NAPA (CBS / AP) — With a season in Oakland under his belt, the chance to play with the same play-caller for a second straight year and the starting quarterback job firmly in his grasp, Jason Campbell began training camp with a whole new comfort level.
Campbell doesn’t have to spend this camp still learning a new offense, proving he deserved the starting role over the popular Bruce Gradkowski and earning the trust of his teammates.
“This season I know the guys,” Campbell said after the Raiders’ first practice on Thursday. “We’re pretty much running the same system. That gives you an opportunity to elevate your game a little more because you know what you’re doing and you got a feel for the guys around you. It definitely feels more comfortable.”
Campbell has been hurt throughout his career by constantly changing offensive coordinators and schemes since his time in college at Auburn. He had four different offenses in four years at Auburn, then three more in five years with the Redskins. Then last year he had to learn a new system with the Raiders.
But with offensive coordinator Hue Jackson promoted to head coach and still calling plays, Campbell has a rare sense of familiarity with the offense this season. It even helps that the new offensive coordinator, Al Saunders, coached Campbell in Washington for two seasons.
“It definitely helps,” Campbell said. “When you’re going into the same system pretty much, it doesn’t just help the quarterback. It helps the receivers, the running backs, you’re able to do more things. … We were able to stick some different things in there, some things that we’ve been doing, and it all comes off because this is our second year under coach Jackson and his offense.”
Campbell had an up-and-down first season in Oakland after being acquired last April in a trade from Washington. He came into camp as the starting quarterback but lasted only six quarters in that role before being benched in favor of Gradkowski at halftime of the home opener against St. Louis.
Campbell regained the starting spot a month later after Gradkowski got hurt, but was benched by former coach Tom Cable once again in November before getting the job back when Gradkowski got hurt again.
Campbell started 12 games in all last season, winning seven of them. He completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,387 yards, 13 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a passer rating of 84.5.“A lot of guys were learning each other last year,” Campbell said. “We had a new football team and a lot of new guys in a lot of different places. It just took some time for things to jell, but once we got jelling I think you could see some of the talent that we have.”
The job is clearly Campbell’s now, with Jackson laughing off a question about who his starting quarterback was. Now the key is for Campbell to build on his successes last year and make the Raiders’ passing game more consistent.
“I’ve said from Day 1, we go as our quarterback goes. And I think Jason is going to play some tremendous football. I think he’s prepared. I think he’s ready. I see a different look in his eye. This environment is not new to him anymore. Him seeing me is not new to him anymore. Him seeing his teammates is not new to him anymore. I expect for him to take that next jump.”
Campbell began that process in the offseason during the lockout. He played a big role organizing offseason workouts during the lockout and even had receivers Louis Murphy, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford stay with him in the Washington D.C. area for extra side work.
The three receivers crashed on Campbell’s couch in the basement, ate his fiancDe’s cooking and kept him up all night. But the week of workouts also helped build up chemistry with players who will be crucial to Oakland’s success this season and show his knowledge of the offense.
“He’s been studying it all summer,” Ford said. “He has a lot more on his plate than we do. He’s go to know everything. Just the way he handled the grasp of it, just that fast, in his hands, I was really impressed with it. I think he’s going to do a great job leading us in the right direction.”
NOTES: The Raiders got all eight of their draft picks signed and seven of them practiced. Third-round offensive lineman Joseph Barksdale did not sign in time to take the field. … Heyward-Bey, OL Bruce Campbell, DE Trevor Scott did not practice because of injuries. Scott, who tore his ACL last season, will begin camp on the physically unable to perform list.
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