The Oakland Raiders are gradually solidifying their starting lineup for the season opener. They aren’t quite ready to announce their starting quarterback.
Coach Dennis Allen said Monday that he will not disclose whether Terrelle Pryor or Matt Flynn will start the season opener at Indianapolis until game time for ”competitive” reasons.
Allen has announced starters at left tackle, tight end, cornerback and punter but will not reveal who will start at quarterback in order to make the Colts prepare for both the athletic Pryor and the more stationary Flynn.
Pryor did take the first snap with the first-team offense during a drill in the portion of practice open to the media. Flynn is healthy after missing last week with a sore right elbow.
Allen has said the starter will be the quarterback who is best able to move the team and score points. In the preseason, that clearly was Pryor. The offense produced 32 points on 14 drives with Pryor at quarterback, compared to 10 points on 13 drives this preseason for Flynn. Flynn played mostly with and against starters, while Pryor was in mostly with second-team players.
With the ability to scramble when the protection breaks down and the speed to excel at the read-option game, Pryor gives Oakland a much-needed big-play option on an offense that lacks playmakers.
Whoever plays quarterback will have a rookie starting at left tackle whose only game experience at that crucial position came in the exhibition finale last week.
Menelik Watson, a second-rounder out of Florida State who has played just two years of football, played well enough in that game and in his week of practice after a calf injury to earn the starting job with Jared Veldheer out at least half the season with a torn left triceps.
Watson will have to deal with proven pass rusher Robert Mathis and Bjoern Werner, a first-round pick who was his teammate at Florida State, as well as a loud crowd in a dome in his NFL debut.
”Just have a lot of preparing to do to get ready for these guys and their scheme and the things they like to do,” he said. ”You just have to key on that, probably knowing that as a first-time rookie they’ll probably bring a lot of stuff my way. I just have to be extra, extra prepared for what will happen.”
Among the other camp battles, Jeron Mastrud beat out Richard Gordon at tight end, Marquette King won the punting job over Chris Kluwe, and first-round pick D.J. Hayden will begin his career as a cornerback in the nickel package rather than a starter in the base defense.
The punter competition was one of the most watched at training camp this summer. The Raiders liked King so much last summer as an undrafted free agent out of Fort Valley State that they kept him on injured reserve all season.
When Shane Lechler left in free agency, King seemed ready to get his chance as the team’s punter. But Oakland brought in Kluwe to challenge King and initially kept both punters on the 53-man roster Saturday before cutting Kluwe a day later.
”It was a little nerve-racking,” King said. ”I felt pretty good. I mean, I thought I had a pretty good preseason.”
King averaged 53.6 yards per punt with a 45.3 yard net average one of seven punts ending inside the 20, and two touchbacks in four exhibition games. He has the bigger leg of the two.
Kluwe averaged 46.6 yards per punt with a 37.4 net average with one of seven punts ending inside the 20 and no touchbacks, but is more consistent and a more reliable holder for kicker Sebastian Janikowski.
”Marquette won the competition as the punter and we’ll continue to work with the holding situation,” Allen said. ”I think Seabass feels comfortable. The good thing is we’ve got really a Hall of Fame type kicker, an outstanding kicker, and I really don’t anticipate that being any issue.”
NOTES: The Raiders signed T Tony Pashos, who was released by Washington on Saturday, and cut T Alex Barron. Barron started two exhibition games at LT before being passed up by rookie Menelik Watson. … Oakland signed WR Greg Jenkins, DBs Chance Casey and Shelton Johnson, OLs Lamar Mady and Matt McCants, TE Brian Leonhardt and LB Marshall McFadden to the practice squad. There is still one open spot left. … LB Sio Moore (toe) and WR Brice Butler (hamstring) returned to practice. S Usama Young, TE David Ausberry (shoulder) and Janikowski (right calf) all sat out.