NAPA -- For the first time in his NFL career, Jason Campbell is ahead of the curve.
Instead of the yearly task of assimilating a new system, the Raiders quarterback has the perspective of playing a second season in coach Hue Jackson's offense, with the bonus of having already been exposed to the new wrinkles infused by offensive coordinator Al Saunders.
There is even a hint of excitement in Campbell's voice when he talks about the Raiders' scoring potential -- no small detail considering he seldom sounds excited about anything.
"I was telling the guys, the Saunders offense, when he was in St. Louis, they had fast guys like Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, and that's the main thing the Raiders are about is speed," Campbell said. "Darren (McFadden) reminds me of Marshall Faulk because he's so quick and is such a good route runner.
"We've got the ability to stretch the field and become a dynamic offense. It's just going to take a bit of time. We've got to keep plugging."
In a training camp where Jackson is stressing competition, the only question at quarterback is whether Kyle Boller or Trent Edwards will be second string.
Jackson has been telling anyone who will listen that Campbell, in his seventh season out of Auburn and second with the Raiders, is the man he is counting on to guide the Raiders into the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
The quarterback that year was Rich Gannon, and since the Raiders were last in the
In terms of outward demeanor, though not work ethic, Campbell, 29, is a lot more to the Russell side of the scale than Gannon. Campbell showed in 2010 he lets controversy and adversity roll off his back with no change in expression.
Acquired from the Washington Redskins just weeks before the Raiders cut Russell, Campbell didn't make waves when Jackson recommended that coach Tom Cable switch to Gradkowski six quarters into the season, and again in Week 12 after Gradkowski came back from a shoulder injury.
"Real even-keeled, man," said running back Rock Cartwright, a teammate in both Washington and Oakland. "Not too high, not too low. Just medium."
That's fine with Saunders, who has been involved in some of the NFL's most explosive offenses since 1982.
"You never want to be a person outside their character," Saunders said. "I had the privilege of being around Joe Montana when he was in Kansas City and Kurt Warner when he was in St. Louis. Neither one of those were very demonstrative in the huddle. One is in the Hall of Fame, the other will be in the Hall of Fame."
In part because it's Jackson's mandate, in part because of maturity and knowledge of the system, Campbell is asserting himself in ways he never did with the Redskins.
Newly signed Raiders tackle Stephon Heyer, who started 28 games in Washington with Campbell at quarterback, noticed the difference immediately.
"His pocket presence, his huddle presence, is definitely better than it used to be," Heyer said. "It looks like he's more of a leader. He's more comfortable. I can see that now more than ever."
Campbell took charge of the offense when the Raiders met in Atlanta during the lockout, with Richard Seymour running the defense. He invited wide receivers Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey to his home in Virginia for two weeks of daily workouts and passing sessions.
Having received a playbook during the brief window available during the draft, Campbell was able to impart what he knew about the Jackson-Saunders alliance.
"He'd been studying it all summer," Ford said. "Just the way he was able to grasp it, that fast, I was impressed. I think he's going to do a great job leading us in the right direction."
With minimal turnover, Campbell feels at ease and in control.
"I don't have to relocate across the country in a small amount of time, get ready for a season and learn all the guys," Campbell said. "This season I know them. We're pretty much running the same system. It gives you an opportunity to elevate your game because you know what you're doing and have a feel for the guys around you."
Saunders, who was assistant head coach in Washington in 2006-07, believes Campbell's almost-yearly turnover in offensive coordinators dating back to his days at Auburn could have only inhibited his progress.
"It's like having different golf coaches every year telling you how to improve your swing," Saunders said. "We've taken terminology Hue utilized and melded to what Jason had in Washington. He is in a teaching mode right now.
"I think everyone has been impressed by Jason -- he's had an outstanding camp."
Arizona at Raiders, 7 p.m. Ch. 36