Coach Tom Cable wasn't taking many chances in the Raiders' exhibition finale. With quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Michael Bush injured five days earlier, key players were off limits Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks.
A 27-24 victory by Cable's team over the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum was simply about getting a handful of starters a bit of game action and taking one last look at the 35-40 players vying for spots on the 53-man roster.
"I felt like the guys who didn't start the game, we know who they are and what they bring to the table," Cable said. "It gave us, as a coaching staff, the opportunity to evaluate some guys (who) played for an extended period of time."
Defensive ends Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston, weakside linebacker Trevor Scott and cornerback Chris Johnson were the only defensive starters who played.
Center Samson Satele and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey represented the offensive starters. The rest of the front-line players watched from the sidelines sans helmet and pads.
No one watched more intently than Cable, who has slightly more than 24 hours to settle upon his final roster.
For the second straight game, veteran quarterback Bruce Gradkowski proved to Cable that he is ready if needed. He also appeared to show that he is the better option than Kyle Boller as the backup to Campbell.
It appears as if the neck and wrist injuries Campbell suffered against the 49ers last Saturday night aren't as serious as initially feared. Just the same, Cable wanted to make sure he has a reliable option or two if Campbell can't play in the regular-season opener Sept. 12 at Tennessee.
"Right now, I can't talk about the injuries or anything," Campbell said, "but come the Tennessee game, I'll be ready."
Gradkowski connected with fullback Manase Tonga for a touchdown on Oakland's opening drive and added another touchdown pass to Johnnie Lee Higgins late in the quarter for his third and fourth touchdown passes in three quarters' worth of action.
"Your main goal is to be that No. 1 guy," Gradkowski said. "I have been trying to do everything I can, and the rest is out of my hands. But, hey, you always have to be ready because you never know when your time could come."
Just as impressive was a pass Gradkowski completed to Heyward-Bey down the right sideline early in the first quarter. Gradkowski lofted the pass, and with cornerback Walter Thurmond stride for stride, Heyward-Bey hauled in the toss for a 34-yard gain.
Heyward-Bey adjusted to the ball in flight, squared up his body and leaped over Thurmond for the grab before landing out of bounds -- the kind of play Cable likely needed to see from Heyward-Bey to feel comfortable putting him in the starting lineup.
Johnson returned after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury. He failed to distinguish himself in his battle against Stanford Routt for the starting cornerback spot opposite Nnamdi Asomugha.
Johnson allowed a 31-yard reception to rookie receiver Golden Tate on the key play of a drive that culminated with a Seahawks field goal. He later allowed 37- and 33-yarders to receiver Ben Obomanu and Deon Butler, respectively.
"Obviously, there were some struggles with Chris," Cable said. "We'll just go look at it, and we'll make some decisions."
Rookie safety Stevie Brown, one of the final players selected in April's NFL draft, impressed for the fourth straight game. The seventh-round selection all but assured himself a roster spot by recovering a misplayed punt and breaking up a pass near the Raiders goal line, both in the first quarter.
The Raiders also got a glimpse of the hard-hitting style they've been waiting for from second-year safety Mike Mitchell. Mitchell flattened running back Justin Forsett in the second quarter.
Once again, the spotty kick-return coverage surfaced. Seattle's Cord Parks returned a kick 54 yards to the Raiders 31-yard line midway through the first quarter. Louis Rankin punctuated the disappointing showing with a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown.
"There's some guys who probably hurt themselves being on that team a little bit (Thursday)," Cable said.
SEPT. 12: Raiders at Tennessee, 10 a.m., CBS
Bush's thumb injury is serious. Page 3