(Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)
(Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

No Pryor Restraint

Raw and electrifying, quarterback Terrelle Pryor gives the Raiders a better chance to win this season than the experienced and efficient Matt Flynn

By
Jim Trotter
· More from Jim·

SEATTLE — After concluding the preseason with a 22-6 loss to the Seahawks on Thursday night, Raiders coach Dennis Allen was asked if he knows who his Week 1 starting quarterback will be at Indianapolis.

“I’m not going to tell you, but yes,” he said.

Football coaches are funny creatures. They treat secrecy as if it were currency and cling to the concept as if it were gold. Still, you would have to be deaf (to the players), dumb (to the realities of the Raiders’ situation) and blind (to the playmaking abilities of the candidates) to believe Allen should go with anyone but Terrelle Pryor, the unpolished passer yet gifted runner who has provided the biggest spark to the offense.

It’s true that Pryor’s numbers were awful in his only preseason start on Thursday. He completed just 3 of 8 passes for 31 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and a 9.9 rating. By artwork standards, it was a finger-painting. But what the numbers do not say is that the Raiders’ blueprint for winning has blown up. They entered training camp wanting to be stingy on defense and mistake-free on offense; that way they could get to the fourth quarter and have an opportunity to make a play and win. But in four exhibition games the defense allowed scores on 16 of 18 first-half series, excluding a kneel down. It gave up seven touchdowns and nine field goals, forced just one punt and had another series end with a blocked field goal.

Viewed as a role player coming into camp, Pryor is now a potential leading man.

There’s little reason to believe the unit, which could have as many as nine new starters, can flip a switch at the beginning the regular season. Consequently the Raiders are going to have to be more dynamic on offense, which hurts Matt Flynn. His advantage over Pryor is his experience and efficiency. That, however, works against him if the offense is playing catch-up, particularly with a line that might be among the worst in the league (especially after left tackle Jared Veldheer was lost until at least the midseason with a torn left triceps).

It’s little wonder that the word most often heard in the Raiders’ locker room after the game—and in private conversations with players beforehand—was playmakers. As in, We need them. Pryor is just that, even if the numbers from Thursday don’t reflect it. When he’s on the field there’s a feeling that something positive could happen. On any given play he could carry the ball 70 yards, and, unlike Flynn, he has the arm strength to stretch the field in the passing game.

That’s critical because the Raiders sorely lack playmakers on offense. Running back Darren McFadden has the ability, but he has yet to play a full season since entering the league in 2008. Wideout Denarius Moore is another, but he tends to disappear for stretches. Running back Marcel Reece can pose a matchup problem for defenses in the passing game. There are no established threats beyond them.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Behind a stout line, with a stingy defense, the Raiders could make it work with Flynn. But that’s connect-the-dots stuff, and Oakland lacks the necessary dots. Which is why they need someone like Pryor, a 6-4, 233-pound signal-caller who can improvise on a broken play to create something beautiful, as he did on Thursday night when he gained 25 yards on a scramble.

His rawness as a passer works against him, although he is improving. On Thursday he was hurt by a couple of drops, and his interception was the result of being late with the delivery on a deep pass down the sideline. Pryor attributed his tardiness to being inexperienced throwing to double-moves from the pistol formation, which is what was called on that play.

While he will never be confused with Tom Brady, the Patriots icon with whom he worked out part of the offseason, he also should not be viewed as the newborn colt who stumbled around the pocket at Ohio State. His abilities as a passer, and his understanding of the passing game, have increased exponentially since entering the league two years ago. Much of it stems from his work this offseason with Tom House, a mechanics/movement coach whose clients includes Brady, Saints QB Drew Brees and Chiefs QB Alex Smith.

His company, 3D QB, evaluates each athlete’s throwing motion and functional arm strength, then develops programs to help build on strengths and correct weaknesses. It also develops a nutritional plan for participants and creates a mental/emotional profile. Pryor spent roughly three months working with House, sometimes two and three times a week.

“Pretty special kid,” House says of Pryor. “The awesome thing about him is that he made adjustments almost immediately. He was hungry. He was willing to give what we offered a shot. The combination of his willingness to embrace the science and make it a little bit better for him physically and mechanically turned into some positive feedback real quick.”

