Oakland's QBs: A work in progress
June, 8, 2013
By Bill Williamson | ESPN.com
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsAfter losing his job to Russell Wilson, Matt Flynn could be challenged by another Wilson in Oakland.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Dennis Allen knows there is much intrigue about his quarterback situation.
Still, the Oakland Raiders coach is not in a hurry to see it play out.
“We haven’t really even had a full practice,” Allen said. “We have three-plus months 'til the season starts. All the guys have a lot to work to do. But we have time. I don’t have to make any decisions until we have a game; that’s a ways off. ... Overall, I like where we are as a group and I really have no worries about the quarterback position.”
Still, it will be a topic throughout the summer. It already has been an oft-written-about topic in the Bay Area.
Ever since the Raiders took Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson in the fourth round of the April draft, there has been chatter that presumed starter Matt Flynn is in danger of losing his job to a rookie named Wilson for the second straight year. Flynn, who turns 28 on June 20 but has started just two NFL games, was set to be the starter in Seattle last year. But he was beaten out by Russell Wilson, who turned out to be a dynamic rookie.
Oakland pursued Flynn in a deal with Seattle earlier in the offseason when Carson Palmer balked at a contract reduction (Palmer was traded to Arizona after Flynn was acquired). Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie was in Green Bay with Flynn and liked his moxie and football intelligence.
The Raiders wanted to keep Palmer, but when that broke down, Flynn was the best option for a team in the beginning of a rebuilding stage. Oakland was fine with the idea of moving forward with Flynn because it didn’t give a lot to Seattle for him and he is reasonably priced at $6.5 million.
Yet the tone of the situation changed when Tyler Wilson came into the picture and reports were that he was performing well early in OTA sessions. Allen and McKenzie have been playing it close to the vest, saying there will be competition and making comments that Flynn is the “presumed starter.”
I get the sense the team expects Flynn to win the job in part because Wilson and Terrelle Pryor are green and not ready.
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsRookie quarterback Tyler Wilson out of Arkansas has impressed the Raiders early on.
Everything is up for discussion, though. If Flynn is awful in the preseason and Wilson or Pryor is fantastic, a Seattle-like situation could happen. But it is unexpected.
The most likely situation is Flynn will be the Day 1 starter in an offense that will be centered around the run and short, precise passes. If the OTA sessions are any indication, the 2013 Raiders will not offer heavy reminders of the Al Davis vertical passing days.
If Flynn falters and the team falls out of the race, I could see Wilson getting a chance to play late in the season. I do sense that Wilson is much further along in the Raiders’ eyes than Pryor. The Raiders love Pryor’s work ethic, but they haven’t seen much improvement from the player who showed some promise while starting the season finale at San Diego in December. Pryor is still battling inconsistencies, and his throws often flutter.
Allen said this about Pryor this week: “He’s not there yet.”
The selection of Wilson put as much pressure on Pryor as it did on Flynn. Pryor was a 2011 third-round supplemental pick of Davis, who died later that year. The fact that the new regime took Wilson so early in Pryor’s career means they are looking for a better young quarterback.
While Wilson has been getting rave media reviews, Allen is cautious. He likes what he sees. But he knows Wilson is a rookie and he needs to get better. I think once Wilson improves on reading coverages and making faster in-play decisions, he will further gain the trust of the coaching staff. Those are typical, manageable steps for a rookie.
Wilson is known for having a strong arm and being tough. He’s the type of player coaching staffs fall in love with if he can refine his overall game. I spoke to Wilson this week, and it was quickly evident he belongs in an NFL uniform. He has the intangibles necessary to be successful.
“I feel like I’m in a great situation,” Wilson said. “I’m getting a lot of reps; that’s what’s important. I’m getting on the field. I’m part of it. It’s just about working every day to get better.”
That’s what Allen is hoping to see from his entire group. That includes fourth-stringer Matt McGloin. He was signed this spring as an undrafted free agent out of Penn State. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen recently said on "NFL32" that McGloin has impressed the coaching staff and could move up the depth chart. McGloin hasn’t gotten much work in the OTAs that have been open to the media. Allen said he likes how McGloin has fit in. But, at this point, it appears a lot would have to go wrong in front of him for McGloin to get a chance to skyrocket up the depth chart.
For now, the focus is on Flynn. What the Raiders like most about Flynn is he has good natural-leadership abilities and a chip on his shoulder. He knows he has to prove himself. Receivers Rod Streater and Denarius Moore, the two top starting candidates, both praised Flynn’s ability to quickly get in sync with the group of receivers
“I just play the best I can and I want to lead this team,” Flynn said.
Added Allen: “Matt Flynn hasn’t showed me anything that I’m worried about. He’s doing fine.”
So while the Oakland quarterback situation will be often talked about leading up to the season opener, Flynn remains on target to be the starter. But like most positions in Oakland this year, it will have to be earned.