Oakland Raiders: Chris Kluwe

Inside the Terrelle Pryor decision

September, 3, 2013
Multiple news outlets are reporting that Terrelle Pryor, not Matt Flynn, will open as the Oakland Raiders’ starting quarterback this season. This is no shock, and I have long stumped for this outcome. Some thoughts:

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Greg TrottOakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor provides some versatility the Raiders were lacking with quarterback Matt Flynn.
McKenzie goes with Al Davis' guy: General manager Reggie McKenzie is having trouble identifying quarterbacks. He traded for Flynn (and gave up two picks and guaranteed him $6.5 million this season) and drafted Tyler Wilson in the fourth round. Wilson was cut and -- in a damning statement by the rest of the league -- was not claimed. He is now a practice-squad player McKenzie spent a fourth-round pick and a $450,000 signing bonus to get. Instead, Pryor gets the call. Pryor was a third-round pick of the 2011 supplemental draft. He was the final draft pick Davis made, as Davis died less than two months later. Pryor often said he forged a close relationship with Davis. Now he has the chance to restore the pride to the franchise that was the passion of Davis’ life.

There were hints: We shouldn’t be stunned by the decision to start Pryor. Flynn came down with a “sore arm” after a poor preseason performance. Coach Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Olson had been talking up Pryor lately. After a lackluster performance by Pryor in the preseason finale, Allen said he was looking beyond statistics. He said he was looking for how a quarterback moved the team. Pryor can be dynamic with his feet, much more so than Flynn.

Don’t expect miracles: I’ve been on board with starting Pryor for weeks. Let’s see what he can do. But it would be naive for the team or for Oakland fans to think they are going to get a Colin Kaepernick effect. Pryor is a work in progress. He is still inconsistent as a passer, although his accuracy has improved and he is a diligent worker. But there will be growing pains.

The Marquette King theory: King beat out veteran punter Chris Kluwe because of his potential. On a rebuilding team, going for youth over a marginal veteran is always a smart idea.

The lesson of Flynn: I wonder whether teams around the league will look at Flynn’s career and allow it to affect how they think about backups in the future. After being a backup in Green Bay, Flynn has starting jobs in two different cities in the past year. Sometimes a backup is just a backup.
I commended the Oakland Raiders for bringing in veteran punter Chris Kluwe to training camp.

And I commend the Raiders for naming Marquette King their punter heading into the season. Kluwe tweeted Sunday that King won the job and he is being cut.

I think it is the right call and I give King a lot of credit for putting the Raiders in the position of being comfortable with him moving forward. Longtime star Shane Lechler left the team in free agency to go to Houston. King was with the team last year, on injured reserve. King showed a strong leg in the 2012 preseason, but he was green.

Kluwe, who spent eight years in Minnesota, was brought in to give Oakland insurance in case King didn’t show the necessary consistency. However, King had a strong preseason and improved his consistency. He answered the bell. Going with the youngster with potential is the way to go for a team that is rebuilding.

I still expect King will have the occasional growing pains as most young punters have. But it will be worth it in the long haul.
Most significant moves: The Raiders were one of the more intriguing teams in the NFL on cut-down day because they have so many holes and ongoing competitions. There were a lot of significant moves. The Raiders are desperate for pass-rushers, and they cut two who were expected to make contributions. Veteran Andre Carter (expected to be a leader on a young team) and seventh-round pick David Bass were cut. Coach Dennis Allen recently said the team was counting on Bass. Tight end Richard Gordon had a chance to start, particularly because he is a good blocker on a team with a bad offensive line, but he was cut. Jeron Mastrud is the starter for now with David Ausberry coming back from a shoulder injury. The punting battle has yet to be settled. Both veteran Chris Kluwe and youngster Marquette King were kept. Either Oakland will let the two battle it out another week or cut one of them when the team makes roster additions. Perhaps the Raiders are even trying to swing a trade. Since King has made it this far, he might stick around. The team wanted to see improved consistency and he has shown it.

