Much to his dismay, Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn finds himself in the exact position he was in a year ago. After signing a big contract with $10 million guaranteed, Flynn was expected to be the starter for the Seattle Seahawks, only to have rookie Russell Wilson beat him out during the preseason and become the toast of the league after leading the Seahawks to the divisional round of the playoffs. This year, after being traded to the Raiders for a pair of draft picks, Flynn is in line to be Oakland’s starting quarterback, but once again he’ll have competition from a rookie named Wilson. This year, it’s former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson that will try to unseat Flynn during the preseason.
Tyler Wilson considered leaving college for the NFL following a fantastic junior season in 2011 in which he led Arkansas to a BCS Bowl Game, but he decided to return for his senior season to gain more experience. However, injuries, a lackluster supporting cast, and issues within the Arkansas program held Wilson back from having the kind of senior season he was hoping for, which hurt his draft stock, dropping him all the way to the 4th round. Even with an extra year in college, many felt Wilson would need a year or two develop and fine tune some things before being able to compete for a starting job in the NFL, but that doesn’t appear as if it’s going to hold true.
Considering that Flynn has just two more NFL starts in his career than Wilson, it shouldn’t be a given that Flynn will end up being the starter. Granted, things went well for him in those two starts, but if the Seahawks were willing to bench him in favor of a rookie after promising him an eight-figure sum, the Raiders won’t have a problem doing the same thing to Flynn, especially without having a financial commitment. Although he is technically penciled in as the starter, Flynn will have to prove that he is indeed the best man for the job. While in Green Bay, Flynn had an embarrassment of riches on the field around him to make him look good, but just like in Seattle last year, Flynn won’t have an overabundance of talent around him in Oakland, which means his right arm is going to have to do the heavy lifting.
As for Wilson, he showed the Raiders enough in offseason workouts to create a legitimate quarterback competition between him and Flynn when training camp starts. He doesn’t have ideal size for an NFL quarterback, but he’s big enough, and he doesn’t have ideal arm strength, but he has enough. He may have a borderline skill set, but Wilson’s intangibles will give him a chance to compete with Flynn for the starting spot. In college, he was a great leader on and off the field, as well as one of the toughest quarterbacks around, willing to do whatever it took to make a play. More than anything, Wilson is a great competitor, and when training camp starts, he’ll be able to smell the starting job within his reach and compete hard to win it, which will make things difficult on Flynn.
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Heading into training camp, Flynn is certainly the favorite to be the Raider’s starting quarterback to open the season, but the déjà vu is hard to ignore. Once again, Flynn will have to hold off a rookie named Wilson who may not stand out physically, but who possesses great leadership and a competitive spirit, which can go a long way in the NFL. Flynn should expect a fight from Wilson, and if he doesn’t play well in the preseason, he could lose his job to a rookie for the second straight season.