Starless in Oakland

They never did get a shot at Vince Young. Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler were both there for the taking but neither seemed enticing enough for the Raiders to make a move.

So who exactly will be Oakland's quarterback in 2005?

Aaron Brooks, the offseason free agent acquisition, took reps with the first-team offense during the Raiders' most recent mini-camp. A few plays later it was Marques Tuiasosopo working with the starters. Then it was Andrew Walter's turn. In short, no one seems to have a definitive answer for who will be the man to replace the departed Kerry Collins.

"There's nothing set in stone," Raiders head coach Art Shell said. "We had it one way this camp. The last camp it was different. It might be different next time."

Lingering uncertainty at quarterback hardly seems the remedy for a team that has won just 13 games over the past three seasons.

The draft was supposed to clear things up a bit, but when Young was drafted third overall by the Tennessee Titans and Oakland opted not to select either Leinart or Cutler, the wheels of confusion were set in motion.

The Raiders have had question marks at quarterback ever since Rich Gannon suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder in 2003.

Collins tried to fill the void but was very mediocre during his two seasons in Oakland. Last year, he passed for 3,759 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions but was vilified by the Raider Nation for failing to get the offense moving consistently and effectively.

Collins was released by the Raiders in the offseason, briefly re-signed and then was cut again.

Brooks seems to have the inside shot at replacing Collins, if for no other reason than his experience. The former New Orleans Saints quarterback started 82 consecutive games before being benched for the final three games of the 2005 season. He passed for more than 3,500 yards and surpassed 20 touchdowns each year from 2001-04, though his career quarterbacking rating of 79.7 is less than desirable.

Signed in March following a long, quiet offseason by the Raiders, Brooks can also run – something the immobile Collins could not do – and has shown a penchant for escaping pressure. Though the early indication is that Brooks indeed will be the starter for Oakland, the 30-year-old veteran is taking nothing for granted.

"I come in thinking I'm going to have to compete anyway," Brooks said. "Nothing is given. I won't buy into it until the first regular-season game starts and I'm the one under center. Then I can say the job is won and it's mine for me to lose. Until then, I'm going to stay competing because a quarterback's job is never secure."

Second-year player Andrew Walter, the Raiders' third-round draft pick in '05, could push Brooks for playing time provided he can pick up Tom Walsh's system by the time training camp rolls around.

The former Arizona State star, who is the tallest quarterback in the league at 6'6", has an incredibly strong arm and can get the ball deep, much to the delight of Raiders owner Al Davis. It was Davis who ultimately made the call not to draft Leinart or Cutler because of his belief that Walter can be the team's long-term solution at quarterback.

First, Walter has to prove he can stay healthy. He had to have shoulder surgery during his senior season in college and spent much of last season recovering. The 24-year-old also underwent groin surgery in January.

"I'm definitely behind just because of being a rookie and learning a system and having to start all over with a new one," Walter said. "This should be time to get out there and get a good flow again and get some good snaps in quality situations and feel the game, which I haven't felt a whole lot of in the last year."

Then there's Tuiasosopo, the proverbial nice guy who has spent most of his NFL career on the sidelines. He started one game in 2005 with the understanding the job would be his the rest of the way, but Oakland's coaching staff yanked him out after that one ineffective game and put Tuiasosopo back on the bench.

"The last four or five years I kind of felt the guy ahead of me had the job, regardless," said Tuiasosopo, who is entering the final year of his contract. "This year I feel a lot better, that the guy who plays the best is going to be the starter."


SB Report Top Stories