The Oakland Raiders officially announced on Wednesday that Bruce Gradkowski will start when they travel to Arizona on Sunday to face the Cardinals.
This move is being made in hopes that Gradkowski can continue the jumpstart that he gave the team in the second half during last Sunday's game against the St Louis Rams. It comes down to the fact that both last year and this year the offense responds better with Gradkowski under center, even with the same opponent and supporting cast. The goal of the switch is not just to get the yards, which the offense was able to break off in chunks under the the scrappy quarterback, but ultimately to score more points.Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson detailed the two things that were most frustrating to him in the win over the Rams, "There's the things that disappointed me, one being the turnovers, two is our inability to put the ball in the end zone consistently. The yards are all fine. We're not about yards. We don't really talk about it. The yards are great to have because it means you have opportunity to score points, but our job is score touchdowns." He continued, "The bottom line is we want to celebrate touchdowns. That's what we do, that's what our players enjoy. That's what they get paid to do, to score touchdowns, the running backs and receivers and tight ends and our quarterback, and that's what we want to do."
Both Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski have one touchdown each so far this season. Campbell hit Darren McFadden for a seven yard touchdown pass against the Titans, whilst Gradkowski had a five yard completion to Louis Murphy against the Rams. However, Campbell's two interceptions and four fumbles are not what the team wants to see from its recent acquisition. The final straw was his failure to call a time out when the team was misaligned on a failed fourth and one play deep in Rams territory. It is the mental mistakes that Head Coach Tom Cable has railed against since he became the head coach. Jackson specifically mentioned turnovers as an issue, "What my disappointment is, one, we're turning the ball over We've turned the ball over now two times apiece in the last two games. That's not what we're about. We do not want to turn the football over."
When he announced that Gradkowski was named the starter, Cable said, "We are going to start Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback. The reasons are pretty simple. I think there are two of them. First and foremost is the energy and the level of intensity that was brought into the huddle when he came into the game. They way the guys responded around him. And obviously scoring points. If you look back to the preseason, even at that time in the two games he came in he scored points. That's what we're about. If we can get this thing to where we can score 24 points a game, I think we'll be very tough to beat."
Gradkowski led the Raiders to 27 points in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009, which was the only time that they reached the 24 point plateau all season. They reached 20 points three times last season. JaMarcus Russell did that in the opening night loss to the San Diego Chargers. Bruce Gradkowski did it in his first start as the Raiders came from behind to beat the Cincinnati Bengals, and Charlie Frye and Russell combined to hang 20 on the Broncos in a win in Denver.
Jackson also stressed the need for execution, "But there's something that I wanted to feel and see and I just didn't get that at that time. Like I said, we keep centering it just around the quarterback. It was a little bit of everything. The players will tell you that at halftime I had a little eruption because there's something that I wanted done that wasn't getting done. In the second half, you guys saw that we were a little different football team."
Cable was not surprised that Gradkowski was able to step right in and have success despite the missed time in the offseason, "I don't think it really surprised his teammates either. Once Bruce goes to work at something - you mentioned the fact he missed all that time, but he never stopped working. He's studying. Some newness of the system, he's still learning it. For him to come out and do some of those things with some of the new things is probably the surprise, but just his way of playing, his fieriness, his competitiveness didn't surprise you at all."
More importantly for the stability of the team, Cable is not looking to play quarterback roulette. "we want to continue to improve this football team, and that means going out and playing with the right energy and the right attention to detail. I think the thing that stood out to me, so you get where I'm coming from, is the same people, same day, same defense, same opponent, same people in the huddle with you, didn't change the plan, and yet we were able to go out and move the ball and score some points. He'll go in there and do the job. It's his now. Where we go from here, obviously, will be decided by how well he plays."
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