Here at Silver & Black Pride we begin a series of articles looking at each position to see how the team looks at each position compared to last season. Few if any teams in the NFL has had more movement across the board than the Raiders so there is much to discuss.
We begin our comparison at the quarterback position.
Last year's starter Carson Palmer was traded away and he is replaced by Matt Flynn acquired in trade. The team also allowed Matt Leinart to walk as a free agent and drafted Tyler Wilson in the fourth round.
From a statistical standpoint, Carson Palmer had a brilliant 2012 season. He threw for over 4000 yards in just a shade over 14 games before leaving with a cracked rib. His touchdown to interception ratio was not bad but not great. He threw 22 touchdowns which is below his career average of 26 touchdowns per season and his 14 interceptions is right at his career average. Not much of that mattered because the Raiders offense was just so bad under former offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp, that it couldn't maintain drives.
After a promising half a season with the Raiders in 2011 in which it looked as if Palmer was developing a good chemistry with his receivers, they were out of sync in 2012. There is plenty of blame to go around for that in an overall inept offensive attack. The zone blocking scheme was a terrible fit for this team which killed running attack. This threat removed, the defense could pin their ears back and rush the passer, giving Palmer the least time to throw in the NFL. Palmer is not a complete statue but he is not exactly fleet of foot and therefore the offense became a series of short passes, mostly to the tight end, which is why Brandon Myers was the team's leading receiver.
Now we move on to Palmer's replacement - Matt Flynn.
Unproven, weak armed, career backup. That pretty much covers the primary criticisms of Matt Flynn unless I were to go into some more colorful wording used here and there. This former round seven pick backed up All Pro quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, for his first four seasons in Green Bay. During that time he had two starts. His first start came in his third season against the Patriots in Foxboro - where the Patriots almost never lose - and he threw for three touchdowns to nearly upset the Patriots. It was a fine first start for this career backup. His second start was his last game as a Packer. In that game he threw for a Packers record 6 touchdowns with 480 yards through the air versus the Detroit Lions. It made him a sudden player in free agency and the Seahawks signed him to a contract.
As a free agent, signing a sizable contract, he thought he had found the place where he would finally get a real shot at being a starter. Being on the same team as Aaron Rodgers, there was really no chance of that. Then the team drafted Russell Wilson in the third round of the draft and all that changed. Wilson was a star from the get go. He only fell to the third round because he was short. Had he been prototypical size, he would have been a first round quarterback. Wilson won the job out of camp and Flynn was a backup once again.
Now after five seasons with two starts, he is a Raider. Reggie McKenzie has said he has great faith in Flynn from having watched him perform in Green Bay. Rich Gannon said as much the other day when he defended Flynn's talents against Ron Jaworski who said Flynn was the worst starting QB in the NFL. His two starts in the NFL were very impressive. And his last start before that, he was holding up the National Championship Trophy at LSU. Even so, there is still the great unknown with Flynn.
Palmer was established as an NFL quarterback. He was prototypical in size and arm strength and had the presence of a starting NFL quarterback. His salary was more than the Raiders wanted to pay and was going to cost a whole lot more in future seasons so they traded him for what they could get.
Flynn still has the same potential he did when the Seahawks signed him as a free agent last year. He could be Rich Gannon or he could be Kevin Kolb. We just don't know.
The Raiders backup quarterback spot is in a similar situation - no proven talent but a lot of potential.
Where the Raiders could see some improvement this season, however, is the way they the quarterbacks will be utilized. Flynn is a better fit for the West Coast offense style the Raiders are implementing and we should finally see a decent dose of Terrelle Pryor.
The team has had Pryor as a wall flower the past couple seasons. That is, up until he got his first start to finish out last season just to get him some playing time. Now, they have plans in place to utilize his athletic talents in special packages. This was something Hue Jackson teased everyone with two seasons ago before putting him in a game for one unofficial play (a false start).
Leinart was seen as a very solid backup prior to last season but when he finally got his shot to take over, he was not too good -- completing just 50% of his passes for 115 yards and an interception in a loss to the Panthers.
Tyler Wilson already looks like he has the talent, demeanor, and potential to give the coaching staff a lot of confidence in his abilities to eventually make a push to be a starter. Then again, it's still very early and the players have yet to even put on pads for the first time.
The unknown can be frightening but it can also be intriguing. We'll see which of those emotions the Raiders evoke this season with this group of quarterbacks.