The Oakland Raiders opted to get a glimpse at the future by starting Terrelle Pryor in the final game of the season over Matt Leinart. The decision was made Friday by head coach Dennis Allen to start Pryor in a meaningless game against the San Diego Chargers.
Pryor got his first extensive playing time as a pro, and the Raiders fell 24-21. The second-year quarterback out of Ohio State was far from great, but he also wasn’t horrible. Pryor showed the Raiders that he’s a player worth developing and that he needs more time to refine his game.
Pryor had three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing), and the Raiders scored a touchdown on every trip into the red zone. There are a lot of positives from Pryor’s performance, and his supporters will certainly point to them as reasons why he needs more of an opportunity in 2013. Pryor had 49 rushing yards on nine carries, and the Raiders converted 53 percent of their third downs.
There were also negatives from Pryor’s first start, like poor footwork that resulted in questionable accuracy and a lack of zip on his passes. Pryor’s footwork and poor pass protection by the offensive line resulted in an ugly interception. Pryor only completed 46.4 percent of his passes and had only 150 yards passing.
The offensive line did a poor job protecting Pryor, but they also did a poor job blocking for running back Darren McFadden. Outside of Pryor’s rushing, the Raiders averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. Pryor’s receivers also dropped a lot of passes that hit their hands.
You could say that Pryor didn’t get a lot of help on Sunday, but that’s distracting from the issue. Pryor did a lot of things well, but he also had poor accuracy and ball placement that made it hard on his receivers. Pryor didn’t get a lot of help, but that doesn’t mean he was good and his teammates were bad.
Pryor demonstrated a lot of leadership when he pulled Mike Goodson out of a scuffle with Takeo Spikes in the first half and then gave him an earful for costing his team yards. Pryor played the part; Pryor looked like an NFL quarterback on Sunday. The Raiders and the Raider Nation have to be at least a little happy with how Pryor handled himself.
With the loss, the Raiders secured the third overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Losing a close game ensured the Raiders didn’t drop to No. 5 behind the Philadelphia Eagles or Detroit Lions. General manager Reggie McKenzie needs all the draft value he can get to rebuild a talent-depleted roster.
The season is over for the Oakland Raiders, and so begins McKenzie’s second offseason in Oakland, but it will be his first with a rebuilt front office and a full year of scouting college and pro players. It’s been a disappointing season in Oakland, and no one is certain just how much change is coming.
With over a dozen free agents, the Raiders could be in for a major roster makeover. Fans are also very curious to see what the Raiders do with their coaching staff. Allen is probably safe, but the coordinators are far from secure. Greg Knapp’s offense took a major step back in 2012.
Perhaps more in danger than Knapp is special teams coordinator Steve Hoffman. Oakland’s return coverage has been poor in 2012 and so has the return game. The Raiders allowed Micheal Spurlock to return the opening kickoff 99 yards for the touchdown. The Raiders did get redemption later when Coye Francies blocked a punt to set up Oakland’s final touchdown, but the lack of production by the returns is far more concerning.
The Raiders are just starting a rebuild, but have been handicapped by a bad cap situation and a lack of draft picks. Things will not really improve for the Raiders until 2014, and by then, there will probably be a lot of change. The Raiders just have to be careful not to throw out a good player or good coach with all the bad.