The Raiders, along with most every other team in the NFL, started their organized team activities (OTAs) for 2013 today.
The team can boast better attendance at their OTAs than most, if not all, other teams as every player that could attend, did, on their 90-strong roster.
That’s not to say that every player practiced – one notable exception was newly signed WR/KR Joshua Cribbs, who is still healing from an injury he sustained in 2012. There were also two players – UDFA QB Kyle Patron and RB Deonte Williams – who weren’t allowed to come by NFL rules because their schools have yet to graduate.
Still, outside of those three, every player was out practicing today, a big accomplishment for coach Dennis Allen and his staff. One likely reason is because this year’s team, more so than any other year I can remember, has a lot of competition at a great many positions.
Here are some of the position battles to look forward to in the OTAs, mini-camps and training camps to come:
QB: Matt Flynn vs Terrelle Pryor vs Tyler Wilson – We’ll start with the biggest competition at the most important position on the field, starting QB. Most think that Matt Flynn will win this position but it’s anything but a lock. Pryor and Wilson also have their share of supporters.
Flynn is a physically limited veteran who knows how to prepare like a pro and understands the NFL game better than the other two. Pryor is the most physically gifted of the three but he shows inconsistent mechanics and his passes are erratic because of it. Wilson is a mix of the two, more physically gifted than Flynn and more fundamentally sound than Pryor but with less experience than both.
I also expect Flynn to win this and I expect that Pryor will be named backup QB to start the season, at least.
Slot WR: Jacoby Ford vs Joshua Cribbs vs Conner Vernon – The two vets, Ford and Cribbs, have the edge, here, as both have shown they can be productive and explosive on the field. In order to make the team, however, Ford has to show that he can remain healthy and Cribbs must regain his health from an injury in 2012.
Vernon, a multiple ACC record-breaking receiver from Duke, looked the most likely of the UDFA signings to make it to the final roster until the Raiders signed Cribbs.
It’s unlikely the Raiders keep all 3 of these guys, so it will be an interesting battle. Ford is probably the most explosive receiver of them, Cribbs and Ford are both great in the return game. Vernon isn’t nearly as fast as either of the others but he has great hands and showed a propensity for getting yards after the catch (YAC) in college.
My prediction is that Ford and Cribbs make the final squad with Vernon being a late cut and possible practice squad signing.
Right Tackle: Khalif Barnes vs Menelik Watson - The Raiders drafted imposing tackle Menelik Watson in the second round and usually second round players are guys you want to be able to plug into your starting lineup right away. However, on the first day of OTAs, the Raiders put last year’s starter, Khalif Barnes, in the first team reps.
This may be symbolic – that Watson must earn the starting spot over the seasoned vet – or it may simply mean that the Raiders don’t think that Watson – who is very athletic but very raw and new to the sport – is ready to start until he improves his technique.
It should be an intriguing battle and it could go either way but my prediction is that Barnes wins the start, for week one, at least.
Left Guard: Tony Bergstrom vs Lucas Nix vs ? – Bergstrom was the team’s starting LG for first-team reps today, which portends that he has the edge as of now to earn the starting spot. Bergstrom was drafted as a zone blocking RT out of Utah but the team hopes he can stand out as a guard in a man scheme in 2013.
Nix was an undrafted free agent that caught the coaching staff’s eye and made the camp as a backup in 2012. He could push for a starting spot in 2013 if he continues to grow.
The smart money here is Bergstrom, who was Reggie McKenzie’s first pick as a GM.
Punter: Marquette King vs Chris Kluwe – King, another UDFA find in 2012, was stashed by the team on their IR list, basically for the sole purpose of competing in 2013. Kluwe, a recent cut of the Minnesota Vikings, is a long-time productive veteran who was cut after the Vikes drafted his replacement in the fourth round of the draft.
King is inconsistent but he has a great leg and his kicks are difficult to field. Kluwe understands the nuances of the position but he doesn’t have the same physical abilities he did in his youth.
Punter may be the position that teams will look for consistency over a home-run talent to hone. Most coaches prefer their punters to hit it the same way and the same place every time so that the team can plan around where the ball will be. Kluwe is the likely pick, here, because his consistency will make him more desirable to Special Teams coach Bobby April.
