|Kirby Lee / US Presswire|
|Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders could very well elevate Jason Campbell to the next level.|
This is the year Jason Campbell becomes a franchise quarterback.
Granted, optimism typically runs high when changes are made, but the marriage between the two offensive masterminds and Campbell appears to be a match made in heaven. The coaching duo shares similar schematic philosophies for moving the ball, and the Raiders' signal caller is an ideal fit for the bombs-away attack they envision.
Saunders, a 27-year NFL coaching veteran, was hired by Jackson to serve as the Raiders' offensive coordinator after spending last season as a consultant for the Baltimore Ravens. He is a Don Coryell disciple with a vast knowledge of the vertical game. As a highly respected architect with a keen knowledge of the passing game, Saunders has orchestrated some of the most explosive offenses in league history, including the Kansas City Chiefs from 2001 to 2005, who led the league in points, touchdowns and net yardage during that span.
As a play designer, Saunders loves to incorporate a variety of pre-snap motions, shifts and formations to keep defenses off-balance. The utilization of movement is designed to test the discipline of the coverage and exploit blown assignments or hesitant defenders unsure of their responsibilities.
Jackson, however, will remain the play caller on game day, and the team will build upon the momentum created by the offense's strong showing a season ago. The Raiders finished sixth in scoring offense with 410 points, more than double their output from the previous season. While Jackson relied heavily on their second-ranked rush offense, the unit showed flashes of being explosive in the passing game.
Saunders and Jackson are not only highly respected for their overall offensive acumen, but they are lauded for their ability to groom receivers. Under Jackson's tutelage in Cincinnati from 2004-06, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ochocinco became one of the most prolific receiving tandems in the league, and each topped the 1,000-yard mark in his final season.
In St. Louis, Saunders developed a dynamic receiving corps -- Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Ricky Proehl and Az-Zahir Hakim -- as part of the "Greatest Show on Turf," and also tutored an explosive crew of receivers for "Air Coryell" in San Diego.
Given the vast knowledge and expertise of the Raiders' offensive architects, Campbell should post big numbers in his second season at the helm in Oakland. For one of the few times in his career, he gets to play in the same scheme for the second straight year, which allows him to build upon the momentum he created at the end of the season. During the Raiders' final five games, Campbell completed 64.7 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and only two interceptions for an impressive 94.6 passer rating.
With Saunders coming over to add a few more wrinkles to the offensive approach, Campbell's game is certain to reach a new level in 2011. That optimism is fueled by the familiarity between the pupil and student (Saunders was offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins for two of Campbell's first three years in Washington), and the growth of the signal caller since that point.
Campbell has shown steady improvement over the course of his career from an accuracy and decision-making standpoint, and his willingness to take more chances down the field has resulted in his yards-per-attempt average improving each season.
He is a strong-armed thrower with above-average touch and accuracy. He shines on intermediate throws, but is very capable of making pinpoint throws down the field. He routinely throws in rhythm when working off play-action or conventional drops, and his timing allows him to lead receivers into open windows.
Given the Raiders' desire to implement more rhythm and vertical throws into the game plan, Campbell's numbers should go through the roof this season.
The Raiders have set their sights squarely on making the postseason in 2011, and the play of their quarterback will go a long way toward making that happen. With a pair of masterminds intent on building their offense around his game, Campbell will finally prove he is worthy of putting a franchise on his back.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks