Don’t expect Raiders to pass on a Good Quarterback

teddy-bridgewater-louisvilleOnce again, the Oakland Raiders are coming off a very disappointing season where they finished 4-12 and were nowhere near the playoff picture. And once again, they have the opportunity to land a high draft pick who could make a huge impact on the struggling franchise.

The Raiders pick fifth in the 2014 NFL Draft and their immediate focus appears to be on a quarterback. Head coach Dennis Allen indicated this by saying that QB is “a position we’ve obviously got to look at.”

The word “obviously” definitely fits here because Oakland’s returning quarterbacks, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin, don’t yet seem capable of leading a team to success. Pryor initially caused a spark after beating out Matt Flynn for the starting job in training camp. He rushed for 162 yards in the first two games of the 2013 season and led Oakland to a 1-1 record. Pryor was knocked out of the third game with a concussion and never developed any passing rhythm after coming back.

Pryor’s Week 9 MCL sprain gave undrafted rookie Matt McGloin an opportunity to start. Although he proved to be a better pure pocket passer with 1,547 yards, 8 TD’s and 8 INT’s, McGloin only led the Raiders to one win in his seven appearances.

Given their options, Oakland could definitely grab a more heralded signal caller. And the 2014 Draft class has a number of strong QB prospects, with Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles leading the way.

The only problem is that there are three other teams with pressing quarterback needs themselves. The Houston Texans, Jacksvonille Jaguars and Cleveland Browns all pick ahead of Oakland and could take a QB. Houston might go quarterback or defense, while experts definitely expect Jacksonville and Cleveland to go QB.

But this certainly hasn’t stopped Oakland from spending countless hours looking at game footage of passers. After watching the tape, Manziel is one prospect who really sticks out in Allen’s mind as he said:

He’s accomplished a lot at the collegiate level he’s been a very good football player being the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy speaks for itself. I think he’s a very talented football player, he’s a multidimensional football player. He’s able to throw the ball from the pocket and do things with his feet. As we get more into the evaluation process he’ll be a fun one to look at.

Once again, though, Oakland needs to prepare for a scenario in which they don’t get Manziel or the other two top signal callers. There are plenty of other potential stars in the draft, including South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Auburn left tackle terrelle-pryor-raidersGreg Robinson. Plus, the team doesn’t sound like they’re entirely down on the returning quarterbacks. “One of those things we have to determine,” said Allen with regard to who’ll start next year. “We’re going to look at that position very closely. In my opinion we’ve got two young quarterbacks with potential.”

However, Allen played devil’s advocate by saying, “I don’t know the answer to that yet. The quarterback position is the backbone of your football team. We’ve got to make sure that when we go out there this year, we put ourselves in the best position to have success with the quarterback position.”

Assuming Oakland really feels some urgency in this draft, they might consider trading up into one of the top three positions. But is it worth sacrificing other draft picks to move up for one player when you’re a team that needs so much? Maybe so, when you consider the large amount of quarterback failures that Oakland has experienced over the past several years.

Mark Sanchez: From Disgraced Backup to Guaranteed Starter?

mark-sanchezWith all but two teams eliminated from NFL title contention this year, many players have an eye towards the offseason and free agency. New York Jets backup QB Mark Sanchez is one of these players since he’s coming off a year where he didn’t play a single snap, yet he makes $8.25 million a season. Add in the fact that he’s due a $2 million signing bonus in March, and it only fuels speculation that the Jets will part with the 27-year-old.

With New York likely sticking to their second-year QB Geno Smith, there’s little reason to keep an overpaid backup. Sanchez hurt his shoulder in a preseason game while working behind the second team offensive line. He remained injured the rest of the season, though, it was largely reported that Smith had already won the starting job in the preseason anyways.

Assuming the Jets do cut Sanchez, there’s at least one team that guaranteed they would make him a starter. An anonymous head coach told the New York Post the following regarding the five-year veteran, “We’d take Sanchez. He’d be the starter as soon as he walked in the door for us.”

When looking at Sanchez’s numbers over the four years that he started, they don’t exactly scream high-profile free agent. He’s thrown just 68 touchdowns against 69 interceptions and has a career passer rating of 71.7%. But despite the subpar numbers, Sanchez’s talent has always intrigued teams.

mark-sanchez-1He was the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and quickly assumed the Jets’ reigns in his rookie season. He also started twice in the AFC Championship game, just missing out on trips to the Super Bowl both times.

