The great Silver and Black hope

A new system is in place in Oakland and Andrew Walter is feeling the press. He is in a different offense now and has to relearn the terminology - but that does put him on par with the rest of the quarterbacks.

Andrew Walter, representing the great unknown at quarterback, gives Oakland Raiders fans hope for a better 2006.

Walter's lone two preseason appearances, mildly encouraging, have been held up as a testimony to his potential for leading the Raiders out of a 13-35 wilderness.

"He'll get his playing time," Raiders coach Art Shell said at the NFL owner's meetings. "I watched his preseason games from last year and was really excited about him throwing the football. I remember calling (offensive coordinator) Tom Walsh and saying, `Come look at this. This kid has a lot of talent, a lot of confidence in his abilities.'"

Does Walter actually stand a chance of emerging as the Raiders starter in 2006? Those were the whispers along the sidelines at the club's first mini-camp, even as free agent signee Aaron Brooks got most of the work with the first team and erstwhile backup Marques Tuiasosopo looked sharp with the second team.

With the Raiders leaning toward closing a voluntary upcoming mini-camp the first week of June, there's no telling if Walter has moved up the charts.

There is already speculation that if Brooks falters, either in preseason or early in the regular season, Walter could find himself Oakland's starter sooner rather than later.

There could be more than a little wishful thinking where Walter is concerned. While it's not impossible he could suddenly blossom into the deep thrower Al Davis has always coveted, it takes a leap of faith to assume that greatness will emerge in 2006.

A review of Walter's 2005 preseason finds two unremarkable performances against the reserves of the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints -- two of the NFL's worst teams.

Walter completed 26 of 44 passes for 352 yards and one touchdown for a 73.3 quarterback rating. In 11 possessions, he led Oakland to one touchdown, one field goal, threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. Four drives ended in punts and one on downs.

He missed the second and third preseason games with a groin injury that was later diagnosed as a hernia that needed surgery after the season. It limited his effectiveness in practice, which did nothing to help his development.

But when the Raiders had a chance to draft USC quarterback Matt Leinart, they instead opted for Texas safety Michael Huff, in part because Walter was on the roster.

The Raiders made no move to get Texas quarterback Vince Young and also passed on Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler.

Walter tried not to pay attention to all the pre-draft speculation, hoping Oakland's decision to take him in the third round the previous year meant they would not need a quarterback in 2006.

After shoulder surgery following his final year at Arizona State, plus the groin surgery after his rookie year, Walter said, "I'm about as pieced together as I've been in awhile."

He deflects questions of a looming quarterback battle with Brooks and Tuiasosopo like a veteran and looks forward to getting extensive playing time in the preseason.

"I'm definitely behind after being a rookie, learning a system and having to start all over with a new one and not having played other than a couple of games in the preseason," Walter said. "It will be good that we have (five) preseason games this year so we can get out there, get in a good flow, get some good snaps and some quality situations."

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