Raiders Leaning Toward Starting Matt Leinart In Sunday’s Finale At San Diego
By Ryan Leong
The high water mark for the Raiders was a 3-4 record after seven games. Since then, a free fall in the loss column. It’s been a six game losing streak ended by a win over the pathetic Chiefs. Oakland went 1-7 over the last eight contests to drop the silver and black to 4-11.
With one game left and more injuries affecting the performance of this lackluster team, it appears the season could end with another loss at San Diego.
The intriguing story line for the final game is the competition at quarterback being played out between Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor as the two backups split their practice time. One of them will get the start on Sunday in place of Carson Palmer, who was officially ruled out with cracked ribs and a bruised lung.
“Both of them looked pretty good,” Coach Dennis Allen said Wednesday. “They had a good day out here and both of them got reps with the ‘ones.’ We’ll to continue to monitor it as we go through the week and we’ll make a decision at the end of the week which way we want to go.”
But after practice, Pryor told reporters that Leinart was the one to receive most of the snaps, indicating that the Raiders will likely go with the veteran to start the game against the Chargers.
Palmer threw for 4,018 yards this season but the run game has been severely lacking. The Raiders are eighth in passing, but 29th out of 32 teams in rushing. That’s something Coach Allen says has to improve even with one game remaining.
“You have to be able to run the ball in this league,” Allen said. “Points are scored in this league through the passing game. That’s how you get big chunks, but you have to be able to run the ball to be effective. You have to be able to be balanced. From a defensive standpoint, when the offense is able to be balanced it makes it a lot harder for you as a play caller to know what defensives to call. Our ability to run the football and be effective running the football is something we need to get better at.”
In other news on Wednesday, the league selected players for the upcoming Pro Bowl and the Raiders were shut out. That comes as a bit of a surprise considering the phenomenal season that kicker Sebastian Janikowski is having.
Janikowski did win the fan vote, which comprises one-third of the voting, but Cleveland’s Phil Dawson won out winning the vote by players and coaches. This season, Dawson has made 28 of 29 field goals including a 53-yarder.
Janikowski has made 31-of-34 field goals. He is a perfect 25-for-25 on kicks under 50 yards and 6-for-9 on kicks greater than 50 yards, including two game winners. His three misses have been from 51, 61, and 64 yards. His percentage of 91.2 percent ranks among the all-time best in a season. Only 10 kickers in league history have been perfect from 49 yards or less while making at least 90.9 percent of their attempts during a season.
More surprising is that as good a career as Janikowski has had, last year was the first time he was selected to the Pro Bowl. The Raiders are one of eight teams not to have a player selected to the Pro Bowl joining the Bills, Chargers, Titans, Jaguars, Eagles, Panthers, and Rams.
Janikowski may still get to play as he and fullback Marcel Reece were chosen as alternates. Punter Shane Lechler who missed time this season with a knee injury, didn’t make it to the AFC squad for the first time in six years.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.