If you follow me on Twitter, you know by now how the Raiders quarterbacks fared at practice today, the first day of the team’s three-day, mandatory mini camp. However, now we have feedback from coach Dennis Allen and the quarterbacks to give some context.
As expected, Allen and the quarterbacks put a slightly different spin on things, which underscores the value of being there in person to provide an unbiased account.
Suffice, in 19 years covering the NFL, today’s showing by Matt Flynn, Tyler Wilson, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin rates as one of the worst in memory.
Time and again, balls were batted at the line of scrimmage, thrown behind receivers, thrown over receivers, delivered too high or just plain off the mark.
All four quarterbacks were just as guilty, with none of the four doing anything to distinguish himself today. Not that any of them seemed very concerned.
“Each and every day we’re going to want to come out and complete every pass and throw 10 touchdowns,” Flynn said. “But, realistically, right now everyone is still learning, everyone is learning each other, everyone is learning a new playbook. Things are coming. Things are formulating. But we have a long time until game one.”
Good thing, too, for it appears as if they are going to need as much time as they can get before they
Pryor said part of the issue right now is players aren’t wearing pads, so defensive players aren’t getting low to create leverage and that allows them to stand tall and concentrate on swatting passes out of the air.
Sure enough, defenders batted down two of Pryor’s passes and four of Flynn’s, by Pryor’s estimation. Heck, it could have been more. It was tough to keep track of all the negative plays by the quarterbacks today.
Flynn and Allen added that quarterbacks also are burdened with having a lot thrown at them right now in terms of the playbook and defensive looks.
Fair enough, but that doesn’t explain fluttering passes, wobbly throws and errant passes time after time. Even two of Flynn’s completions came on throws that bore the marks of sure interceptions but somehow wound up in the hands of Marcel Reece and Denarius Moore, respectively, after nice adjustments of their routes.
“I don’t allow that to frustrate me,” Allen said. “I understand where we’re at in the season. I understand that we’ve got a lot of new pieces, a lot of new guys working together and I don’t concern myself with that. I know we’ve got a lot of work to do, but the way our guys are working, we’re going to get where we need to be.”
Pryor said the more important takeaway from today’s practice, as well as previous ones, is the quarterbacks getting in synch with the receivers, sharpening their blocking protection calls, improving their footwork and creating chemistry with the offensive linemen.
Well, there is that.
“There’s a lot being thrown at us,” Wilson said. “Obviously the defense is doing some things, and the offense is trying to put a lot on the table and see what sticks. It’s a process for all of us going through it, and it’s good. I think we made plays on both sides of the ball today.”
— Wide receivers Josh Cribbs and Isaiah Williams, fullback Jon Hoese, running back Latavius Murray, tight end Nick Kasa, linebacker Miles Burris, defensive tackles Johnny Jones and Stacy McGee and cornerbacks Coye Francies, D.J. Hayden and Taiwan Jones missed all or part of practice.
— Lamarr Houston lined up at left defensive end today, as he has throughout all the offseason workouts. Andre Carter lined up on the right side, the domain of Matt Shaughnessy last season.
As always, Houston displayed impressive quickness, relentless determination and the looks of a player on the rise. Allen said there’s no reason why Houston can’t get even better than he was last season, when he had a breakout season of sorts.
“If you really study what Lamarr Houston has been able to do, he’s been able to get some pressure on the quarterback,” Allen said. “Now, that may not have ended in big sack numbers, but I’m extremely pleased with where Lamarr Houston is.
“I’m pleased with him as a football player. I’m pleased with him as a leader on this football team in trying to bring other guys along with him. So, I’ve got no qualms with where Lamarr Houston is. He’ll be effective rushing the quarterback this year.”
The Raiders haven’t had a legitimate sack threat since Derrick Burgess bolted town for a short stint with the New England Patriots. Houston and rookie David Bass are the best options on the current roster to turn into that kind of player this year or beyond.
— Allen maintained his stance that every position on the team is open to competition. In reality, this team already is taking shape as the days whittle away and training camp comes into focus.
Defensively, that means Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter and cornerback, Charles Woodson and Tyvon Branch at safety, Houston and Carter at end and a handful of players competing for the three linebacker spots.
We won’t know how that shakes out until Burris recovers from his knee surgery and jumps into the fray, alongside rookie Sio Moore and veterans Kaluka Maiava, Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett.
Burris is the only returning starter from last season’s team, and he has to be considered a favorite to carve out a spot once again, even though he will have stiffer competition this time around.
“I can’t answer where he’s at right now,” Allen said of Burris. “Whenever he’s healthy and he’s able to get out there and compete, he’ll define where he is on the depth chart. That’s the thing about the competition. I’m not making any decisions right now. We don’t have to make any decisions right now. I’ll let the competition dictate that and may the best man win.”
— Undrafted free agent quarterback Matt McGloin appears to be the odd-man out when it comes to the 53-man roster. Anything is possible, though, and Allen isn’t giving up on McGloin just yet.
“The thing I like about him is, he’s smart and he’s accurate,” Allen said. “If he continues to do those things as we get into training camp, he’ll see some more reps and we’ll really get a feel for where he’s at.”
McGloin set a slew of records at Penn State. Now he’s behind Flynn, Wilson and Pyror as he attempts to overcome long odds and make the roster.
For now, he’s getting limited reps and trying to soak in everything, from the playbook to life as an NFL hopeful.
— Sight of the day: Sio Moore attending his news conference while wearing SpongeBob Squarepants pajamas.
“I like pajamas,” Moore said.
Hey, whatever works, as long as he plays well, right?
— Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford were the only players used on punt returns today. It’s likely that Cribbs will be part of the equation once he returns from his knee injury.
The addition of Cribbs also brings about the prospect of the Raiders using Cribbs and Ford deep on kick returns, with one of them doubling as the punt returner.
Either way, the Raiders figure to get a huge upgrade in both areas this season, whereas both return spots were problem areas all last season.