More players may be added soon and the battles will continue well into the regular season as the Raiders attempt to dramatically improve over their four-win 2012 season. Check back in at TFDS as we follow the battles to bring you the news and analysis throughout the season.
When I watch Matt Flynn, I just think he's a winner. And that can take you heck of a long way in the NFL.
I actually watched all his NFL throws yesterday (must have been bored!)
His short/medium range throws are very accurate, with pace and zip
Clutch thrower on 3rd down/red zone
Good pocket presence and movement
My only criticism, is the obvious one, the arm strength. I swear, he has possibly only completed one pass of over 25 yards in his entire career. 99% of his career completions are under 15 yards. Vast majority under 10 yards.
And most of his big plays, and touchdowns, came from receivers making big plays after the catch.
I actually think he will do well. As he won't turn it over. And he's good in the pocket. And he's accurate. He's not going to be a disaster - I think he could easily end up with 4000 yards+, 65% accuracy, and a 90+passer rating.
Where he will fail, is the offense will have no explosion. And he won't make the big plays. His TD total will probably be pretty low.
CHARLES WOODSON! WOO-HOO! HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL YEAH!
Now that's the kind of move we need - bring in some SERIOUS players! Just the kind of help these young guys need in the back field - someone to show them how it's done... HoFer... Super Bowl Champion... one of the best ever... yes - respectable leadership is something we've been missing. Whatever he has left in the tank is pure gravy. WAY TO GO, REGGIE - NOW WE'RE TALKIN'!
@Indy! It was a good signing for the Raiders to get a proven veteran and an outspoken leader in the locker-room.
NICE POST AS USUAL...MY $ ON MELNICK TO START THE SEASON AS OUR RT AND BERGSTROM AS LG...OH YEAH AND C WOOD TO BE OUR FS !!!!!!!!
QB: Flynn to be the starter, with Pryor being the backup and Wilson the #3. I think Flynn will have until around week 10 to show what he can do as a starter and if he has not shown much by then, Wilson will take over at QB. Also if Flynn happens to gets injured and is missing for more than 3 games then Wilson will be given his chance to start over Pryor.
Slot WR: I don't think both Ford and Cribbs will be kept. One of these guys will be one of the last cuts made or Ford possiby traded for a late round pick if Cribbs is kept. I think Vernon will make the final roster with Cribbs/Ford, Streater, Moore, Criner, and Butler.
RT: I think Barnes will begin the season as the starter, but Watson will see a few packages early on where he is used and will be the starter from the bye week onwards.
LG: From what I have heard, Soprano is very big on Bergstrom at Guard and I think he will be the starting LG right from the beginning of the season. By the end of the season I think Bergstrom will have found himself a permanent home at LG wedged between Veldheer and Wiz. I think Nix will be competing for the RG spot with Brisiel who will be on a short leash this year.
P: I think Kluwe will be named the starter with King being given another year on the IR to improve some more in preparation for being named the starter next season.
A couple other positions:
TE: I think we will have three new TE's on th roster this year: Kasa, Rivera and Leonhardt with all three seeing an almost split amountaofmthe field throughout the season.
Backup RB: I don't think Jennings makes the final roster. I think Murray will be the primary backup and will see plenty of action if only bcause McFadden is just too ofen injured. Stewart or Williams will be the third RB on the roster with the loser of these two going to the Practice Squad.
Tight end will be interesting. It seems a long shot for all 3 rookies to make the final squad. I expect Leonard to maybe get on the practice squad, not the final 53. It seems likely that Ausberry or Gordon, but not both, will make the final squad. My guess is Ausberry over Gordon.
I think that Jennings will make the final squad and he and Murray will be the backups over Stewart and Williams. I think Williams will be cut soon, actually. He had a bad rookie camp and isn't able to be at the OTAs, either.
@Indy! Yes. Especially since as of now, at least, his #9 is taken by Conner Vernon. Vernon was initially given #16 but he gave that number to Josh Cribbs when Cribbs signed and took #9 instead.