Jason Campbell already an upgrade for Raiders

ARLINGTON, Texas — Even though Jason Campbell was seeing his first game action with the Oakland Raiders in Thursday’s preseason opener, there was something very familiar about it.
When Campbell was on the field with longtime Raiders Nnamdi Asomugha and Robert Gallery for the coin toss, he already looked like a seasoned team captain.
It also was natural for him to share pregame pleasantries with the Dallas Cowboys, an opponent that made life most unpleasant for him as the Washington Redskins’ No. 1 quarterback the past four years.
Even though his defense had success against a Campbell-run offense in Washington, Cowboys coach Wade Phillips had plenty of respect for Campbell’s skills.
"He is a tough guy," Phillips said. "He can run around the ball and has a strong arm."
"I think he showed a lot of leadership last year. I know that team didn’t win a lot of games, but he kept hanging in there."
The Raiders haven’t won a lot a games lately, and Campbell can only do so much to help make them better. With a change of coasts that brought him from the nation’s capital to Raider Nation, also comes a change in expectations.
In Washington, the pressure was on him to deliver in the NFC East, where the other three teams were well armed with Tony Romo, Eli Manning and Donovan McNabb.
In Oakland, where they are picking up the pieces of the JaMarcus Russell debacle, just being the standup leader of the offense would be a significant upgrade.
Here’s what must happen around Campbell to avoid a repeat of how his career ended in Washington:

A power running game. Campbell was at his best when the team was able to effectively pound Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts between the tackles. Last season, the offensive line struggled, and the rushing totals dropped. The Raiders have high hopes to restore their offensive strength with hard-running Michael Bush in the featured role.

A tight end who can stretch the field. Campbell leaned often on reliable Redskins TE Chris Cooley in critical situations, from third-and-medium to the red zone. The end of last season, when Cooley was injured, Campbell found a connection with Fred Davis, another athletic target.

 
Fortunately for Campbell, the Raiders have just what he needs. At 6-5, 255 pounds, with great hands and quickness, Zach Miller is quietly one of the league’s best tight ends. It’s not surprising that Campbell and Miller developed a fast rapport. Against the Cowboys, Campbell was 3-for-4 going to Miller, with three of the attempts coming on third down.

A go-to wide receiver. Campbell can’t afford to always throw short passes to his right to Miller or a back, or he won’t keep defenses honest. In true Raiders fashion, Campbell will keep getting his chances to air it out. So far, the deep connection with second-year wideout Louis Murphy was a little off.

Even though there’s some work to be done, just seeing Campbell finally take command was a refreshing site for his new offensive mates.

"Jason is a professional," Gallery said. "He knows where to go with the ball. I know we had good energy."
"Some things need to be cleaned up. But that’s preseason."
 
This story appears in Aug. 13’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only digital sports daily, sign up today.
 
Vinnie Iyer is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at viyer@sportingnews.com.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Even though Jason Campbell was seeing his first game action with the Oakland Raiders in Thursday’s preseason opener, there was something very familiar about it.
When Campbell was on the field with longtime Raiders Nnamdi Asomugha and Robert Gallery for the coin toss, he already looked like a seasoned team captain.
It also was natural for him to share pregame pleasantries with the Dallas Cowboys, an opponent that made life most unpleasant for him as the Washington Redskins’ No. 1 quarterback the past four years.
Even though his defense had success against a Campbell-run offense in Washington, Cowboys coach Wade Phillips had plenty of respect for Campbell’s skills.
"He is a tough guy," Phillips said. "He can run around the ball and has a strong arm."
"I think he showed a lot of leadership last year. I know that team didn’t win a lot of games, but he kept hanging in there."
The Raiders haven’t won a lot a games lately, and Campbell can only do so much to help make them better. With a change of coasts that brought him from the nation’s capital to Raider Nation, also comes a change in expectations.
In Washington, the pressure was on him to deliver in the NFC East, where the other three teams were well armed with Tony Romo, Eli Manning and Donovan McNabb.
In Oakland, where they are picking up the pieces of the JaMarcus Russell debacle, just being the standup leader of the offense would be a significant upgrade.
Here’s what must happen around Campbell to avoid a repeat of how his career ended in Washington:

A power running game. Campbell was at his best when the team was able to effectively pound Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts between the tackles. Last season, the offensive line struggled, and the rushing totals dropped. The Raiders have high hopes to restore their offensive strength with hard-running Michael Bush in the featured role.

A tight end who can stretch the field. Campbell leaned often on reliable Redskins TE Chris Cooley in critical situations, from third-and-medium to the red zone. The end of last season, when Cooley was injured, Campbell found a connection with Fred Davis, another athletic target.

 
Fortunately for Campbell, the Raiders have just what he needs. At 6-5, 255 pounds, with great hands and quickness, Zach Miller is quietly one of the league’s best tight ends. It’s not surprising that Campbell and Miller developed a fast rapport. Against the Cowboys, Campbell was 3-for-4 going to Miller, with three of the attempts coming on third down.

A go-to wide receiver. Campbell can’t afford to always throw short passes to his right to Miller or a back, or he won’t keep defenses honest. In true Raiders fashion, Campbell will keep getting his chances to air it out. So far, the deep connection with second-year wideout Louis Murphy was a little off.

Even though there’s some work to be done, just seeing Campbell finally take command was a refreshing site for his new offensive mates.

"Jason is a professional," Gallery said. "He knows where to go with the ball. I know we had good energy."
"Some things need to be cleaned up. But that’s preseason."
 
This story appears in Aug. 13’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only digital sports daily, sign up today.
 
Vinnie Iyer is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

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