Oakland Raiders fans are intently watching the quarterback competition that has suddenly emerged between Terrelle Pryor and Matt Flynn. What was once considered a done deal with Flynn as the starter has flared into a heated competition after Pryor had a breakout game against the Chicago Bears in the third preseason game of the year.
But during that same preseason, unbeknownst to many, there was another battle raging at an important position. While most tend to take the punter position for granted, it is incredibly important to the success of a team. Raiders fans have been spoiled by the leg of Shane Lechler for years and, as a result, are even more likely to take the position for granted.
Now that Lechler has departed, and with the Raiders looking like a less than stellar offensive unit, choosing the correct punter is more important than ever for this franchise. Competing to be the new Raiders punter are veteran Chris Kluwe and the young and inexperienced Marquette King.
Each player brings different talents to Oakland. King has a rocket for a leg, but lacks in the consistency department while also taking a little longer to get punts off than coaches might want to see. Meanwhile, Kluwe’s leg has weakened with age. But while he cannot match the distance of King on a kick by kick basis, he is far more consistent and gets the ball out of his hands and in the air very rapidly.
So far, the two have been neck and neck the entire training camp. First, Kluwe looked to have an advantage due to his experience and consistency. But as King’s consistency improved through camp, his distance began to set him ahead of Kluwe.
Now, however, King may have fallen behind Kluwe yet again, and for a reason that has nothing to do with his ability to punt. During the Bears game, kicker Sebastian Janikowski had a rather up and down night, missing a 49-yard field goal and making a 58 yard field goal.
But what many may have missed about those two field goals is that there was a different holder for each. Marquette King held for the missed field goal, and Janikowski was visibly unhappy with King after it missed. Meanwhile, Kluwe held for Janikowski when he nailed the 58-yarder.
Holder for a placekicker is another easily forgotten position. But as the Raiders learned last season when long snapper Jon Condo went down, a specialist can be the difference between a win and a loss. If Janikowski is not comfortable with King or a backup quarterback as the holder, Kluwe may win the job by default.