When rookie quarterback Tyler Wilson joined the Raiders this spring for rookie minicamp, organized team activities and full-squad minicamp, he earned great reviews.
Observers loved the way he threw the ball and played the part of a leader. The young fourth-round passer from Arkansas had the look of a player who could challenge for playing time in his first year in the NFL.
As NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal noted this week, “Wilson was a trendy pick to push for the top spot.”
Now that the Raiders are almost two weeks into their training camp in Napa, not so much.
Wilson, who was expected to be in the competition for the backup quarterback role behind starter Matt Flynn, has been getting fewer snaps as camp has progressed and Terrelle Pryor – who appears sharper this summer than he has since joining the team in 2011 – now seems the clear leader for the No. 2 job.
Even Matt McGloin, the undrafted rookie QB from Penn State, has at times been outplaying Wilson in some practices, according to reports. On Sunday, Flynn, Pryor and McGloin all ran the team in two-minute drill practice, while Wilson watched, reported Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.
When the team issued its first depth chart of training camp, Wilson was listed as No. 4 at quarterback.
“Well, I think he’s got the physical tools,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen told reporters, when asked about Wilson’s work. “I think he’s behind from a mental part of the game, and that’s where he’s got to continue to work to improve.”
Wilson told Tafur it’s difficult to learn a new offense, and he’s sometimes struggled with that in the past. He’s just trying to figure everything out.
“I’m throwing the ball pretty well,” he said. “It’s just a matter of figuring out where it’s supposed to go.”
It will be interesting to see what kind of playing time Wilson gets on Friday -- and how he performs -- when the Raiders open their exhibition season at home against the Dallas Cowboys at 7 p.m.
Wilson has the size, arm strength and leadership skills the Raiders are looking for, and had success at Arkansas, where he played in 37 games over four seasons. For the Hogs, he set school records for passing yardage (7,765) and completions (593) and had 52 touchdown passes. As a junior he was first-team all-Southeastern Conference, when he threw for 24 TDs.
As Rosenthal of NFL.com wrote, it’s probably “not fair” to expect a fourth-round draft choice to immediately step in to a starting role, and he pointed to Aaron Rodgers – the Green Bay star from Cal who was a first-round choice in 2005 – as someone who had a bad first-year training camp.
“Wilson’s struggles will have an impact on the Raiders’ plans this year,” wrote Rosenthal. “Unless he turns it around in August, there’s no way we’ll see him start in the regular season.”