The anointed starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders is strengthening his hold on the position this training camp instead of losing it.
Matt Schaub is showing signs that last year’s disastrous season in Houston might have been an aberration as he looks in complete command as Oakland’s starter.
The performance comes in stark contrast to what happened with Matt Flynn last summer. Acquired to be the starter in the off-season, Flynn lacked the necessary arm strength in training camp and ultimately lost his job to Terrelle Pryor before getting cut early in the season.
Despite the presence of big-armed rookie Derek Carr, Schaub is showing no signs of giving up the starting position with the Raiders.
“Schauby’s getting his mojo back,” said defensive tackle Antonio Smith, who was a teammate of Schaub’s in Houston during his highest and lowest moments as a pro. “He’s getting his confidence back. He’s starting to believe in himself again.
“He’s starting to throw with confidence. Those are things you need to be a successful quarterback. You would be surprised just much a mindset is important in this game. ... The moment you are doubting yourself is the moment you start throwing a lot of interceptions and stuff.”
That’s exactly what happened to Schaub last season with the Texans when he set an NFL record by having an interception returned for a touchdown in four straight games.
Schaub threw 14 interceptions in all while losing the starting job to Case Keenum and posting a 73 passer rating that was his lowest in seven seasons as a starter.
After starting the season with back-to-back wins, the Texans lost their final 14 games and traded Schaub to the Raiders for a sixth-round draft pick in March.
“It was like a snowball effect,” Smith said. “A lot of things went wrong early on even though you felt you were playing some good ball. But you had key things happen to you in key moments. Lost a few games, then everybody starting to panic trying to find something wrong. And then things just get all out of whack.”
Schaub has put 2013 in the past and is focusing instead on reviving his career in Oakland where he is enjoying the opportunity to learn a new offence under co-ordinator Greg Olson after spending seven years running Gary Kubiak’s system in Houston.
While Schaub lacks the true No. 1 receiver he had in Houston all those years with Andre Johnson, he is excited to work with Oakland’s group that includes James Jones, Rod Streater, Denarius Moore and Andre Holmes.
“We’re still trying to mould what our offence is going to be and what each guy’s role in it will be,” Schaub said. “We’ll find out what guys do well. What things work, what things we like to do against certain looks and defences. ... It’s an exciting chance to get going with this football team and this organization and climb that mountain.”
Schaub had success during his tenure in Houston, making a pair of Pro Bowls during his seven seasons as a starter. In 2009, he led the NFL in yards passing (4,770), completions (396) and attempts (583) and was fifth in touchdown passes (29).
In 2012, he threw for 4,008 yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions to help Houston to its second straight AFC South title.
The Raiders believe he can put up those kinds of numbers again and that he can be a top 10 quarterback in the NFL.
“I think he’s in a good frame of mind,” coach Dennis Allen said. “I think he’s very hungry. I think he’s excited about the new opportunity. I think anytime you go into something new there’s a little bit of, maybe it’s an increased focus, an increased intensity level, because it is new. You kind of force yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit. I think he’s done that.”