TSX Team Report
Raiders coach Tom Cable asserted that despite a flip-flop regarding his choice as a starting quarterback and a published report which said Raiders owner Al Davis had expressed his support for Jason Campbell, the ultimate decision rested with him and not his boss.
"This organization, regardless of what's written or what's said, or what some unnamed source says, is run by the owner and coached by the coach," Cable said. "As it pertains to this football team, the decisions that go on with players, they're going to be made by me. I made that clear since Day 1. And that's the way we do business. And obviously, it's working."
Following a 33-3 win over Seattle in Week 8, Cable said Bruce Gradkowski, out with a shoulder injury, would return to the starting lineup when healthy.
"We know who our quarterback is," Cable said at the time.
His stance changed when the Raiders beat the Kansas City Chiefs 23-20 in overtime. It was Oakland's third consecutive win with Campbell as the starter, saying on Monday he was inclined to stay with the hot hand and then saying on Tuesday, "Right now, my feeling is, we've won four of the last five games with the same guy. When you're winning, you're winning. You don't mess with that."
A Bay Area News Group story, citing unnamed sources "inside and outside" the organization, said Davis made it known to Cable he wanted to stay with Campbell.
"Mr. Davis likes what Jason has done in the past month and doesn't see the need to change when things are going well," a person familiar with the situation said. "He thinks Jason is a classic fit for the Raiders style of play."
During a preseason Sirius radio interview with former Cowboys star Gil Brandt, Davis said Campbell reminded him of former Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett.
Campbell had a poor opener in a 38-13 loss to Tennessee and then was removed at halftime of a Week 2 game against St. Louis, trailing 7-3. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said he recommended to Cable that Gradkowski enter the game, and the Raiders won 16-14.
Gradkowski remained the starter through the next two games -- a 24-23 loss to Arizona and a 31-24 defeat against Houston, and sustained a partial separation of his throwing shoulder against San Diego, a game won 35-27 by the Raiders.
Campbell had a career low 10.7 quarterback rating as the Raiders lost 17-9 for the 49ers but presided over three straight wins over Denver, Seattle and Kansas City.
Both quarterbacks say they haven't been told anything specific by the coach regarding their role and will prepare as if starting.
Gradkowski has been the backup before and will do it without complaint if that is what club decides.
"I always feel like I'm the ace in the hole. I'm the X-factor. You want to be the starter," Gradkowski said. "You want to be the starter for your organization. You want to be that leader and take advantage of that. But also if that's what your dealt that's what you do. Whatever it is, I'll be ready and we'll see what happens."
When the Raiders resume play following their bye, they visit Gradkowski's home against Pittsburgh.
Last Dec. 6, Gradkowski led the Raiders to a 27-24 win over the Steelers by completing 20 of 33 passes for 308 yards and three touchdown passes, all in the fourth quarter.
Rolando McClain Sounds Off
--Rolando McClain doesn't have the statistical markers that suggest he's a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
He's quietly gone about his business as the Raiders' starting middle linebacker, a three-down player who remains on the field regardless whether it's third-and-1 or third-and-12.
McClain has a half a sack, no forced fumbles, no fumble recoveries, no interceptions and three passes defensed. He trails strong safety Tyvon Branch (59) and free safety Michael Huff (58) with 42 total tackles.
The man he replaced, Kirk Morrison, now playing in Jacksonville, led the Raiders in tackles four years running.
Through it all, McClain has maintained a silence with regard to the local media, declining comment and choosing to let his actions on the field speak for him. In the days preceding a 23-20 overtime win over Kansas City, McClain said he'd talk if the Raiders sold out a game after 11 consecutive local television blackouts.
So there he was in front of recorders and cameras, making good on his promise, saying he is a lot more comfortable playing football than he is in the public eye.
"I have no problem with y'all," McClain said. "It's just how I was raised. I just stay to myself a lot. It's just the way I've always been."
When it comes to football, McClain mixes easily with his teammates and immediately became a leader on the Oakland defense. Denver coach Josh McDaniels, who met with him during a pre-draft visit, said McClain had one of the brightest football minds he'd ever dealt with.
McClain looks at the Raiders' performance defensively and gives himself at least a passing grade.
"I think I'm playing fine, but besides my individual play I think we've started to come along in our defense and that's what really matters to me. I have a role to help with this defense."
But what about the largely blank highlight reel? The interceptions, the forced fumbles, the sacks? McClain's most visible moment came when he body-slammed Rams receiver Danny Amendola to the turf in Week 2, bringing with it a personal foul and a $5,000 fine.
"I think everybody wants to make plays," McClain said. "That's the league that we're in. You just want to produce. But just from watching plays and watching film, coach is satisfied with what I'm doing.
"I take pride in my man not getting the ball thrown to him. The ball hasn't been going to my man so I haven't had a lot of chances to make interceptions and I'm perfectly fine with that."
Following a rough start defensively, the Raiders have hit their stride the past few weeks in their first three-game winning streak since 2002. Kansas City entered the game leading the NFL with 190 yards per game rushing and left with 104, breaking 100 only because of 13 yards worth of Matt Cassel scrambles.
"There was one meeting, we all just said to each other we were going to play football and he said he was going to call the right things," McClain said. "We were getting into the defense we were most comfortable, and as we said, let the dogs (be) unchained, just play football and have fun. That's what we've been doing."
