NFL

Raiders: Will Jason Campbell Keep the Starting QB Job Through 2011?

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It  looks like Jason Campbell will inherit the starting quarterback job with the Oakland Raiders in the 2011 season, perhaps out of default because there’s not really any competition. Campbell got off to a rocky start with the Raiders last season and found himself benched for a couple of weeks early in the season in favor of 28-year-old Bruce Gradkowski.

However, Campbell made his way back into the starting lineup and Gradkowski injured his shoulder with about five games to go and was sidelined for the rest of the season. Gradkowski wasn’t offered a new contract and the free agent is likely to end up elsewhere. Raiders’ owner Al Davis said Gradkowski’s a good NFL quarterback, but he’s basically injury prone and can’t be depended on week in and week out.

The Raiders also surprised quite a few people when they didn’t draft a quarterback in the offseason. It seems it’s Campbell’s job to lose and he’ll start the season against the Denver Broncos if he can stay injury free between now and then. The Raiders will likely sign a free agent quarterback in the meantime to compete with backup Kyle Boller, or perhaps turn to Troy Smith.

Campbell ended up playing 13 games for the Raiders, starting 12 of them. He finished with a total of 2,387 passing yards, along with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He had 47 carries for one touchdown and completed 194 out of 324 passes for a 59 per cent rate. It was a solid year if not a spectacular one for Campbell.

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The 29-year-old Campbell, who’s got one more year left at $4.5 million on his contract, might not have been a hit with all of the team’s fans, but he definitely impressed his teammates, coaches, and Davis.

Wide receiver Jacoby Ford said Campbell’s an excellent quarterback with a strong arm who keeps his poise while making the right reads and it’s a pleasure playing with him.

And while former coach Tom Cable seemed to prefer Gradkowski, Raiders’ current coach Hue Jackson said he was supremely confident in Campbell’s abilities and that’s why the team didn’t draft a quarterback, leaving Campbell without any real competition for the starting job. He said there’s no question that Campbell will be the team’s starter next season.

“The guy won some very important games. The guy played hurt. The guy got to know his teammates, rallied his team, and finished very strong, ” Jackson said.

Whether he deserves it or not, Campbell’s basically been handed the quarterback job. And unless there’s another coaching change in Oakland or Davis suddenly decides to sell the franchise, you can expect to see Campbell start the season in his familiar position.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to keep it. Campbell’s going to have to play some solid football to hang onto his job though, especially with the Raiders trying to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2002. If he slips up he could be benched again, depending on who the Raiders decide to sign as a free agent backup, if anybody.