Training camp outlook: Quarterbacks

One story in a series, looking at position breakdowns for the Oakland Raiders, who arrive for training camp in Napa, CA, on July 24. Today – a look at quarterbacks:

This position will ordinarily generate the most discussion on any football team and there's no reason to think the 2004 Oakland Raiders are any different.

Two seasons ago, Rich Gannon was the NFL MVP on the way to leading the Oakland Raiders to an AFC title. As of now, however, it's not a slam-dunk that Gannon will be in Oakland for the 2004 season. Gannon was rumored to being released on or after June 1 for salary cap reasons. Gannon has remained a Raider despite not restructuring a contract that counts $7 million dollars against the salary cap and Kerry Collins' acquisition.

Gannon, assuming the Raiders keep the 39-year old, is not likely to have trouble modifying his ability or adjusting to the constraints of first-year head coach Norv Turner's offense that involves some deep throws. However, it bears watching how his average arm strength will fit.

Collins, conversely, fits much better in this area. The 31-year old Collins is slated for backup duty. Granted, he is not the second coming of Dan Marino as he has been a model of inconsistency but it's hard to imagine acquiring a quarterback who has started 117 of the 123 games he has played without some intention of making him the starter.

Marques Tuiasosopo fits into the picture, it's a matter of "where." Will it be No. 2 or 3? If Gannon stays it's the latter. If Gannon goes it's the former.

Tuiasosopo will be in his fourth season. Oakland drafted him in the second round from Washington in 2001 and he replaced Gannon, who was lost to a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 7. The Raiders, however, lost Tuiasosopo to sustain a season-ending knee injury in the following game, a 23-13 loss at Detroit. Rick Mirer, who signed as a free agent with Detroit, started every game from that point forward.

Since Oakland's season, which ended with a 4-12 record, had been in a freefall that eventually ended with a 4-12 record one year after reaching the Super Bowl, that time seemed like a good one to see what Tuiasosopo could do over an extensive period of time after not playing in his first two seasons. Well, except for a couple of token appearances.

The Raiders are no closer to finding out anything definitive on Tuiasosopo than they were last year since he played, what amounted to one game. At Oakland's minicamp that was held one week after the draft, Tuiasosopo said he has sufficiently recovered.

In addition, there is Tee Martin, who did something at the University of Tennessee that Peyton Manning could not do – lead the Volunteers to a National Championship. Martin has the mobility to be an intriguing choice but at best he is a poor man's Michael Vick.


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