NOTE: Minimal availability on Thanksgiving Day, with brief sessions with coach Tom Cable and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, which were passed along by beat writer Steve Corkran. Wanted to thank everyone for making this the most popular blog at the Bay Area News Group and say Happy Thanksgiving . . .
While I’ve thought for awhile the Raiders were going to need two quarterbacks to get through the season and have no serious issues with Jason Campbell starting against Pittsburgh and getting another start against Miami, there was one thing that didn’t add up when they made the switch to Bruce Gradkowski with 4:42 left in the third quarter.
When Cable talked to the media on Monday, he said he thought Campbell played well early “and was good up to that point where it got to be too much pressure. It got to him a little bit and then you had to make a change.”
The Raiders were playing the Steelers. Pressure is their game, and they were certainly going to dial it up to the extreme after getting cut to ribbons by Tom Brady the previous week.
So Campbell and the Raiders got a head start during the bye week on dealing with pressure, then an entire week of preparation. Add to that Campbell’s six years experience as a starting NFL quarterback, during which time he’s probably seen and dealt with every manner of blitz.
And then Cable and Hue Jackson brought out the hook when it appeared he couldn’t handle it?
That’s all well and good except for what that implies _ that backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski could deal with it. At least better than Campbell.
Campbell, who was scheduled to talk with the media Thursday opted out, perhaps wanting to get a five-minute head start to be with his family for Thanksgiving. Or maybe to look at another cut-up of Miami’s blitz package, because if the Dolphins are smart, they’ll send the house at Campbell on Sunday.
Jackson took a few minutes to explain the reasoning for replacing Campbell against Pittsburgh.
“Here was an opportunity where things weren’t going as well and as I have said to my players, `I am going to do everything I can to see if I can get something going and get on track,” Jackson said. “So, the decision was made to put Bruce in the game and by no stretch of the imagination was that about Jason. It was just a feel _ sometimes a coach has a feel and things need to change.
“We don’t like to play musical chairs at quarterback but sometiems you do whatever you think you have to do to win.
“So, we put Bruce in. I had a couple of thoughts there: 1) Could he help us go win the game?; 2) He hasn’t played in awhile and here’s a great opportunity for him to play and get back into the rhythm of playing; and 3) Gos, if anything, let’s see if we can mix it up here and get something going, because nothing was going . . . obviously it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. Any decision made there wasn’t great. But again it was an opportunity for him to get in the game and he needed to do that.”
All well and good, but the fact is, Jackson can say all he wants it “wasn’t about Jason” when obviously it was very much about Jason.
A few more news and notes:
— There is no 72-hour deadline because of the holiday regarding a blackout, but it’d be a surprise if the Raiders-Dolphins game is televised locally.
— Players who were limited at practice Thursday were WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring), LG Robert Gallery (leg contusion), TE Zach Miller (arch), CB Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle), SS Tyvon Branch (shoulder) and S Hiram Eugene (stinger). WR Chaz Schilens (foot) and CB Chris Johnson (groin) did not practice.
Cable said Miller is “way better than last week. He’s doing a lot more, but still not everything.
Cable estimated Asomugha at “90 percent. He’s doing very well.”
Asked about the Raiders’ 29th-ranked passing game, Cable’s answer could probably have been lifted from a similar point in November in each of the last two seasons.
“Consistency. That’s the No. 1 thing,” Cable said. “And it’s either been a protection breakdown, or a late throw, or a missed read or a dropped ball. If we clean up those issues, our consistency level will go way up, particularly on third down.
— It looks like Chad Henne could return to play quarterback Sunday, although Miami coach Tony Sparano wouldn’t come out and say it to reporters in Miami.
“I think it’s pretty good, so. It’s getting better,” Sparano said of Henne’s mobility. “Getting better every day out there, so. He moved around pretty good today we’ll see.”
Henne is a more dangerous passer than Tyler Thigpen but would provide a more stationary target for the Oakland pass rush.
It would appear wide receiver Brandon Marshall won’t be ready Sunday. He didn’t practice again and has been slow to recover from a hamstring pull. Left tackle Jake Long, who has a bad shoulder, was listed as having participated fully.
— Sparano took a moment to talk about the Oakland crowd with reporters.
“I mean they’re rough. I remember my first couple years in the league went out there, probably shouldn’t say this but I was a young line coach and I’m in the end zone and you’re up against it pretty good there, up against the back line and I had my back turned to the fans here and of course they know you by name,” Sparano said. “Now I mean they’re getting after you pretty good and I’m coaching the guys and kind of sending them out and I get a tap on the shoulder and I wasn’t sure, why would anybody be touching me?
“ And then I turned around and it was this Darth Vader guy with a sword (laughing).”
More on playing at the Coliseum:
“They’re passionate fans . . . it’s kind of a neat environment. I really, I really enjoyed playing down there the couple times that I’ve been down there and I mean there’s obviously great tradition there. It’s a hard place to play,” Sparano said. “Now I mean they’re loud; I mean it gets loud there. One of the louder places that I’ve been.”