New QB Campbell excited to begin tenure with Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Jason Campbell has talked about how his trade to the Oakland Raiders offered him a new start following a disappointing five-year run with the Washington Redskins.

After a long offseason of practice, training camp and preseason games, Campbell starts his tenure as the Raiders' starting quarterback Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.

"It's exciting," Campbell said Wednesday. "Every year, the first game is always different, this year especially, because I am with a new team. There's a lot of new faces on this team and a lot of guys trying to establish what we're going to be for the year."

Campbell is trying to establish a new identity in Oakland. The Raiders are trying to do likewise following an NFL-record seven consecutive seasons with at least 11 losses.

With former No. 1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell at the helm most of last season, the Raiders had one of the NFL's worst offenses on the way to a 5-11 finish. They were second to last in scoring, with 197 points, and gained the second-fewest yards.

The Raiders showed improvement late in the season, after Russell was benched, leading to the draft-day trade for Campbell and subsequent release of their former No. 1 QB.

That was just one of the changes on offense. New coordinator Hue Jackson has brought in some wrinkles from his time in Baltimore, and rookie center Jared Veldheer and veteran tackle Langston Walker are being counted on to improve the line.

The Raiders are hoping those changes will help wide receivers Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey shine after up-and-down rookie campaigns.

"From last year, it's a big difference," Murphy said. "We're just doing a lot of different motions, a lot of different ways to get open, really knowing what the defense is bringing. I guess it's just being in it for another year, too -- it makes you feel much more comfortable. Just from last year, man, we're doing a lot of different things, and we're throwing the ball down the field and giving the receiver a chance to make plays, and that's a good thing."

The most important change is at quarterback. Russell had the lowest passer rating for a season of any quarterback since 1998.

Campbell started 52 games for Washington since being a first-round pick in 2005. He has thrown for 55 touchdowns with 38 interceptions and has a career passer rating of 82.3. He is coming off his best season, completing 64.5 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and an 86.4 rating.

The Redskins nevertheless went 4-12 last season, and new coach Mike Shanahan brought in Donovan McNabb to take over from Campbell.

"He's had his own ups and downs, so I think he's been a good fit for us and vice versa," Raiders coach Tom Cable said. "He's come into this thing with an open mind and really opened himself up to this team, and you find out real quick what Jason Campbell is all about. He's going to be about team, about hard work and wanting to achieve, and I think that's really important at the quarterback spot."

Campbell said he has seen dramatic improvement in Oakland's passing offense over the course of the preseason. He led the first-team offense on touchdown drives in each of his final two preseason games.

It will be tougher come Sunday, especially with starting receiver Chaz Schilens out with a knee injury and running back Michael Bush's status in doubt because of a broken left thumb.

"It's been the story of our training camp -- in and out, guys in and out, but at the same time, other guys have stepped up," Campbell said. "When one guy goes down, other guys step up and make plays, and that's how it's going to be all year. Of course, Bush is a big part of our offense and Chaz is a big part of our offense, and right now we do have to continue to keep pushing forward."

Notes: The Raiders signed former Giants DL Jay Alford and released OL Erik Pears. ... Bush was limited at practice, but Cable said there's a "real chance" the running back will play Sunday. ... Trevor Scott, who started camp at OLB, will be the starting DE in place of Matt Shaughnessy, with Quentin Groves starting at LB. ... Yamon Figurs will open the season as the kick and punt returner.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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