Given his experience, there are multiple teams that would be interested in a player like Sanchez. The Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders all enter the offseason with huge questions under center. It’s very possible that one of these teams could have the mystery head coach with Sanchez on his wishlist.

When you put Sanchez up against some of the other free agent QB’s this year, he’s especially attractive. Michael Vick and Josh McCown lead the 2014 free agent class, while Josh Freeman, Chad Henne, Shaun Hill and Matt Schaub (likely to be cut) will all draw interest too. Top NFL draft picks that’ll warrant heavy consideration among the league include Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr.

Still, that’s only 10 total quarterbacks when you consider both free agency and top-flight draft picks. So it’s no wonder that at least one head coach is already discussing how he’d start the veteran Sanchez in a heartbeat. The QB is currently rehabbing his shoulder in Birmingham, Alabama after having surgery last October. Assuming he can get back to full strength by the summer, there’s a great chance that he could land a starting job somewhere.

What Impact will Josh Freeman have on the Minnesota Vikings?

josh-freeman-minnesota-vikingsEver since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released him last week, Josh Freeman had been a hot commodity among teams seeking a reliable quarterback. Maybe “reliable” isn’t the word here, given how tumultuous Freeman’s last days in Tampa Bay ended. But several desperate NFL clubs were willing to take a chance on him if it means salvaging their season.

The Minnesota Vikings proved to be the most attractive destination since Freeman signed with them today. The deal is a one-year, $3 million contract, with the 25-year-old reportedly wanting to only sign for one season instead of two. He picked Minnesota over the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers.

The obvious thought that comes to mind here is how the Vikings quarterback situation will play out. Coming off of a rib injury, Christian Ponder is the incumbent starter and the supposed QB of the future. But since being taken with the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Florida State product has never been truly impressive. 2013 has been especially bad since he’s thrown for 691 yards, 2 TD’s, 5 INT”s, and fumbled twice in three starts.

Matt Cassel is the other option, and he led the Vikings to their first win of the year just before Minnesota’s bye week. He racked up 248 yards and 2 touchdowns after completing 16-of-25 passes. Most importantly, he didn’t have any turnovers, which is something that’s plagued Ponder.

josh-freeman-tampa-bayEnter Freeman, who compiled very good numbers with the Buccaneers in the first four years of his career. He had 12,090 yards, 76 TD’s, 54 INT’s and a 59.1 completion percentage. But as mentioned before, things fell apart since he missed important team functions and didn’t get along with second-year head coach Greg Schiano. One week after losing his starting job to rookie Mike Glennon, Freeman was cut loose by the Bucs.

Now in Minnesota, Freeman doesn’t figure to start right away. Head coach Leslie Frazier has already said that either Ponder or Cassel will start against the Carolina Panthers. But the Vikings certainly aren’t paying Freeman $3 million for three-quarters of a season to be a bench warmer. He’s been brought in to compete for the starting job and take over if Ponder continues to falter.

Frazier even hinted at this by saying, “That’s part of the equation. That’s definitely on the table. We’ll see how well he progresses and how well he picks up our offense.”

However, he also alluded to the fact that Ponder still has an opportunity to retain the job. “I think Christian still has a bright future here with our football team,” he said. “It may not look like that on the surface, but Christian is a professional. He’s going to work as hard as he can every day to prepare and get back on the field and help our team win.”

As mentioned before, Ponder is/was supposed to be the future of this franchise. But with a talent like Adrian Peterson, Minnesota isn’t content to wait another year or two for him to catch on. The team is in a win-now mode since they arguably have the league’s most talented running back.

josh-freeman-minnesota-vikings-1Seeing as how Peterson is 28 years old, he doesn’t have a lot of prime years left. So this essentially becomes a question of whether or not the Vikings are willing to risk Peterson’s golden years on a chance that Ponder might turn things around. With Freeman now in town, odds are that Minnesota is, instead, betting on the guy who rushed for over 2,000 yards last season.

So now we come to the question of what Freeman can do for the Vikings. With a 1-3 record, this team is already in the hole. And things won’t get any easier since they’re in an extremely tough division which includes Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago.

