With training camp in full swing, the Oakland Raiders – like every other NFL club – are trying to find the answers to some lingering questions. One of those questions of course, is which version of Matt Schaub will under center for the Raiders? Will it be the Schaub who amassed a quarterback rating over 90 for five straight seasons? Or the Schaub who threw a pick-six in four straight games and 14 overall before being benched last season? It’s a question that has many Raiders fans – and possibly the organization itself – anxious to have the answer to. Though the coaching staff has been praising Schaub’s efforts through OTAs and the team’s minicamp, perhaps the most ringing endorsement – and the one we should lend a lot of credence to – is new Raiders DE Antonio Smith.
Smith – aka the “Ninja Assassin” – was Schaub’s teammate with the Houston Texans for five seasons before the pair of them joined the Raiders this offseason. Smith has seen Schaub at his best – 2009, when Schaub threw for 4,770 yards and 29 touchdowns. He’s also seen the veteran QB at his worst – 2013, and all of the misery stated above. So it’s fair to say that he is in a better position than most everybody, knows Schaub well and that his evaluation may carry some added weight.
Speaking with Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, Smith gave his opinion of Schaub’s progress this offseason.
“Schaubby’s getting his mojo back. He’s starting to be himself again. He’s throwing with confidence. Those are things you need to be a successful quarterback. You will be surprised how important a proper mindset is to this game. It’s amazing how far belief and faith in yourself will get you.”
Perhaps it’s the change of scenery. Perhaps it’s the added freedom, as well as the responsibilities he’s being given in OC Greg Olson‘s offensive scheme. Perhaps after hitting rock bottom last season; there really was nowhere for Schaub to go but up. Whatever the case may be, Schaub is looking to be every bit the productive, veteran quarterback GM Reggie McKenzie and HC Dennis Allen believed they were getting when they pulled the trigger on the trade that brought him to Oakland.
Since his acquisition, Schaub has tried to put the disaster of 2013 behind him by quietly going about his business and trying to improve. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed by either the coaching staff or his teammates. Raiders veteran Charles Woodson – the heart and soul of the team – recently gave his thoughts about Schaub in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio.
“The one thing I notice about him is he’s always talking to (defensive coordinator) Jason Tarver after practice. So this is a guy that understands how to get better, knows what to look at, and in order to make himself better, he’s talking to the right people to help him get better. So we expect big things from him.”
There is no doubt that Schaub had a disastrous campaign last season. But he’s never ducked from it, tried to hide from it or tried to lay the blame elsewhere. And now he’s getting back to work to fix the problems in his game, as well as restore the confidence that led to him being a two-time Pro Bowl selection. Schaub is putting in the extra work he needs to put in if he hopes to rebound in 2014, and it seems to be paying off.
Schaub has won over the Raiders’ coaching staff. He’s won over his teammates. Now all he needs to do is get out there and prove to his detractors and critics that he does indeed have his mojo and swagger back. And you better believe he is looking forward to it.