Well three weeks into the season, musical chairs at the quarterback position for the Oakland Raiders begin, as Bruce Gradkowski, not Jason Campbell leads the Oakland Raiders into Glendale, Arizona to take on the Arizona Cardinals. I’m not surprised by this move, although it proves two things. One, Head Coach Tom Cable is desperate and two, Gradkowski only gives them a better chance to win because of poor offensive line play. Either way, this will make for an interesting turn of events. Both teams will come into Sunday’s game at 1-1 apiece, and look to head into the upward direction as the season progresses. Both teams still have consistency issues, so you can say they’re evenly matched. Here are three things Oakland should focus on come Sunday.
Oakland must simply do better against the run. They made a slight improvement last week, going from 31st to 29th, if thats what you want to call it. The load doesn’t get any easier as they face a dual threat of running backs in Tim Hightower and Chris “Beanie” Wells, who will play for the first time this season after sitting out the first two games with a bruised right knee that he got playing in Arizona’s final preseason game. To make matters worst the Raiders may be without defensive tackle John Henderson this Sunday due to injury. I’m still debating on whether thats a good or bad thing. Against the run last Sunday, the Raiders run defense made strides as the game went on. Lets see if elevates to new heights against the Cardinals. If Oakland slows down the running attack, then you force journeyman quarterback Derek Anderson to beat you with his arm. Last week against the Falcons, Anderson was held to 167 yards passing and two interceptions. So you can imagine what will happen when he faces the 5th best pass defense in the league. Slow down the run and you halt the Cardinals.
The Raiders are 3rd n the NFL in rushing behind the great play of running back Darren McFadden, and will get an upgrade (if thats even possible) to their run game when Michael Bush returns to the Oakland backfield. After sitting out the first two games with a thumb injury, Bush should be fresh and ready to go come Sunday. Working him back into the mix the Raiders could arguably have the best running back tandem in the league. This two headed-monster should allow the Raiders to control the time of possession as well as open up the passing game even more. Having an established running attack always sets the tone for a ball game and takes pressure off the quarterback. I predict another week of a heavy starch and carb diet of the ground game. Run the Cardinals defense into the ground and they will become fatigued come the fourth quarter, just look at last week’s tape against the Falcons.
So the return of the Bruce is official, for now at least. Gradkowsk did perform well in the second half, but remember football is a tale of two halves and the Raiders have yet to put a full solid game of offense under their belt. The energy and ability to play with this lethargic offensive line should have the Raiders offense in a good mind state come Sunday. Offensive Coordnator Hue Jackson, should be more crisp with his play calling that will suit the strengths of Gradkowski, that will be the Raiders main offensive challenge (along with solid pay in the trenches of course). Can Gradkowski turn the Raiders into a consistent offensive juggernaut, or as least be able to impersonate one? Remember the Cardinals are at home, in their deluxe stadium, and have serious young weapons of their own. If they find a groove, then Oakland’s offense needs to be efficient enough to match it, because you don’t want to play from behind on the road. If the Raiders offense can find a consistent balance, then they should be able to control the tempo of the game.
Both teams are evenly matched and winning this game could go a long way into propelling them into a successful season. Its these games that you find a way to win, because you have the talent and simple and plain you just should get it done. For Raider Nation, the Raiders will be on the road in a hostile environment (of course not like the Black Hole), will they rise to the challenge? This could be an early statement game for the Silver and Black, lets see how this one unfolds.
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Written by Arthur Kai