But Freeman at least provides a slightly better opportunity to win now than Ponder does. Sure the Vikings aren’t getting Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees here; but they are getting a five-year veteran who has good arm strength and can put up decent numbers.

Now the big question will be if he can take advantage of having a threat like Peterson in the offense. Opponents constantly have to be aware of number 28 at all times. So this will take some of the pressure off Freeman, perhaps even more so than what Doug Martin did in Tampa Bay.

It’s still early enough in the year for Minnesota to make a turnaround. They are 1.5 games out of the NFC North lead and still have plenty of contests left against their division foes. But Freeman is going to have to play better than ever before to help the Vikings make a playoff run.

Terrelle Pryor: All Hype or for Real?

terrelle-pryor-raidersGoing into the 2013 NFL season, the Oakland Raiders were once again expected to be one of the league’s worst teams. Their previous tack record certainly didn’t project success onto this season, considering that they haven’t had a winning record since 2002. And with a roster full of holdovers from last year’s 4-12 squad, there was little enthusiasm entering 2013.

But here we are two games into the regular season, and there’s plenty of excitement surrounding the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The reason why is third-year QB Terrelle Pryor, who, before the preseason, was merely projected to be Matt Flynn’s backup. However, the 24-year-old distinguished himself by showing flashes of brilliance and, combined with Flynn’s poor play/injuries, grabbed the starting job.

Since taking over the starting reigns, Pryor has led Oakland to a 1-1 record, which may not immediately look impressive – especially when their lone win comes from the atrocious Jacksonville Jaguars. However, a narrow 21-17 loss at Indianapolis says more about this team than anything. After all, Indy made the playoffs last season and should battle for a postseason berth this year too.

As for his stats, Pryor has compiled 343 passing yards, 162 rushing yards, a touchdown pass and two interceptions. Obviously the passing stats leave something to be desired, however, the 81 rushing YPG stat is what has everybody’s attention. But is a quarterback with great legs and a developing throwing ability enough to help the Raiders compete with the league’s elite teams? Looking at the immediate future, do they have any chance to beat Denver on Monday night?

terrelle-pryor-raiders-1Well if you’re looking at the sportsbooks, the odds aren’t good. We at GTBets.eu have Denver as a -15 favorite, which is the widest spread in the league this week. And it’s hard to bet against Peyton Manning and Co. when you consider what they did to the Ravens and Giants. Few people would even put Oakland in the same class as these teams yet.

However, Pryor seems to have his head on straight going into this matchup and seems pretty focused. “Peyton’s great and I can’t let that get into mind,” he stated. “I have to play my game and focus on my team. He’s going to make big plays and I can’t go in there and say, ‘I’m going to fire back too, because he is.’ I need to go down for down, one play at a time, and take my time. That will be a lot better than going in and trying to match back to back and force some things.

“I don’t want to get too excited about a stage or anything like that. At the end of the day, I still have to drop back and play quarterback and help this team win. I don’t want to get too excited. I know there’s a big task ahead against one of the greatest quarterbacks ever; Peyton’s a Hall of Famer. I just have to go handle my business as 1/11th of the offense and get us in good position to score.”

Pryor makes a good point about only being part of the offense. After all, he does have a rejuvenated Darren McFadden helping him out in the backfield. Through the first two games, McFadden has 177 yards and a TD on 36 carries, along with 7 receptions for 46 yards.

Of course, most eyes will be on Pryor rather than McFadden this Monday. And while nobody’s really picking the Raiders to win, they’ll be expecting another entertaining performance by the Raiders new QB. Now the only question is if Pryor can live up to the hype that’s been set ahead of him.

Lacy, Jackson headline NFL Week 2 Injuries, Freeman out in Tampa Bay?

NFL: Green Bay Packers-OTAIt’s been a dangerous day to be an NFL running back. Two prominent starting backs were forced out of action in Week 2, as both Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy and Atlanta’s Stephen Jackson headed to the locker room early.

Lacy was the fist to go out after he got drilled by Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather. Lacy suffered a concussion on his only carry of the game – a 10-yard run – when he jumped over a defender and was hit by Meriweather on the way down.