Crowded quarterback room: The Raiders are keeping four quarterbacks. The team kept both fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson of Arkansas and undrafted free agent Matt McGloin of Penn State. It would be highly unusual for a team to keep four quarterbacks. Some just keep two. That’s three players who most likely won’t be playing on game day. That is not ideal for a team with major depth issues. McGloin outperformed Wilson and became the No. 3 quarterback. But the decision to keep Wilson comes down to the Raiders not waiting to give up on a quarterback who was a fourth-round pick. I understand. It would be admitting a huge mistake, and perhaps Wilson (many thought he could push to start as a rookie during the offseason) will figure things out. Keeping four quarterbacks adversely affects this roster. The truth is, none of the current quarterbacks in Oakland -- including Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor -- may be the ultimate answer for the franchise. But the Raiders are reluctant to make any decisions now.

What’s next: The Raiders are thin and will likely look for players for the next several weeks. I would not be surprised if this team adds four or five players this week. Prime need areas are tight end, the offensive line and pass-rusher. There are a lot of interesting tight ends available, including Tony Moeaki (talented, but injured), D.J. Williams (who was in Green Bay with Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie) and Clay Harbor. Possible offensive line targets include Jake Scott and Danny Watkins.

Players cut: DE Andre Carter, LB Omar Gaither, CB Joselio Hanson, T Tony Hills, S Reggie Smith, DL Ryan Baker, DE David Bass, LB Billy Boyko, CB Chance Casey, G Jason Foster, TE Richard Gordon, WR Greg Jenkins, S Shelton Johnson, TE Brian Leonhardt, G Lamar Mady, K Justin Medlock, DT Kurt Taufa'asau, LB Chase Thomas, WR Conner Vernon, RB Deonte Williams and T Willie Smith. G Tony Bergstrom was put on injured reserve. WR Andre Holmes is serving a four-game NFL suspension.
Random thoughts on non-Terrelle Pryor news from the Oakland Raiders' 22-6 loss at Seattle on Thursday night:

It was another lackluster preseason game for Oakland. Yes, it’s only the preseason. But the Raiders' first units have not been great. Oakland's first team played mostly against Seattle second-teamers and couldn’t keep up. The Raiders did some things better on defense, especially up front. But it was against the second team.

Rookie Menelik Watson had his moments at left tackle, in his first game there ever. I could see him getting the call for Week 1 at Indianapolis.

Just a feeling, but I think Marquette King beats Chris Kluwe for the punting job. The Raiders gave King a lot of chances and even used him at holder. If it’s a tie, go with the young, talented guy. I give King credit for rising to the challenge.

Jeron Mastrud played a lot with the starters and he could be the favorite to be the starting tight end. David Ausberry (shoulder) should be back soon.

Rookie quarterback Tyler Wilson played in the fourth quarter and was not very good. He has been slotted behind undrafted rookie Matt McGloin all preseason. Still, I’d be surprised if Wilson is cut ahead of Saturday's deadline to reduce the roster to 53 players. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Here are three keys for the Oakland Raiders in their game at Seattle on Thursday night. Kickoff is set for 10 p.m. ET:

Terrelle Pryor: The final preseason game is far from meaningless in Oakland. Pryor is getting the start while starter Matt Flynn rests his sore arm. If Pryor plays well, he will very likely be Oakland’s starting quarterback in the regular season. Yes, Pryor has been and will likely be facing backups again in this game. But if he shines, it will greatly benefit him. If he shows inconsistency, the coaching staff will likely decide Pryor is not ready.

Menelik Watson: The second-round pick will start at left tackle. It will be the first time he’s played there in his life. If he performs well, he will likely be the starter in Week 1 at Indianapolis.

The punters: Veteran Chris Kluwe and youngster Marquette King have been in a close battle all preseason. A tie could go to the young kid with potential. But Kluwe may have the edge because he is a better holder. This one goes down to the wire.