Dissecting Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders Quarterback
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There are decidedly few things that I’m actually an expert on. I’m an expert at evaluating the present value of future predictions (not much). I’m an expert in terms of appreciating the awesomeness of Royals RHP Zack Greinke. I’m an expert at cost-benefit and break-even analysis. Someday, I’ll be an expert in football win shares.
I don’t know a whole lot about much else, but I can safely say that I am a Jason Campbell expert. In the wake of Campbell’s cross-country trade from Washington to Oakland, there are only winners and no losers.
The biggest winner is probably Campbell himself, who received a contract extension as part of the trade, and goes to the only team in the NFL who actually treats quarterback reclamation projects as future franchise quarterbacks. If Campbell had instead gone to Buffalo or to Carolina, he probably would have started this year, but he would have played the role of stopgap, and eventually, veteran backup on a bunch of teams. The Cardinals and Rams were both interested in Campbell as a future starter, but both had better options come along before compensation was seriously discussed.
That left just the Raiders.
Campbell provides the Raiders instant legitimacy, and for Campbell to escape the NFC East is the thing his career really needed. Observers are aware that Campbell’s numbers remain in the middle of the pack in the NFL despite playing for a team that has no business ranking anywhere near the middle of anything offensively, but because Campbell has spent the development portion of his career playing in the NFC East where he was annually the 4th (or even 5th!) best quarterback in a tough division, and more significantly, the defenses reigned supreme. Six games a year, Campbell would get blasted by the likes of Dallas, Philadelphia, and the NY Giants. In17 starts against NFC East competition, Campbell compiled a 4-13 career record. He handled the Eagles pretty well, going 3-3 against them career, and always raised his game against the Cowboys, despite going a mere 1-4 against them, but Campbell never could solve the Giants, managing a paltry 0-6.
Escaping the hard-hitting defenses in the NFC East and replacing them with the cupcake defenses of San Diego and Kansas City, not to mention inheriting a home field that never gets frigid and windy in the winter, Campbell instantly projects to the AFC West as a 90.0+ QB rating player. In addition, the Raiders will offer him receiving options that he never had in Washington in Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens, not to mention that Darrius Heyward-Bey becomes a more legitimate NFL player now sans JaMarcus Russell.
Ultimately, the Raiders’ success and Campbell’s success depend on an improvement in the quality of the offensive line from last year, an Oakland unit that was a very Washingtonian-style sieve. The Raiders added Hillsdale’s Jared Veldheer and Maryland’s Bruce Campbell (no relation) in the draft, and they combined with incumbents Erik Pears and Mario Henderson will need to stabilize the tackle position if Campbell is going to have any chance to perform for the Raiders. I’m assuming that Campbell, eventually, will need to be moved inside (to guard) in a zone-blocking scheme to be successful, and probably will not contribute much as a rookie. Veldheer, I think, is facing a steep learning curve, but could handle the right tackle position in Oakland as soon as this season. If Oakland is willing to get really aggressive, they might try to kick Robert Gallery back out to left tackle and see if experience has prepared him to handle elite edge rushers.
Really, we know Oakland has the receivers, and know they have the runners to be successful, and now that they have the quarterback, the offensive line (left tackle, center) become the biggest offensive question marks from the Raiders. More impressively, they made all this improvement while spending the first two rounds trying to solidify the quality of their defensive front. The biggest winner in all this is CB Nnamdi Asomugha, who, for the first time in his stellar NFL career, looks to play for a winner in Oakland.
Does all of this bay area optimism mean the Redskins were losers in this trade? It really doesn’t mean anything of the sort. The Redskins spent most of the last two years trying to actively destroy Jason Campbell’s trade value, so the fact that they received no present value for Campbell doesn’t reflect at all on their current front office. While the McNabb trade was likely a poor solution to a non-issue, once it’s taken for granted that McNabb is on the Redskins roster, there was no real reason to keep Campbell around any longer. The pick the Redskins received will appreciate over time, and eventually, it could turn into a valuable piece of the Shanahan-era Redskins. Right now, trading Campbell just frees up a roster spot for a team that needs all the roster space it can get to rebuild.
The Redskins are worse, overall, right now than they were at the beginning of last year (by a significant amount) and the McNabb-Campbell saga has been a large part of that, but the Redskins needed to tear down the structures that were not working. Campbell’s .235 win percentage inside the division (.457 outside of it) made him very expendable to the Redskins, and McNabb’s .417 winning percentage inside the NFC East since 2005 (.375 against teams that aren’t Washington) will be a vast improvement as the Redskins strive for 6 or 7 victories this year.
Making Oakland a playoff contender is more difficult that it appears because no improvement at the Quarterback position will make them comparable to San Diego in the AFC West, but the Redskins have a single advantage this year: they play the AFC South so they can be the team that denies the Texans, Jags, or Titans a playoff tiebreaker. In a large sample, Oakland probably isn’t good enough to make a postseason push, but as the AFC showed us last year, you don’t have to win more than 8 or 9 games if you happen to hold the right tiebreakers.
That’s the best chance the Raiders have had in about six years.