The Raiders are officially preaching competition. Competition creates motivation and brings the most out of the players, and the coaching staff is trying to use that to their advantage.
Just about every position on this team has a competition brewing, which is both good and bad. It is good because it creates a high energy environment where each player needs to give his all to win their job on the team. It is bad because it means that they don't have enough players that have seperated themselves as definite starters though.
One of those competitions is at Left Guard where Lucas Nix and Tony Bergstrom are taking turns trying to show they are ready for the job. Lucas Nix is an undrafted free agent from last year's crop, while Bergstrom is the first pick in the Reggie McKenzie era. There is little doubt that they would rather have Reggie's first pick ever win the job but Nix is being given an equal opportunity to show his worth.
"We’re going to mix and match a little bit and Lucas and Tony were both two young guys that we wanted to look at on the interior of our offensive line. Both of them have done a nice job so far. It was kind of his day to be up with the ones." says Coach Allen when asked about Nix being in the starting lineup and if he was competing with Bergstrom for the spot.
There is also the obvious competition that has every Raider fan's attention with the quarterback position. There is no doubt right now that Matt Flynn is the starter currently, especially not after Allen was asked about it point blank. Here was his response:
"Yeah, right now that’s the way we’re going. Just like we’ve said before, we want to try to create as much competition as we can on this football team. That’s how you get better. When everybody competes and they compete in a way that they want to do what’s best for the football team, the cream always rises to the top. So Matt is our starting quarterback as we go forward right now. Until the competition dictates otherwise, that’s the way we’re going."
There might not be doubt about who is currently the starter but his statement there does definitely lead some creedance to a competition being available if somebody else steps up. He is not being complacent, he just right now sees Matt Flynn as the best starter out of the group. If one of the other quarterbacks shows more than Flynn once the pads go on Allen could change his tune, but right now the starter is not in question yet.
Those wanting to see Tyler Wilson take the reigns at QB should hold off longer on expecting him to be annointed the starter. Not because he isn't talented enough, but because the coach believes in preperation. Dennis Allen is a calculating type of personality and is unlikely to rush a rookie into the starting job unless Wilson proves undeniably that he belongs as the starter.
That being said the competition aspect is still available for the taking at the position, it just needs to be started up by giving such a good performance that it thrusts another player into the conversation. There isn't much that is going to happen before the pads are put on to create that discussion for Terrelle Pryor or Tyler Wilson, but Allen is leaving that open if one of them performs well enough to displace Flynn later on. That knowledge that there is a chance for the competition to be created still will effect the motivation each player has to perform.
Another spot that there is competition is the back up running back spot. Latavius Murray is a player that is impressing early and has some very similar aspects of his game to the starter Darren McFadden. The current player expected to be the back up and change of pace back though is Rashad Jennings who is very talented himself. For the veteran Jennings there is no doubt that he will be motivated to play hard to avoid a late round rookie taking his spot, something that a veteran has seen too many times to not take notice of.
The thing that is really nice about what Coach Allen is saying about Murray though is that he has shown the ability to grasp the concepts of the offense as a rookie. This is the area that most rookies have trouble with early that keeps them off the field. For Murray to be showing himself capable of that is what will be a driving force that creates the competition for the back up running back spot. Here is Allen discussing Murray's performance so far:
"...He’s a big, physical runner. But I think probably the thing that’s been most impressive is that he’s picked up everything offensively from a schematic standpoint assignment-wise. He’s done a great job. He’s done a nice job in pass protection. That’s one of the things you see with young backs that they struggle with at times. He’s a pretty intelligent player and again, we’re practice No. 4, so I’m not going to get too far out in front with these rookie players. They’ll define themselves when we put the pads on, when we really get to start working, going through training camp and start playing preseason games."
As Dennis Allen said himself at the end of that statement, it is still very early and Murray still has a lot of work to do is win the back up job. With Darren McFadden's injury history the back up job could become THE JOB fairly quickly so the rookie has a lot to do to gain that type of respect. Rashad Jennings is an under rated back with years in the NFL under his belt and will show up to work each day so Murray will need to show a lot to beat him out.
Then there is still the wide receiver group that we don't know the order of just yet and the tight end group that still needs a leader to emerge. Oh and did I mention the battle between 2nd round pick Manelik Watson and incumbant RT Khalif Barnes? Yeah there are definitely competitions a brewing all across the landscape of the O.Co.
Though we would rather have a team full of unquestioned starters ready to dominate, a team full of competitions has its own benefits. These players know that they have the opportunity of their dreams and now they must capitalize on it. The cap money opening up next year adds to that factor. If these players want to make their dreams come true then this is the time to do it. That is exactly why these competitions are going to make this team better.