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Is Russell in a battle for Raiders QB job?

Gradkowski will get a chance to become the starter. Matt Bowen

Print This March 24, 2010, 06:48 AM EST

The best decision the Oakland Raiders made as a franchise this offseason was to bring back head coach Tom Cable — because this team isn’t as a far off as we might think when it comes to competing in the AFC West.

The Raiders can play defense, and they have the type of running game that can win in November and December. But they need to settle the quarterback position.

According to reports, a competition for the starting job between JaMarcus Russell and Bruce Gradkowski is going to take place this year — and in my opinion, it’s already starting.

We all know the concerns, questions and opinions about Russell. The best way to describe his career up to this point is to say he’s close to becoming a major first-round bust. But what Russell now has is another opportunity to win a starting job, win over his teammates and start to develop an on- and off-the-field relationship with his young receivers. Case in point: It’s the quarterback’s job to work with last year’s first-round pick, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey — and help his development in the spring.

That starts in the in the film room, out on the field and in the extra time it takes for an NFL QB to prepare for the regular season. Russell should be in the film room all day studying his divisional opponents and self-scouting his own game — if he wants to be a starting QB — along with the wide receivers and the rest of the offensive skill players.

Don’t be the player who shows up for workouts and is out of the building five minutes after they end. Russell — more than any player on that roster — needs this time. The quarterbacks who succeed on Sundays in this league take the offseason seriously and use it to their advantage.

The talent is there. Sure, it’s raw and unpolished, but now that he’s faced with a career-defining offseason (and possibly a last-chance opportunity), Russell has to show Cable and his teammates that he’s the guy.

However, I don’t see Gradkowski lying down whatsoever in a competition that will heat up in August. And I happen to like the idea of Gradkowski winning the job if it’s open as the reports say — and if the owner allows it to continue into late August.

Gradkowski proved he can win on the road and produce (80.6 QB rating, 6 TDs, 3 INTs) in crucial situations last season, and this is a guy who can’t compete with Russell in terms of athletic ability and arm strength.

But because of Russell’s past and his 2009 numbers (50.0 QB rating, 3 TDs, 11 INTs), he’s opened the door to lose his job once again under Cable — who seems to be the type of football coach who’s going to make the call that benefits the team. Gradkowski should get an equal opportunity to show he can lead the Raiders huddle in September. He acts and plays like a pro QB.

Now, we get to see if Russell can do the same to keep his job.

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41

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