For instance, Pryor learned that he was leaving his chest open, which made him late with his delivery. “So when I was coming down to throw with my left arm, my right arm was saying it’s time to go, the timing wasn’t right,” he said. “[House] kind of helped me with that.”

“I tell all the great ones and those who strive to be great: Problem identification is half your solution,” House says. “If we have a toolkit to help you with your solution, that’s where the relationship builds. When we identified the few small problems that Terrelle had, and showed him the toolkit, it was unbelievable how quick he made adjustments. He’s very authentic. He can actually look at his strengths and weaknesses and learn how to make the adjustments. That’s what was cool working with him.”

There will be growing pains if the Raiders go with Pryor. Their initial plan was to create a package of plays for him, many relying on his athleticism. But that has been adjusted in recent weeks. More is being put on his plate. Viewed as a role player coming into camp, he’s now a potential leading man. So much so that Allen got upset with him Thursday night for taking an unnecessary hit on a bootleg. That never would have happened last year, or even a few weeks ago in the first preseason games. But times are changing.

Allen knows Pryor’s value is now greater than a dozen or so plays. He didn’t say as much Thursday night, but look for him to do so in the next few days. It’ll be the right call.

10 comments
gary41
gary41

The Raiders have a front office charged with evaluating position players, including QB's through the draft & FA.  This is job one.  They have an OC & more importantly a QB coach charged with developing talent.  I guess if you can't say anything good about the staff on hand, say nothing.  In all these QB articles not one word about any existing QB coach and what they have done on the job.  Instead, we get the usual promotional hype coming from various QB gurus, with discussions about mechanics.  What we know as fans is the Raiders have failed with job one and failed with job two.  The same inept staff will be drafting a playmaker next year, followed by more promotional hype.     

Starstruck
Starstruck

The truly knowledgeable scouts and scribes realize that Pryor is almost as bad at passing as Tim Tebow.  In the short term, he can be more effective than Matt Flynn because the Raiders still have a terrible OL that cannot protect him. Flynn has been trained as a pro-style drop back pocket passer. The Raiders would not have signed him if they thought Pryor's overall game was more effective. Teams have not yet game planned for Pryor, but when they do, you can expect to see Pryor running all over the field in a panic.

HypoCycloid
HypoCycloid

@Starstruck The big difference is that those same scouts are telling people how he is improving.  No he isn't perfect yet, but unlike Tebow, he has consistently improved and not regressed.  And people said the same thing about Pryor at OSU...people will gameplan him and he will wilt under the pressure, but that never happened.  He is a hard worker and extremely competitive.  Because of that, when teams adjust to him, I believe everyone will see he is a true pro and adjust to the defense as well leaving him successful in the end. 

BrownieDog
BrownieDog

Smokin' hot Sizzle, brought to you from THE Ohio State University alum. What an amazing athlete! 

(And count on it: Terrelle Pryor will definitely improve as he gains knowledge and experience.)

jaer209
jaer209

okay im tired oh rearing pryor had a bad game he went in there and made a bad offensibe line look half decent you put flyn or any one else back there it would of exposed allof of the offesible line men sack strip sacks he is mobile so he was able to make them look decent in pass protecion okay and the wide recivers gave him no help jacoby had another bad game so did denarious more the lony reciver that shows up is streader denarius had allot of drops this past game and missed assigments so did ford pryor had a good game if you throw flynn into that game you are gone get sacks strip fumbles and dropped passes by recivers wich would of made the whole offense look worse if mat flynn would of started so yea pryor had a good game

pval
pval

@jaer209 Okay,

Let me tell you one thing : If you can't be bothered to use some punctuation, people won't bother to read what you wrote.

I just stopped reading your post after three lines. And typing errors didn't help either.

It  amounts to saying : "oh my time is soo much precious and yours !" and incidentally  it made you "sound" like someone on speed....


Steven35
Steven35

Pryor is better then Tebow.  Tebow wished he had the athletic ability Pryor possesses.  Pryor is going to be a faster Steve Mcnair when it is all said and done.

Michael185
Michael185

How will #blackTebow do in 2013 running Greg Olson's run for you life offense? If I were a betting man, I'd put the wins at 2. 

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