McClain said his film study indicates that teams are accounting for him being on the field in a way that didn't happen last year.
"Last year you had to double (Richard Seymour) as well as (Tommy Kelly), and they forced the middle linebacker to make plays," McClain said. "If you watch film now, you see you can't double those guys because you have to account for me in the blocking scheme."
Seymour and Kelly have combined for 10 sacks, with Seymour having 5.5 and Kelly 4.5. Last season, Seymour had four sacks and Kelly one.
Coach Tom Cable said opposing line coaches indeed adjust their schemes for McClain.
"When Roland's in there, you have to get out of combinations quicker," Cable said. "You can't let No. 55 just run free in there. He'll kill you. Instead of doubling the center longer, you have to get off that and get on No. 55. He's creating more singles for the two tackles inside."
--DT Richard Seymour thinks the bye week will be beneficial provided the Raiders handle it correctly.
"If you don't handle it right, it can be bad," Seymour said. "You gain a lot of from it, but you can lose a lot of it if you don't handle it the right way. With the attention to detail and the way guys have bought in to what we're trying to do, I think it's going to be a real good thing for us."
As far as momentum, Seymour doesn't think the break will be a problem.
"If you can play, you can play," Seymour said. "If you're a baller, you're a baller. The week of practice will be very big for us next week. Pittsburgh played Monday night and then again on Sunday, so they play two times before we see them.
"It's a great opportunity for us to get physically well and explode when we see them the next time."
--Rock Cartwright, a mainstay on the Raiders' special teams units and someone who has become a team leader, insists he wasn't overly concerned even when the Raiders fell to 2-4.
"I always had confidence in what I had seen," Cartwright said. "I knew there were a lot of young guys who had to get that confidence back. We're a blue-collar team, we're going to go to work and give you everything you've got."
Cartwright spends much of his time on the sideline in the ears of young players, praising them, critiquing them, making sure their heads are in the game.
"I've been in the league awhile so I've seen a lot of things," Cartwright said. "I just try to give 'em what I learned as a young player, try to help them overcome mistakes and get them to be ready on the next play. The next play could be the biggest play in the game."
--Tight end Brandon Myers caught just three passes for 20 yards starting in place of the injured Zach Miller, epitomizing the Raiders' new-found "next man up" philosophy.
"You've just got to do your job, Myers said. "You've got to worry about what you can control and when your name is called, make plays."
In terms of blocking and carrying out his assignments, Cable said the tight end position didn't lose much with Myers playing over Miller.
"I love Zach, and he's a heck of a player, but Brandon really showed himself well," Cable said. "Without Nnamdi, we had others step up, like Chris Johnson and Jeremy Ware.
"You look back at the film and say, 'Wow, these guys really came through when we needed them to.'"
--Punt return specialist Nick Miller is convinced he did not fumble in the third quarter, a turnover that led to a Chiefs' touchdown.
But he blamed himself for muffing the ball in the first place, then failing to secure the ball even after his knee had hit the ground.
"I believe it was a bad call. I know I was down," Miller said. "But at the same time, I shouldn't have put my team in that situation. I was trying to do too much, trying to make the big play."
"Nick's right. He shouldn't have fumbled it in the first place," Cable said. "When he did, you've got to secure it with two hands, get a yard or two back in their direction, then get down. Don't make a bad thing worse. His accountability, like a lot of guys on the team, is what it needs to be."
BY THE NUMBERS:
14 percent -- The Raiders' defensive third-down percentage during their three-game winning streak.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"I wanted the sellout because I knew we were about to do something special. You can feel it in the locker room, you can feel it in practice. We're about to be pretty darned scary around here." -- Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain, who ended a media silence after a sellout against Kansas City.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Raiders broke out their Wildcat formation with Darren McFadden as a shotgun quarterback, flanked by Michael Bush and Marcel Reece.
It resulted in 22 yards rushing and one up-for-grabs McFadden pass that luckily wasn't intercepted.
Cable wasn't divulging future use of the Wildcat, noting it will we used against specific opponents that appear to be vulnerable in that area.
--RB Darren McFadden is on pace for 1,514 yards rushing. Only Marcus Allen (1,759 yards in 1983) has broken 1,500 yards rushing for the Raiders.
--RB Michael Bush has 85 carries through seven games (for 323 yards) and health permitting is likely to surpass his career high of 589 yards set last season.
--DT Richard Seymour has 4.5 sacks and has also made 39 stops in six games. His career high is 56 in 2002.
--WR Darrius Heyward-Bey has made 20 starts and has 28 receptions for 390 yards and two touchdowns.
--PK Sebastian Janikowski already has a career-high 24 touchbacks through nine games. His previous high was 22, set in 2008, 2007 and 2002 -- all in 16 games.
Cable said he he's hopeful of all injured players being available to return for the Pittsburgh game following the bye. More likely, a few players won't be ready. Wide receiver Chaz Schilens has been out all season and John Henderson since Week 2 and even if healthy will probably need more time to get up to speed. The injuries to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and Zach Miller appear severe enough to keep them out another week as well. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain, who left the Kansas City game after 20 plays with a hip pointer, was already back on the practice field, as was strong safety Tyvon Branch, who had "concussion symptoms."
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