When the Raiders were still in training camp, quarterback Jason Campbell said he was ready to make a bigger impact this season.
After playing for so many coaches in so many systems in his six previous NFL seasons, the former first-round pick out of Auburn finally was settled in with the Raiders. There was no quarterback controversy, no steep learning curve.
In August, Campbell told Sports Illustrated he was ready to make a “splurge” and take his game to “that next level.” He cited his previous inconsistency, when he’d have three or four good games, followed by a “dropoff game.”
So far, Campbell is on the right track.
Lost amid Sunday’s collapse in Buffalo was a terrific performance by Campbell, who twice led his team from behind in the fourth quarter, throwing TD passes to Darren McFadden and Denarius Moore. And, as time expired, Campbell almost connected on another bomb to Moore.
In 2010, Campbell lost his job at one point to Bruce Gradkowski. But since regaining the job (when Gradkowski was injured), the Oakland Tribune’s Jerry McDonald writes that Campbell has been a different quarterback. Through the five final games of 2010 and the first two of 2011, Campbell has a 97.2 passer rating, one of the best in the league and far above his career mark of 83.1. Over that span he’s thrown nine TD passes vs. three interceptions.
In two games this season, Campbell is 36-of-55 for 428 yards and three TDs, with just one interception. Campbell’s 9.9 yards per pass attempt ranks No. 2 in the league, reports ESPN.
On Wednesday, head coach Hue Jackson might have gone a little overboard in saying Campbell is “as fine a quarterback as there is in this league.” Still, there seems no doubt he’s improved.
He’ll face perhaps his biggest test so far Sunday in the Jets, who have maybe the best pair of corners in the AFC in Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis.
Also, whether Campbell’s improvement means a better record and a trip to the playoffs is still up in the air. After all, can he play defensive back, too?
Says Jackson: “His true measure is going to be winning and losing games.”