In 2015's NFL, team depth is key, particularly at the quarterback position.
Just ask the Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles or 14 other NFL teams that started more than one quarterback during the 2014 season, six of which had three starting quarterbacks under center.
The Oakland Raiders were not part of this group, as rookie quarterback Derek Carr started all 16 games last season, but nevertheless, having depth and experience in the quarterbacks room is invaluable.
Enter Matt McGloin and Christian Ponder, the two players currently competing to be Carr's backup in 2015.
McGloin and Ponder both boast starting experience, having started six and 26 games respectively, and while they are competing for reps and a spot on the depth chart, there's still a healthy respect between the pair.
"It makes you such a better quarterback, mentally and once we get out here, we get after it," said McGloin. "We compete with one another, trying to push each other day in and day out. It's a healthy competition and I'm glad to be a part of it."
"I think Matt has done really well since OTAs [Organized Team Activities] back in the spring, through camp," added Ponder. "He's really smart with the football. He's accurate. He's a really good quarterback. He has a lot of confidence and he's a really good player."
While Ponder and McGloin are now in search of the same end goal, their journeys to Silver and Black could not have been more different.
After an impressive collegiate career at Florida State, Ponder was selected in the first round (No. 12 overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings, while McGloin went undrafted out of Penn State and signed with the Raiders prior to the 2013 season.
Now the pair of play-callers enter 2015 in a unique position for the both of them, knowing that Carr is cemented as the starting quarterback in Oakland.
"You go about your business the same way, at least you try to," Ponder said when asked about entering camp battling to be the No. 2 quarterback. "You try to prepare as the starter, but you understand that you're not the guy who's doing most of the talking. That's Derek. He's the leader of the offense, but you have to prepare like you're the starter. You never know when you're going to get called in to play."
As Training Camp 2015 has progressed, both McGloin and Ponder have gotten run with the second-team offense although Ponder remains listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the team's depth chart.
Unofficial depth chart aside, Ponder believes that regardless of how many snaps he or McGloin sees, preparation is the most vital characteristic for a player in their position.
"You have to do your best to prepare, understand the offense, understand the game plan, have confidence in what you're doing, and be able to lead," Ponder said. "You're the field general out there, so if you're not doing that than you're going to be a step behind."
During the team's first preseason game, Ponder entered the fray prior to McGloin, but both showed a good grasp of the Raiders offense during their time on the field.
Ponder finished the evening 6 of 8 for 59 yards and one touchdown, while McGloin went 10 of 11 for 104 yards and one touchdown as well.
As the preseason goes on, their continued competition will be interesting to keep an eye on – the veteran quarterback who has history with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, versus the undrafted gun slinger who has spent the entirety of his young career with the Silver and Black.
At the end of the day, while they are both competing for position on the depth chart, McGloin says that the responsibility to perform lies squarely on the individual quarterback.
"You have to understand at the end of the day that once you step on the field, it's on you," McGloin stated. "You have to make plays. You have to complete the ball. You have to make good decisions. You have to know the offense.
He continued, "You can't be blaming different players, blaming a coach. It's on you at the end of the day, and if you don't make plays, it's a performance-based business, and if you don't perform, you're not going to be around very long as a quarterback in this league."
While the two players will compete for reps and playing time, Ponder knows that each player in the quarterbacks room, and the team in general, are after the same goal – they want to win.
"There's definitely competition, but we all are rooting for each other," Ponder said. "We all have each other's backs and we want each other to be the best. We understand competition is going to help us, and we do want to put our best on film every day in practice and in the preseason and whenever we play in the regular season if that happens."