The rookie was taken back to the locker room and wouldn’t return, giving way to backups John Starks and Jonathan Franklin. This is no doubt a rough start to the season for the University of Alabama product, who was projected as Green Bay’s feature back. Lacy gained just 41 yards on 14 carries last week and had a fumble. And this week saw him knocked out on his first carry.

stephen-jackson-falconsJackson is off to a much better start than Lacy since he gained 122 yards from scrimmage last week. Unfortunately, his momentum will take a big hit since he suffered a thigh injury earlier today. The veteran was hurt on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Falcons QB Matt Ryan in the first half. Jackson left for the locker room immediately after scoring his first TD with Atlanta.

Moving away from injuries, Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman may be seeking a trade. Trouble has been brewing in Tampa after teammates essentially stripped Freeman of his captain status through a vote. Things got worse when he missed the team photo shoot, later admitting that he overslept.

It doesn’t help Freeman’s case that he’s been pretty inconsistent since being drafted in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. In his four years with Tampa, the K-State product has compiled 13,173 yards, 79 TD’s and 64 INT’s. These are certainly good numbers, but they haven’t translated into a lot of victories for the Bucs. And Freeman has never really been regarded as a clutch player.

josh-freeman-tampa-bayTaking all of this into account, Tampa Bay took quarterback Mike Glennon in the third round of last year’s draft. Insiders claim that Glennon is head coach Greg Schiano’s guy, while Freeman is merely finishing out the last year of his contract.

All of this makes the five-year veteran seem expendable on a team that’s looking for a leader under center. If Tampa Bay’s season starts off badly, it’s very possible that Freeman could be shipped out before the October 29th trade deadline. Potential suitors could include the Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans, who all have question marks at the quarterback position.

Did the Oakland Raiders make another Terrible Mistake with Matt Flynn?

matt-flynn-oaklandThe Oakland Raiders’ recent history is littered with failed draft picks and overpriced free agent signings. From draft busts like JaMarcus Russell and Robert Gallery to disappointing pickups like Javon Walker and Kevin Boss, it’s easy to see why the Raiders haven’t had a winning season since 2002.

This offseason, Oakland hoped to put one of the cornerstones in place for a franchise turnaround by signing Matt Flynn. The sixth-year man out of LSU has been highly touted ever since he torched the Detroit Lions for 480 passing yards and six touchdowns back in 2011.

So this offseason, the Raiders inked a two-year, $11.5 million contract with Flynn – $6.5 million of which is guaranteed along with a $3.25 million signing bonus. Now Raider Nation is already beginning to question the deal after Flynn’s atrocious play last Friday.

matt-flynn-oakland-1The former backup to Aaron Rodgers completed 3-of-6 passes for 19 yards and two interceptions. The performance was so bad that the O.co Coliseum faithful booed their star free agent signing off the field. It didn’t help matters that the Chicago Bears were winning 27-0 at this point. But the reality is that, after just three preseason games, fans are already calling for backup Terrelle Pryor to take the starting role.

Of course all of the blame can’t be put squarely on Flynn’s shoulders. After all, Oakland’s line is once again terrible and few pocket passers could put up solid numbers with this unit blocking for them. But the unfortunate truth is that the once-promising Flynn might find himself in a losing situation for the second year in a row.

Last season he signed a three-year, $19.5 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks, and everybody fully expected him to start. His competition was the mediocre Tavaris Jackson and third round pick Russell Wilson – both players who weren’t considered serious threats. However, Wilson would outplay Flynn in the preseason, take over the starting role, and emerge as the Rookie of the Year.

terrelle-pryor-raidersThis essentially meant that Seattle paid $10 million in guaranteed money to a backup, so they traded Flynn away before having to honor the entire $19.5 million deal. Considering what Seattle paid, the Raiders didn’t give a ton for the backup. But Oakland did make a significant enough of an investment that they were expecting him to start.

Interestingly enough, it’s beginning to look like Seattle all over again for Flynn. The ultra-athletic Pryor has been announced as the starter for the final preseason game, with Flynn sitting out due to “arm soreness.” The Ohio State product played very well last Friday after completing 7-of-9 passes for 93 yards, adding 37 yards on the ground, and combining for two total TD’s.

If Pryor seizes the opportunity this coming weekend, it’s likely that Flynn will spend his sixth year in a row holding the clipboard. What’s more is that he’ll be pigeonholed as a career backup after blowing yet another opportunity to start.