How Hue Jackson Will Improve the Passing Game

What Hue Jackson did for Oakland’s offense in 2010 was nothing short of a miracle. What he has to do in 2011 (if there is a 2011 season) is going to be much more difficult.

In one season at the helm of the Oakland offense Jackson transformed the Silver and Black attack from unwatchable to unstoppable. Jackson’s main point of emphasis was to get the Raiders back to the basics by dominating on the ground.

Having a healthy Darren McFadden was instrumental as Run DMC had a breakout season. Beyond McFadden, Michael Bush proved again why he is such a commodity.

The two dynamic runners made Oakland an offensive nightmare for opposing defenses.

Despite all the success of the running game, the passing attack still languished with inconsistent results from week to week.

Partly due to the Gradkowski-Campbell juggling act. Partly due to continued up and down play from the young Oakland receivers. The passing game was just never on par with the ground game.

About the only consistent bright spot for Oakland’s aerial assault was the beautiful play action of Jason Campbell. JC’s play fakes are great to begin with but became a real weapon when married with the threat of McFadden and Bush.

So, how will Coach Jackson put the action back in Oakland’s vertical game?

To begin with he’ll commit to Jason Campbell as the full-time starter. Without a legit backup to threaten Campbell he should be able to rest easy knowing there will no weekly auditions in 2011.

More importantly is that the receiving corps will need to take a massive step forward.

Louis Murphy has shown plenty of promise but lacks in consistency. He’ll need to become more reliable if the Raiders are going to get a passing game comparable to the rushing attack.

Chaz Schilens just needs to stay healthy. He could be the key that unlocks the entire passing game. Schilens is what every QB needs. He has reliable hands, attacks the ball in the air and just knows how to make himself available.

Jacoby Ford must improve on his stellar rookie season. More importantly the coaches need to give him a defined role. What made Ford’s first season so fantastic was that he found ways to contribute as a fill-in. Each week Jacoby had a new role and each week he made the most of it. Just think of how good he could be with a year of consistent prep and study.

As for Darrius Heyward-Bey

This has got to be his year. If DHB doesn’t take a Usian Bolt-sized stride forward in his third season then I think it will be time to close the book on this experiment. To his credit, DHB has become an asset in the running game as a blocker. But that’s not the only type of production you’d expect from a top 10 pick that isn’t an offensive lineman.

Overall Oakland’s passing game stands to improve on continuity alone.

With Campbell getting the benefit of taking all the snaps in practice each week and his young receivers getting the chance to settle into their roles there is no reason why the offense won’t gain more balance.

Of course the one guy who you can set your watch to in the passing game, Zach Miller, is still not officially a Raider. Oakland tendered Miller a contract prior to the lockout but there is no way of knowing what will come of that.

Should the unthinkable happen and Miller moves on then all of the above analysis and commentary will become moot. Without Miller the Raiders have no passing game to speak of. Despite having health issues in 2010, Miller still led the team in most every receiving category.

Hue Jackson has got some serious work to do if the vertical game is going to make a comeback in 2011. The longer this lockout goes the tougher the task gets.

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Tags: Bruce Gradkowski Chaz Schilens Darren McFadden Darrius Heyward-Bey Hue Jackson Jacoby Ford Jason Campbell Louis Murphy Michael Bush Zach Miller

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