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With Campbell down, Raiders must turn to Boller

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Posted Oct. 17, 2011 @ 6:53 p.m. ET
By Eli Kaberon

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about Raiders QB Jason Campbell's development and success in the team's offense. Playing for the first time in nearly a decade in a scheme he was familiar with, Campbell was a key reason for the team's offensive improvement in 2011, balancing Oakland's dominant rushing attack with a patient approach and good judgment from under center. Though his statistics weren't dramatically different this season than they have been in years past, team insiders believed the QB was becoming a better leader and player in his second season with the club.

That enthusiasm, to steal from Larry David, was curbed on Sunday afternoon, when Campbell was taken out of the Raiders' game following an injury to his collarbone. X-rays confirmed the worst, that the quarterback had broken his clavicle, requiring surgery. According to Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune, Campbell will miss at least six weeks and might be done for the entire season.

Backup QB Kyle Boller filled in for Campbell in Week Six following the injury, leading the Raiders to a 24-17 win over the Browns. The team is now 4-2, but faces major QB questions heading into its next game, a home matchup with the rival Chiefs.

The PFW Spin

As a result of Campbell's injury, Raiders head coach Hue Jackson faces the most important decision of his young coaching career. Does he give the starting job to Boller, whom PFW named as the 20th-ranked backup quarterback in the NFL earlier this season, or find a QB via free agency or trade to come in and keep the seat warm until Campbell possibly returns? Neither option is particularly appealing, but one is far superior to the other.

The popular pick for Jackson and the team's front office will be to acquire a player. Rumors of a trade for "retired" QB Carson Palmer (currently under contract to the Bengals) have circulated, though that makes little sense considering Oakland has only three draft choices remaining in 2011 as a result of other moves (including using a third-rounder on a quarterback — third-stringer Terrelle Pryor). Palmer has experience with Jackson from their time together in Cincinnati, but Palmer will be rusty and expensive, two things that don't work in his favor, along with the fact the Bengals' front office has said he won't be traded.

On the free-agent market, it's not exactly a who's who of elite signalcallers. Trent Edwards, who spent all of training camp with the Raiders, is available, but is far from an elite fit. Known during his time with the Bills and Jaguars as "Captain Checkdown," Edwards lacks the arm strength to fit Oakland's vertical passing offense. The same can be said for Josh McCown, a journeyman who hasn't started a game since the last time he was on the Raiders, in 2007. David Garrard, who has recent starting experience and has the physical tools needed to step in and play, would have been considered if he hadn't announced that he needed back surgery.

Then there is Boller, the backup who did OK in Campbell's place on Sunday (8-of-14, 100 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions) but is not the athlete or intelligent thrower that the starter is. He's not the popular choice among the Raider Nation, but at this point, he's really the only viable option for Jackson to turn to. He has starting experience, knows the offense and can get the ball down the field. Though he might toss some interceptions and make mental errors, Boller presents the best fit for the Raiders to remain in playoff contention with their starting QB rehabbing an injury.

With an upcoming schedule that features winnable home games vs. the Chiefs and Broncos (separated with their bye week), along with road trips to face the Vikings and Dolphins, the Raiders are not doomed, even if Campbell were to miss more than six weeks. Boller isn't the game manager and athletic player they'd prefer to have running the offense, but the Raiders have nowhere else to go if they want to remain in playoff contention.

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