Campbell excited for Raiders debut
AP Sports Writer
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – Jason Campbell has talked about how his trade to Oakland offered a new start to his career following a disappointing five-year run in Washington.
After a long offseason of practice, training camp and preseason games, Campbell starts his tenure as the Raiders’ starting quarterback Sunday at Tennessee against the Titans.
“It’s exciting,” Campbell said Wednesday. “Every year, the first game is always different, this year especially because I am with a new team. There’s a lot of new faces on this team, and a lot of guys trying to establish what we’re going to be for the year.”
Campbell is trying to establish a new identity as a player in Oakland. The Raiders are trying to do the same as a team following an NFL-record seven straight seasons of at least 11 losses.
With former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell at the helm for most of last season, the Raiders had one of the worst offenses in the league on the way to a 5-11 finish. They were second-to-last in the league in scoring with 197 points and gained the second-fewest yards.
The team showed some improvement late in the season after Russell was benched, leading to the draft-day trade for Campbell and subsequent release of Russell.
That was just one of the changes on offense, where new coordinator Hue Jackson has brought in some wrinkles from his time in Baltimore, and rookie center Jared Veldheer and veteran tackle Langston Walker are being counted on to improve the offensive line.
The Raiders are hoping those changes will help second-year receivers Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey shine after up-and-down rookie campaigns.
“From last year, it’s a big difference,” Murphy said. “We’re just doing a lot of different motions, a lot of different ways to get open, really knowing what the defense is bringing. I guess it’s just being in it for another year, too, it makes you feel much more comfortable. Just from last year, man, we’re doing a lot of different things, and we’re throwing the ball down the field and giving the receiver a chance to make plays and that’s a good thing.”
The most important change is at quarterback, where Campbell replaces a player who had the lowest passer rating for a season of any quarterback since 1998.
Campbell started 52 games for Washington since being a first-round pick in 2005. He has thrown for 55 touchdowns, 38 interceptions and has a passer rating of 82.3 in his career. He is coming off his best season, completing 64.5 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a passer rating of 86.4.
But the Redskins went 4-12 last season and new coach Mike Shanahan brought in Donovan McNabb to take over from Campbell.
“He’s had his own ups and downs, so I think he’s been a good fit for us and vice versa,” Raiders coach Tom Cable said. “He’s come into this thing with an open mind and really opened himself up to this team and you find out real quick what Jason Campbell is all about. He’s going to be about team, about hard work and wanting to achieve and I think that’s really important at the quarterback spot.”
Campbell said he’s seen dramatic improvement in the passing offense over the course of the preseason. He led the first-team offense on touchdown drives in each of his final two preseason games.
It will be tougher come Sunday, especially with starting receiver Chaz Schilens out with a knee injury and running back Michael Bush’s status in doubt because of a broken left thumb.
“It’s been the story of our training camp – in and out, guys in and out but at the same time, other guys have stepped up,” Campbell said. “When one guy guys down other guys step up and make plays and that’s how it’s going to be all year. Of course, Bush is a big part of our offense and Chaz is a big part of our offense and right now we do have to continue to keep pushing forward.”
NOTES: The Raiders signed former Giants DL Jay Alford and released OL Erik Pears. … Bush was limited at practice but Cable says there’s a “real chance” that he plays Sunday. … Trevor Scott, who started camp as an outside linebacker, will be the starting defensive end in place of Matt Shaughnessy, with Quentin Groves starting at linebacker. … Yamon Figurs will open the season as the kick and punt returner.