Terrelle Pryor takes a step back vs. Cowboys
The Raiders do not expect much from Terrelle Pryor this season. We can surmise this because, one year after spending a third-round pick on the ex-Ohio State star in the supplemental draft, Oakland went out and signed Matt Leinart to back up Carson Palmer.
The Palmer-Leinart duo gave the Raiders the flexibility they needed to stash Pryor as a No. 3 QB, as they did late last season. But after seeing Pryor in action during Oakland’s preseason opener Monday, that might even have been setting the bar too high.
Pryor completed 8 of 15 passes with a game-clinching interception against the lowest tiers of Dallas’ defensive depth chart; he also rushed for 21 yards and took two sacks.
“I’m angry at myself,” Pryor told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I thought everybody else on the team played great. I just think I played like dog crap. So I’m mad about that, about how I played. … I will be better on Friday (Oakland’s next preseason game).”
To some extent, this was to be expected. Aside from one extremely brief cameo last regular season, Pryor has not played quarterback in a live game since the 2010 season at Ohio State. He did not get to go through training camp last year and missed out on the preseason, too. Pryor should be ahead of the Raiders’ rookies, based on the few months he spent with Oakland in 2011, but he certainly does not qualify as a seasoned vet.
So, if you want to forgive his mistimed passes and indecisive action in the pocket, go right ahead.
But the visual evidence was pretty damming. Pryor’s Monday night flop looked a lot less like a guy going through the motions than it did a quarterback appearing overmatched in the NFL.
No one questioned Pryor’s athleticism coming out of Ohio State — he threw for 2,772 yards and rushed for 754 more in his junior year. At a well-built 6-foot-4, he was a nightmare for collegiate defenses, especially when he got outside the pocket.
The red flags (aside from character concerns) mostly centered around Pryor’s throwing ability. He never possessed a great arm, and scouts questioned whether he’d succeed in the NFL without vastly improving that area of his game. Monday, 20 months removed from his last start at Ohio State, Pryor looked worse than ever. His final sequence of plays briefly provided a glimmer of hope, only to squash that out in spectacular fashion.
With Oakland down 3-0 late in the fourth quarter, Pryor managed to get the offense from its own 22 to across midfield — picking up a first down at the Dallas 40 by sensing an oncoming pass rush, stepping up and scrambling, juking a linebacker and stepping out of bounds for an 8-yard gain.
On the next snap, though, Pryor took a 16-yard sack on a screen pass. He was then nearly picked off as he weak-armed a pass in the direction of Brandon Carswell. And he finished the festivities by lofting a 4th-and-long pass off his back foot into quadruple coverage for an interception.
Not only did Pryor add to the argument that he doesn’t have the arm strength to play in the NFL, but also he amplified his issues by displaying a great discomfort in the pocket. Pryor has always been, to some extent, a quarterback who does his best work on the move. But that game only works in the NFL if it’s combined with confidence and decisiveness through the air.
Pryor has yet to find that combination with the Raiders. Based on Monday night’s performance, it’s fair to wonder if he ever will.