Before Jason Campbell was injured, the Raiders seemed to have an identity and focus.
They were a physical, run-first football team cast in the mold of head coach Hue Jackson, an emotional leader who is intent on “building a bully” in the AFC West.
The question now is, will the Raiders’ personality change with Carson Palmer at quarterback?
Will all the attention on Palmer and the passing game take the emphasis off what was working – running the football – and change the character of the offensive line from an aggressive run-blocking unit to a group more intent on pass protection?
Will building a bully and pounding the football take a backseat to a more wide-open offense with Palmer at the controls? And, if so, will the change in personality be a good or a bad thing?
One game, a 28-0 loss to Kansas City, certainly isn’t a good or accurate sample of what’s ahead now that Campbell is gone.
Running back Darren McFadden was injured early and had to leave the game, the Raiders were playing from behind almost the entire afternoon and quarterbacks Kyle Boller and Palmer were rusty and out of sync. The result was an ugly loss and a 4-3 record going into Oakland’s bye week.
This season, the Raiders rank 28th in the NFL in pass attempts per game (30.7), while ranking third in the league in rush attempts per game (31.0) and No. 1 in total rushing yards (1,115).
Campbell, meanwhile, played his role well, handing off, throwing when necessary and avoiding mistakes. He’d thrown just four interceptions and his QB rating was 84.2, better than his career rating of 82.8 and better than Palmer’s season ratings in Cincinnati the past three seasons.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated reported this week that, although he believes Palmer is a major upgrade over Boller, he’s not certain Palmer is that much of an upgrade over Campbell. Comparing the two quarterbacks over the 2008-2010 seasons, King notes Campbell’s completion percentage (.623-.608), yards (9,250-7,813), winning percentage (.432-.389), rating (84.1-81.4) and interception totals (39-50) are all better than Palmer’s.
Jackson admits the Raiders in a transition period, but doesn’t see it as a transition for the worse. He hasn't said anything about de-emphasizing the run or becoming more of a passing offense. He believes once Palmer learns the system, gets his timing down and becomes familiar with his receivers, the Raiders will get back on track, starting with their Nov. 6 game vs. the Broncos.
Plus, the Raiders learned Tuesday that there is no structural damage to McFadden’s foot, meaning he should be ready to go against Denver.
“Just a couple weeks ago, we were one of the better offenses in this league,” he told reporters Monday after the loss to the Chiefs, “and now all of a sudden, it’s like the wheels fell off. No, the wheels didn’t fall off. We didn’t all of a sudden become dumb on offense and not know what we’re doing. What we’re doing is we’re going through a transition period.”
It will be interesting to see over the next few weeks, however, if the Raiders remain a run-focused bullying team, or begin to lean toward the passing game as Palmer settles in. Will their personality remain the same, or is it about to change?