(ALLEN PARK) - The Raiders announced yesterday that they will go with third-year University of Washington product Marques Tuiasosopo as their starting quarterback this Sunday when the team faces the Detroit Lions on the road at Ford Field in Detroit.
Tuiasosopo will be making his first career start and has the backing of Raiders greats Tim Brown and Jerry Rice who believe the youngster has the makings of a star. "He has the ability to be an outstanding player in the National Football League and we're tremendously confident in his ability to manage the offense and to function within the system," said Raiders head coach Bill Callahan who is on managing general partner Al Davis' hot seat over the team's 2-5 performance to date.
"I think he's proven that in the season's past, although he has not had the
opportunity to do that live against live bullets," Callahan continued. "We're
very high on him. He's a competitor, he's smart, he's instinctive. This will be a
challenge for him to step up and play at a higher level. Like I said, he's shown the
aptitude to do well in his preparation and understand the intricacies of the offense and
manage the team in the practice situation. Indicative of his Monday night performance,
we'd just like to see it on a full-scale basis."
"He's an enthusiastic guy," said Brown of Tuiasosopo. "He's a high-fiving type, pat-you-on-the-back, great job type of guy. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. He wants to get everyone fired up and breaking down the huddles and doing that kind of stuff. His enthusiasm is something obviously we need on the offensive side of the ball and hopefully it will be something to help us out."
Tuiasosopo has gotten into three games this season, completing 19-of-34 for 254 yards and two interceptions. Obviously the presence of an untested quarterback starting for the Raiders will affect Detroit's defensive game plan. No doubt Detroit will attempt to disguise coverages in an attempt to confuse the first-time starter.
Lions coach Steve Mariucci talked about what he expects from the Raiders and Tuiasosopo.
"They have had a different season than they expected and they had the bye. We are
going to see Marques Tuiasosopo - a good young quarterback and he is getting more practice
time in a bye week than he would normally. They are a veteran team and a very prideful
team. They are going to play their best game because of the circumstances and because of
the bye so we must play our best game."
Asked about the Raiders slow start and their 2-5 record, Mariucci indicated he felt the absence of former linebacker Bill Romanowski has hurt the team. He also said their defense has allowed some big plays in the running game.
"They don't have Bill Romanowski anymore and I think that they miss him. He kind of added some spice to that football team. He is a high energy guy. They are very talented. They have Charles Woodson at the corner who is as good as they get. Rod Woodson is a sixteen year veteran and hall-of-famer. They have some fast linebackers but teams have popped a run here and there.
"LaDainian Tomlinson has popped a long one and when you get two or three of those all of a sudden your rush average changes automatically. They have an aggressive defense and they are not blitzing as much as they were percentage-wise in base or nickel for some reason. Whether it is because of Romanowski not being there or what, I don't know. They have changed their play calling a little bit but nevertheless they are still pretty good. I think they signed Sean Gilbert today and he's a big guy. You have to consider they have played against terrific running backs with Priest Holmes and Tomlinson and those are capable guys who can get lots of rushing yards."
While the Lions have no one in their backfield like Holmes or Tomlinson, the presence of "hall-of-famers-in-waiting" Jerry Rice and Tim Brown should give the Lions fans a little bang for their buck when they attend a likely sell-out game in downtown Detroit.