5 Things We Learned from Oakland Raiders OTAs
Some key storylines, including the signing of Charles Woodson, have highlighted the Oakland Raiders’ offseason OTAs thus far.
With a roster that is full of new faces, like Woodson, and one that is expected to have competition throughout the offseason, the most noteworthy of OTA storylines will always include how those new players are faring, and the status of the most heated position battles.
Although media access to the weekly three-day minicamps is limited to just one day, we can take some important information from that, while also remembering it is still quite early in the offseason.
Here are five things we learned from the Oakland Raiders’ OTAs.
Matt Flynn the Heavy Favorite at QB
The Raiders’ quarterback competition involves a veteran in Matt Flynn, a high-potential rookie in Tyler Wilson and an extremely polarizing talent in Terrelle Pryor.
Undoubtedly, this will result in endless fan and media debates surrounding whom it is the starter should be, likely carrying not only throughout the offseason, but the regular season as well.
At this point, Matt Flynn is the favorite to start, and deservedly so.
For him to lose the job, it will likely take a preseason of both disappointing play on the part of Flynn himself, as well as consistent standout performances from either Wilson or Pryor.
Many who would prefer to see one of the younger quarterbacks get their shot as the starter will point to Flynn’s lack of starting experience and production thus far in his career. While it can be a fair point, in reality, this is Flynn’s first real opportunity to lead a franchise.
Let’s remember that it was not until Rich Gannon finally got his opportunity with the Raiders that his career took off in a big way. While similar production cannot be expected for Flynn, it should not be ruled out either.
With his veteran experience, despite the fact that it has not always come as a starter, Flynn holds a significant advantage over the two young quarterbacks he will compete against throughout the offseason.
Plenty of Competition at WR
When the Raiders released Darrius Heyward-Bey and his big contract this offseason, the receiving corps instantly got much thinner.
Not having the financial flexibility to add a potential starter in free agency didn’t help matters, so many questions still remain at the position heading into 2013.
Denarius Moore, Rod Streater and Jacoby Ford are the most obvious candidates to formulate the main rotation, but several other players have flashed playmaking ability thus far in OTAs, only adding to the competition.
Brice Butler and Conner Vernon have made their share of plays, according to Silver and Black Pride, and each have some interesting potential moving forward.
Essentially, this gives the Raiders eight players, as well as Josh Cribbs, who are competing to fill what will most likely be five or six roster spots.
With no standout No. 1 targets, each of these players will have an opportunity to prove their worth, and the increased competition should only help the group as a whole.
Charles Woodson Will Have Important Role
By far, the biggest news the Raiders made throughout OTAs was the signing of Charles Woodson.
Throughout interviews with Woodson himself, we can easily gather just how important the leadership role that he will step into will be for both the defense and this team as a whole.
Additionally, the level of play that Woodson is still capable of bringing at age 37 cannot go overlooked.
While his speed may have slowed down over recent years, which would eventually lead to him switching from cornerback to the safety position he now plays, his tackling ability, coverage instincts and ball skills allow for him to still be an effective playmaker on the back end.
In all phases of the game, Charles Woodson is a huge upgrade for a young Raiders secondary, and the excitement his homecoming has ignited in the team’s fanbase certainly does not hurt either.
Base Defense to Remain 4-3
Many of the Raiders’ free-agent and draft additions over the past two offseasons have sparked debate about whether they would eventually make the full transition to a 3-4 base package.
In OTA interviews, Dennis Allen disclosed that while the Raiders would certainly like to vary the looks they give opposing offenses, their base alignment would once again be a 4-3.
While the 3-4 has become quite popular across the league, as many teams running it have had their share of success, the choice to stay with the 4-3 at this point makes a lot of sense.
The 3-4 scheme requires differing unique skill sets at a number of positions in the front seven. The Raiders, a team amid a complete re-build and thus fairly short on depth, are better suited to continue in adding the kind of versatile players they have so far who are all capable of playing a variety of positions in a 4-3 front.
Again, the 3-4 is the popular defense that fans love to see their team use, but if a 4-3 is run the right way, with a number of versatile players like the Raiders are trying to do, it can be just as effective.
Competition at Punter One of Most Intriguing
With a roster that has many question marks, and thus one certain to have competition from top to bottom, possibly the most interesting position battle actually comes at punter.
Now that Shane Lechler is a Houston Texan, one of the lone markers of consistency in the Raiders organization over the past decade is no longer in silver and black.
The Raiders certainly envisioned his impending departure even before the start of last season, as the young Marquette King was essentially stashed on injured reserve to later take over.
King is known for his impressively powerful leg but needs to develop the consistency to best utilize it.
As a result, Chris Kluwe was brought in as veteran competition for him, and the best player of the two will take the job.
At this point, it is unclear if either of the two hold an advantage, but the competition will likely span throughout training camp and preseason before a winner is declared.
Dan Wilkins is an Oakland Raiders Featured Columnist. You can follow him on Twitter here.