ALAMEDA — Batted balls. Wounded ducks. Interceptions. Passes into the turf.
The Oakland Raiders opened their three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday with a passing offense that looks far from a finished product.
From presumed starter Matt Flynn to the only returning quarterback Terrelle Pryor to rookie Tyler Wilson, none of the quarterbacks fighting to replace Carson Palmer as the starter in Oakland are standing apart from the competition.
With more than six weeks until training camp and nearly three months until the season opener, none of the competitors or coach Dennis Allen seemed overly concerned at this point.
“Each and every day we’re going to want to come out and complete every pass and throw 10 touchdowns,” Flynn said. “But realistically right now everyone is still learning, everyone is learning each other, everyone is learning a new playbook. Things are coming. Things are formulating. But we have a long time until game one.”
Flynn said he has seen lots of progress in how receivers are learning to adjust routes against certain coverage, the communication between the quarterbacks and offensive linemen about protection schemes and the ability to get in and out of the huddle more quickly.
Allen said the biggest issue so far through three weeks of OTAs and now the start of minicamp has been establishing consistency, especially in a passing offense working with its third coordinator in as many years with Greg Olson now in charge.
“I don’t allow that to frustrate me,” Allen said. “I understand where we’re at in the season. I understand that we’ve got a lot of new pieces, a lot of new guys working together and I don’t concern myself with that. I know we’ve got a lot of work to do, but the way our guys are working, we’re going to get where we need to be.”
For most of the veterans in Oakland, they are learning a third offensive system in as many years after spending last year with Greg Knapp and the previous two with Hue Jackson calling plays.
There were few passes completed downfield by any quarterback during team drills Tuesday. Two of those came on fluttering passes down the sideline by Flynn that Marcel Reece and Denarius Moore managed to catch after leaping over defenders.
Much more common were passes that were batted down at the line by defenders, others that went into open space after miscommunications between quarterback and receiver and others that were off-target or into coverage.
Pryor said he had four balls tipped at the line and Flynn had two in what he called a “nerve-racking” experience. But he said that is bound to happen when linemen aren’t in pads and are unable to get down low and what’s most important at this time of year is making the correct decision.
“It kind of makes you mad but, at the end of the day ... as long as the ball is going to the right spot, it’s good,” Pryor said. “In terms of our movement, getting in and out of the huddle, for all of us, we did a great job with protection calls, getting the guys going. But blocked balls, it was a factor today.”
Pryor started the season finale a year ago when Palmer was hurt and went 13 for 28 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a 24-21 loss to the Chargers. He also ran for 49 yards and a score and looked more than capable running the offense.
But even though Palmer is gone, Pryor is not expected to be the starter after the Raiders traded for Flynn in the offseason. But a year ago at this time, Flynn was the presumed starter in Seattle after being acquired by the Seahawks in the offseason but ended up being beaten out for the job by rookie Russell Wilson.
“It’s still a long time before even the first preseason game,” Pryor said. “So, that talk is nonsense. It doesn’t matter right now, as long as we’re helping each other, and we’re getting better and building team chemistry. That’s the main thing, working with each other. Right now, not knowing who the starting quarterback is going to be and who’s getting talked about, that’s the thing that’s not very important right now, to me.”
The third quarterback in the mix is Wilson, a fourth-round pick out of Arkansas who might have the strongest arm in the group. But Wilson is still adjusting to the speed and complexity of the NFL game.
“There’s a lot being thrown at us,” he said. “Obviously, the defense is doing some things, and the offense is trying to put a lot on the table and see what sticks. It’s a process for all of us going through it, and it’s good. I think we made plays on both sides of the ball today. On the offense, sometimes it wasn’t pretty, but we got through it, we made plays.”