The Oakland Raiders had high hopes heading into the preseason. They had a revamped roster full of young talented players and the future looked bright on the horizon. Things have not looked that way so far, as the team has struggled offensively and defensively throughout the preseason.
Players who the Raiders had hoped to be key players have failed to step up and be productive. Injuries are playing a major role in the lack of production, as several key players are dealing with severe injuries. A couple of new faces have stepped to forefront and are earning first team reps due to their stellar play.
The season looks like it is going to be a long, tough road for the Raiders. They are being universally panned by the media, who are saying the Raiders are a lock for the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Picking first would not be a bad thing, as the top two rated players are franchise potential players and fill major holes in the Raiders’ roster.
The fans are tired of waiting around for this team to rebuild and wants to see success, which has not been there in the last decade. It will be interesting to see how this team performs once the games become meaningful.
Let us take a look at the top five observations from the preseason:
1. Terrelle Pryor emerges as the Raiders’ most effective quarterback?:
The quarterback battle heading into training camp was billed as veteran Matt Flynn and fourth round draft pick Tyler Wilson. The highly athletic Pryor was seen as an after thought to most, who felt he simply did not have the accuracy and decision-making ability to be an NFL quality starter.
Matt Flynn had solid flashes in practices and looked to be solidifying his grasp on the starting position heading into preseason action. However, he has looked awful during his reps during the preseason. His lack of mobility and lack of arm strength has been exposed, especially behind the atrocious offensive front. During the preseason, Flynn has 19 completions on 27 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown to two interceptions. Flynn is only averaging an anemic 6.67 yards per attempt, which could be due to the lack of time supplied by his offensive line. He missed the final game of the preseason with an elbow injury.
Flynn’s apparent competition in Wilson has failed to materialize during training camp. Wilson has looked lost during camp and has not shown any signs of being a true threat to take over as the Raiders’ starter. In fact, Wilson has been surpassed by undrafted free agent Matt McGloin on the depth chart. Wilson has only appeared in two preseason games and completed 11 passes on 18 attempts for 93 yards. Wilson is in a true competition to make this team and is a potential roster casualty, as the team has to get down to 53 players.
With Wilson unable to muster a challenge, Flynn’s competition has been Pryor. Pryor came into camp with improved mechanics and footwork, and he looked impressive early in camp and often turned heads with impressive throws, especially on deep routes. His improved play forced the hand of the coaches, as he earned reps with second team over the rookies Wilson and McGloin.
Pryor has recently fallen back into old habits and mechanics, and his consistency has suffered greatly, but not enough to lose his spot in the competition. During the preseason, Pryor has often come into games following Flynn with second team offense and has looked more effective at moving the offense than Flynn. His ability to move around inside and outside of the pocket allows for more time for route to develop and he is a threat to take off and gash the defense for big gains. In the preseason, Pryor has gone 17 for 32 on his throws for 221 yards for one touchdown and two interceptions. He has also added 131 yards and a score on the ground.
Pryor has shown to be a spark plug for the Raiders’ offense, but often his play comes against second and third string players on the opposing defense. He has shown more than Flynn and earned the right to run reps with the first-team offense. He was allowed named the starter in the preseason finale against the Seahawks last night. He did not look impressive throwing the ball, but he showed what his mobility could bring to the team.
Pryor could turn out to be the best starting option for this team. A lot of it has to do with the pathetic play of the offensive line. Flynn is a statue in the pocket and lacks to mobility to buy what little time the offensive line gives him. Pryor on the other hand has shown that his mobility can buy time for receivers to get open, or tuck it and run when he sees an opening.
Pryor is going to be a substandard starter in the league, but his feet and arm could flash on occasion to create a big play. Pryor could surprise a lot of people, if he can improve his accuracy and his decision-making. Pryor needs to make smart decisions with the football and not try to force throws into coverage trying to make a play.