When Al Davis died in 2011, his last draft selection, quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the third round of the supplemental draft, became his last hope of turning around a franchise he ruthlessly drove into the ground for years. Davis constantly struggled to find a quarterback he could rely on to lead his franchise back to glory, badly whiffing on LSU’s Jamarcus Russell in 2007, which was the biggest reason — besides Davis himself — why the franchise struggled to find the success early in the decade when it went to (and lost) a Super Bowl.
Three years since Davis’ death, uncertainty lingers over his final draft selection. Pryor has attempted a grand total of 30 passes in two years, and he recently revealed to the football world that he previously didn’t know how to throw a football, which explains why he hasn’t seen the field much. To his credit, he did see the field against the division rival San Diego Chargers in Week 17 of a lost 2012 season, but he didn’t play well and showed how far away he is from becoming the face of the franchise.
Against the Chargers, Pryor struggled with the fundamentals of the position and left a handful of throws out on the field, both of which were seen at the beginning of the second quarter.
It was 1st-and-10 from Chargers 27-yard line, and the Raiders were positioned within scoring distance. Lined up with “12″ personnel (one running back, two tight ends), Pryor was under center and his set of Twin receivers were bunched to his right. Defensively, the Chargers had eight men in the box, making them a prime victim for the Raiders’ play-action passing game.
When play began, Pryor took the snap, opened to his left, and faked a handoff to running back Darren McFadden. He then rolled to his right and immediately faced pressure from outside linebacker Shaun Phillips. Although Phillips was bringing pressure unblocked, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was nearby and ready to slow the rush down. With Heyward-Bey there, Pryor had a chance to climb the pocket and move the ball with his feet or find a tight end over the middle for a chain-moving pass. He did neither however. Instead he scrambled outside and into Phillips’ path, whom he attempted to elude before having to throw the football away.
Fast forward a quarter later and Pryor has another hiccup, only this time he has a weapon open but fails to find him.
It’s third and four, and the Raiders have the ball positioned at the 41.5-yard line. Pryor is in shotgun with fullback Marcel Reece to his right and three receivers lined up in a bunch set to his left. At the snap, he takes a quick five-step drop and has an established pocket to work from. He also has Reece becoming open to his right.
It’s the ideal scenario for Pryor. All he has to do is lightly float the football into Reece’s hands and the play has big potential. But he doesn’t do that. Instead, he leaves the pocket as the Reece is getting open, and picks up eight yards with his feet. It’s a first down, but what more could it have been if Pryor had simply waited for Reece to get open before throwing him the football?
Half a dozen minutes later, Pryor is back on the field on first and 10, and he runs into another problem when he goes to attempt a deep pass to wide receiver Denarius Moore: he doesn’t set his feet.
Initially under center, Pryor executes a reversed-out (open up to opposite side of running back) play fake and rolls out to his right. There he has plenty of room to set his feet and patiently throw to a crossing Moore, but when he goes to throw, he doesn’t set his feet. The process from rolling out to setting his feet becomes one motion, and consequently, his back leg raises before he releases the ball and it sails inaccurately behind Moore.
Last but not least, in the fourth quarter, Pryor doesn’t make an aggressive throw to a wide open receiver in the right deep third of the field.
With the Raiders down 24-7, Pryor is under center at the 44-yard line and ready to take the snap. It’s a play-action pass (or “play-pass” as Bill Walsh used to call it) that requires Pryor stay within the pocket. When the play begins he fakes a handoff to the running back, and then scans the field. He sees an open Moore crossing the field and running into the final third. That’s where Pryor should lead him to with a high-arching throw, but he never does. He holds on to the ball instead, and lets the pocket collapse under pressure, which forces him to abandon it and scramble for nine yards.
Pocket manipulation, footwork, vision and decision making are all vital aspects of NFL quarterbacking, and Pryor didn’t display enough of them against the Chargers. He flashed it at times but not with nearly enough consistency, which is to be expected of a raw and inexperienced passer.
Going into his third season and second with the same coaching staff, Pryor is going to have to show improvement in the above areas to convince his coaches he’s earned the right to be the Raiders’ starting quarterback over Matt Flynn. Otherwise, he’ll go down as the final bust of many in the late Al Davis’ tenure.