Matt Schaub recently completed a six-week meet and greet with the Raiders offense. The team’s presumptive starting quarterback spent his offseason acclimating himself with new teammates. As important as team bonding and scheme study is learning the strengths of his receiving options.
Each player has unique traits and preferences and, on a team without a clear-cut No. 1 receiver, Schaub must learn to maximize each player’s talent.
“That’s what this time of year is all about, especially between quarterbacks, tight ends and receivers,” Schaub said last week. “It’s all about getting on the same page. It’s about understanding route adjustments, what guy is best at a particular type of route and where that player’s strengths lie. Can he adjust to the ball in the air? Is this guy good at slants? Is this guy a go-route runner? All those things, as a quarterback, you start to learn about and file away so that, once we get to the fall, it’s second nature.”
This process began in earnest during OTAs and a recently completed minicamp and will be refined during camp and occasional off-the-books throwing sessions in the East Bay.
Timing and ball placement are key to a functional offense, especially without dominant playmakers on the outside. Hiccups in timing can limit production or lead to a negative play. That's why Schaub has worked so hard in practice and in film study to figure out exactly how his receivers play.
“I try to understand everybody’s strengths and body movements, so I can let it go maybe a split second before I want to but I know how he comes out of his route, he’s going to be able to get there. All that stuff you develop right now.”
While the passing game had some rocky moments during OTAs, receivers are adjusting to Schaub’s fastball. The 32-year old has adequate zip, but his precision has impressed receivers most.
“He throws the ball on time,” wideout Andre Holmes said. “It’s nice to be able to run the route and know the ball’s going to be there, that’s he already thrown it. He puts it in a nice spot. It’s been great.”
Working with Schaub has proven easy, from his leadership style to his passing accuracy. While it takes time to develop true chemistry between quarterback and receiver, Schaub learned a great deal about his weapons during the offseason program.
James Jones has proven reliable throughout his career and Rod Streater was characteristically impressive during OTAs. Schaub must figure out if Denarius Moore and Greg Little can hold on to the football in the clutch and Holmes must build upon bright spots from last season. Schaub's favorite targets will emerge during the preseason -- given the passer's track record, consistency will be rewarded -- but Schaub doesn't have a preference at this stage.
“I don’t know if I can necessarily single one out because I’d be doing the other guys an injustice," Schaub said. "It’s the entire group. I’ve been so impressed with the six, seven, eight guys so, really, it’s gonna make a great competition throughout training camp. They’re all pushing each other and competing at such a high level that no matter who’s in the huddle, we just go out and play. We don’t skip a beat no matter what core is in the group.”
The Raiders have been pleased with Schaub's work during an offseason so crucial when starting a new quarterback.
“He’s a guy that’s obviously has experience and that shows in the way that he manages a game and manages the huddle,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “Obviously he’s an accurate player. He’s good in the pocket. He’s got a good pocket presence in there. He’s got good leadership skills and he’s very intelligent. He’s shown the accuracy right now that we’re looking for.”