dude. That’s just the way of the gig.

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    Gruden + Gannon – Al Davis = MVP.

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

    More like: Gannon + Trestman – Gruden = MVP

  • Just Fire Baby

    I’m in the car office, but you can go to NFL.com and look at defensive line stats year-by-year.

    TK is always in the top 10 in tackles, and even got third one year I think. And when you wittle it down to just DT’s he is suprisingly more productive than most pro bowlers.

    Now do I think he is better than say a Pro Bowler? Of course not. But it does go to show that the guy is an average to above average player, and able to stay on the field.

  • bcz24

    HairyBush Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 11:40 am
    DKnight007 Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 11:39 am
    Teams to watch for to make to Super Bowl this year:

    Vikings
    Ravens
    Jets
    Dallas
    —————————–
    pretty safe picks with exception of Baltimore IMO.
    *************************************
    Sorry im so late on this, I have already placed my money on Baltimore as the AFC Super Bowl team. Solid QB, much improved WR’s, top 3 rushing attack, and outstanding OLine, on the offensive side. We all know about their D. Adding Mt Cody to that line was huge (no pun intended). Their weakness is their secondary, but realistically their front 7 dont offer a lot of time for opposing QB’s to exploint the weak secondary. The Ravens also have the best Red Zone D. IMO… Ravens = Super Bowl

  • DutchRaider77

    Rookie Salary Cap?
    Congrats Raiders Fans we have the highest paid Athlete in the Bay Area for 2010: DHB
    Dude better be the most improved player.

    http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/sports/Salary-Shocker-Heyward-Bey-Highest-Paid-Athlete-in-Bay-99027374.html

  • bcz24

    *Exploit it either

  • Just Fire Baby

    CJ Legend 34 Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    D@mn! I am so glad Russel is histroy this year. What a great feeling, he was terrible to watch. You never knew what was going to happen when he let the ball go.

    **************************************

    Whenever it was a 3rd and long, I just cringed when he dropped back. Anything that let Shane trot onto the field was a major plus. And a 3rd down conversion? It felt like a miracle.

  • bcz24

    DutchRaider77 Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 1:25 pm
    Rookie Salary Cap?
    Congrats Raiders Fans we have the highest paid Athlete in the Bay Area for 2010: DHB
    Dude better be the most improved player.

    http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/sports/Salary-Shocker-Heyward-Bey-Highest-Paid-Athlete-in-Bay-99027374.html
    *************************************

    He’s also the highest drafted athlete in the Bay area who hasn’t already faced being cut…

  • Just Fire Baby

    Ravens are my super bowl pick as well. One last hurrah for Ray-Ray, and Boldin is going to be huge for them.

  • bcz24

    LOL… I hope Shane keeps it parked on the bench a lot this year… at least let Seabass attempt more than 8 FGs this year!

  • DutchRaider77

    Are the Vikings on the list of SB contenders list w/o Favre?

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    On the theory that anything advocated by President Ob@ma and the Democr@ts must be resisted, if only for partisan purposes, Senate Republ!cans are applying their patented obstructionism to a bill to expand an array of tax breaks to small businesses.

    “I think Senator McConnell knows and believes this bill could actually create millions of jobs and doesn’t want to give the president and Democr@ts credit for doing what we do, which is standing up for the middle class,” Ms. Landrieu said.

  • bcz24

    Don’t forget about Stalworth. While teams are busy focused on Boldin and Mason Stalworth is going to be picking on some LB’s or NB’s. He is a very good #3 in the slot.

  • Just Fire Baby

    Watching the Ravens game last week, if Jamarcus wasn’t such a rockhead, teams would be kicking down the door inviting him to camp. Not for a starting gig, but to see if they could foster his talent.

    He looked good and made some pretty good throws. Too bad he is a complete tool.

  • bcz24

    IMO no the Vikings are not contenders without Favre. I think they are 8-8 with Jackson/Rosenfels, on a side not, I think without Favre, AP wins the rushing title this year.

  • DutchRaider77

    Best NFL gig had to be the Colts Punter when Manning broke Marino’s record!

  • Just Fire Baby

    And game management is about as foreign as a ceaser salad to him.

    14-13, all the momentum on his side, first and 10 and…..he throws into triple coverage.

    Did the guy ever throw a ball away? He would sprint towards the sidelines and throw shyt up for grabs.

  • http://www.oakglenisafuktard.com MistaBrown

    BsJ are you still talking about JaMarcus Bobam@? The biggest failure since Jimmy Carter!

    lol

  • bcz24

    Did the guy ever throw a ball away? He would sprint towards the sidelines and throw shyt up for grabs.
    ********************************************
    Couldn’t grab the Triple Whopper with a football in his hands… and lets not call that lumbering gait “sprinting”… briskly walking maybe, not sprinting.

  • ottocrat

    DutchRaider77 Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 1:25 pm
    Rookie Salary Cap?
    Congrats Raiders Fans we have the highest paid Athlete in the Bay Area for 2010: DHB
    Dude better be the most improved player.

    http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/sports/Salary-Shocker-Heyward-Bey-Highest-Paid-Athlete-in-Bay-99027374.html

    ————————————————–

    That reminds me of the two year period where Eric Dampier was the highest paid athlete in the BA. More than Bonds, Young, or Gannon. Oh well, at least DHB might end up being useful…maybe.

  • J Wiggle

    with people telling me the only thing that matters is between the strips and talent.

    ——————————————————

    I wasn’t talking about the BBQs and bowling, lol!

    The WRs are talking about on the field stuff clicking along with the new OC.

    Still could care less about what goes on off the field. As long as it isn’t negatively impacting what you do on the field, obviously.

  • Thec07

    Bmore, Colts, NATION, Jets….

  • J Wiggle

    JFB,

    Why are you still talking about Russell?

    Who cares ???

  • Thec07

    MistaBrown Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 1:34 pm
    BsJ are you still talking about JaMarcus Bobam@?

    +++++++++++++++

    ROFLMAO…. Jamarcus Brobam@….

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    Jimmy Carter > Ronnie Bonzo

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    Middle class > Billionaires

  • Thec07

    sheeple class < millionaires < Billionaires < Controllers

  • Just Fire Baby

    You want your O-lineman and WR’s to be your boys not your co-workers.

    You can get these guys to give you 110% and make your job easier, or they could give 98% and wait until you prove something to them and than they go 110%

    What, you don’t think the boss taking you out to lunch makes you work harded, if even just for that afternoon? Management 101 my friend, and QB’s jobs are to manage the guys, from Zack Miller down to Sam Williams.

  • J Wiggle

    Baltimore ????

    Because they added Boldin?

    Flacco was one of the worst if not the worst QB down the stretch. The guy was terrible.

    I think they finish 3rd in their division and miss the playoffs.

  • Thec07

    J Wiggle Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 1:42 pm
    Baltimore ????

    Because they added Boldin?

    Flacco was one of the worst if not the worst QB down the stretch. The guy was terrible.

    I think they finish 3rd in their division and miss the playoffs.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++====

    Very Solid draft.
    Flacco Still growing, will be expected to do more.
    D is not going anywhere…