Terrelle Pryor takes first-team reps, will start in Raiders’ final preseason game
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen didn’t exactly give Matt Flynn a vote of confidence following his team’s 34-26 loss to Chicago on Friday, a game in which Flynn threw two interceptions on just six pass attempts.
“I don’t think Matt [Flynn] played well in this game,” Allen said in his postgame press conference. “Obviously, I thought Terrelle [Pryor] came in and gave us a spark. I thought he played well in the game. I think that’s something that we have to go and look at it. I’m not going to make any decisions on anything, obviously, tonight. … But it was obvious that Terrelle gave us a little bit of a spark tonight.”
Allen may not pick the Raiders’ starting quarterback based on that game vs. the Bears, but Pryor clearly did enough in Allen’s eyes to earn a shot at the job. Sunday, with Matt Flynn sitting out of practice with a sore arm, Pryor led the first-team offense. He will do the same Thursday, when Oakland closes out its preseason slate at Seattle.
A strong showing there — against what likely will be the Seahawks’ backups and third-stringers on defense — and Pryor very well may be Oakland’s starting QB moving forward.
For Flynn, the whole situation has to feel painfully familiar. Flynn entered the 2012 preseason as the Seahawks’ No. 1 QB, after signing a three-year deal with them, only to lose the job to up-and-comer Russell Wilson. With Wilson firmly entrenched as its starter heading into 2013, Seattle traded Flynn to Oakland. Oakland then waited on taking a QB in the draft, eventually snagging Tyler Wilson in Round 4.
By all indications, the Raiders were ready to roll into the season with Flynn under center.
But a shaky camp and preseason, coupled with reports that Flynn’s arm strength basically limited him to short or intermediate passes, gave Pryor an opportunity.
Though he was not exactly lights out himself over Oakland’s first two preseason games (7-of-15 for 97 yards and an interception; 46 yards rushing), he saved his best for Week 3 of the exhibition schedule. In that loss to the Bears, Pryor connected on 7-of-9 passes for 93 yards, rushed for 37 yards and accounted for two TDs.
Pryor’s ability to get out of the pocket and run certainly adds a different dimension to Oakland’s offense than Flynn. And it is a valuable dimension, given that an already-shaky Raiders line recently lost standout left tackle Jared Veldheer for the season.
However, this is still counts as a surprising rise for Pryor, who lost his only start last season and admitted to the Bay Area News Group in July that he had not learned how to properly throw a football until the current coaching staff arrived.
“I never really knew how to throw a football before,” Pryor said. “It’s coming along. I’m getting way better.”
Should he hang on to the starting job, Pryor will have his work cut out for him. Three of the Raiders’ first four regular-season games are against 2012 playoff teams (Indianapolis, Denver, Washington), and this team finished just 4-12 last year despite getting more than 4,000 yards passing from Carson Palmer.
Oakland traded Palmer to Arizona this offseason, ending what was a rather rocky marriage — and, it appeared at the time, setting the stage for Flynn’s second chance at being a franchise QB.
Those plans have all changed now — at least for the moment.