The Oakland Raiders report for training camp in Napa on July 25. Most of the time, the most significant part of training camp is that it signals the end of the slowest time in football. But training camp is also where you begin to get a good look at your draft class and your free agent class. But for the most part, training camp is about learning the scheme and getting everyone on the same page, something that, while probably exciting for coaches, does not usually produce a lot of intrigue for fans.
The Raiders’ 2013 training camp, however, will feature plenty of interesting story lines.
Due to the massive turnover on the Raiders’ roster over the past two seasons, this year’s training camp will be full of wide open position battles. Over the next few weeks I will take a closer look at the biggest and most important battles this offseason.
While there will be battles all over the roster, from special teams to starting quarterback, there are four battles that stand out from the rest as ones that could have a big impact on the season. The first battle we will look at is for a position that has not been up for grabs in over a decade: Punter.
For years, Shane Lechler has held down the punter position while making a name for himself as one of the greatest punters to ever play the game. When Lechler departed to the Houston Texans, the Raiders were left with only practice squad punter Marquette King. That is, of course, until the Minnesota Vikings drafted a punter and released their punter, Chris Kluwe.
Then a battle was born.
King is young and has a cannon for a leg. The problem is, King has yet to prove that he can use that cannon with any consistency. While he can boot the ball a long way, that does no good if it goes out of bounds 25 yards before it lands. If King can improve his consistency, he could wind up being the Raiders’ punter for the next decade. Thing is, there is no guarantee he will be able improve that part of his game in time for the 2013 season.
Kluwe, on the other hand, is a savvy veteran who displays what King does not: consistency. In his eight years in the league, Kluwe has averaged more than 42 yards per punt every year. He doesn’t have King’s leg, but his experience is just as valuable.
According to Greg Papa, the Raiders’ play-by-play announcer, the decision should be clear. He believes Kluwe will win the job easily, in large part because of something that no one else has discussed when it came to this battle.
Papa said that in watching the two during OTAs, the one thing that stood out the most was how quickly Kluwe got rid of the ball after the snap. Papa said that Kluwe gets rid of the ball immediately while King’s stride takes a while. That may not seem like a huge deal, but in a game of inches, seconds matter.
It’s the classic matchup between potential and dependability. King has the potential to be a game changer, but Kluwe offers consistency to a team that may not find that trait at many positions this year. This may wind up being one of the most competitive battles on the Raiders this offseason, and it will be fun to watch.