The third preseason game is typically the one NFL teams put the most stock into. Therefore, Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen wasn't pleased by what he saw from starting quarterback Matt Flynn on Friday night.
Flynn, the team's most notable offseason acquisition, struggled from the start, completing just three passes, throwing two interceptions and finishing with a passer rating of 17.4.
However, Allen had to be thrilled to see backup signal-caller Terrelle Pryor spark the offense late in the first half and throughout much of the third quarter.
Pryor completed 7 of 9 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown and picked up an additional 37 yards and a score on four carries. The Raiders, who trailed 27-0 late in the first half, would score 20 unanswered points with Pryor at the helm, pulling within a touchdown before going on to lose 34-26.
Following the team's second straight preseason loss, Allen was asked if Pryor could possibly be named the starter in the wake of his strong performance. His response left the door open for debate, per San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami:
I think obviously we’ve got to look at it. I don’t think Matt played well in this game. Obviously I felt Terrelle came in, gave us a spark and played well.
When asked how Pryor is able to spark Oakland's offense, Allen was quick to point out the former Ohio State star's legs as one of the main reasons, per Kawakami:
I mean, I think it’s his mobility… He was able to create some plays down the field. Listen, he made some throws down the field, too, that were impressive throws.
What I’m going to look at… who gives us the best chance to move the ball down field and score points? And what combination of things give us the best chance to move the ball down the field and score points? All right?
Although Allen clearly isn't ready to name Pryor the Week 1 starter with one more preseason game left to play, the quarterback he describes—one who can move the ball downfield and score points—sounds more like Pryor than Flynn.
Flynn made his money picking apart defenses from the pocket for a brief period of time as a backup in Green Bay—not to mention most of his production came in one game against the Detroit Lions at the end of the 2011 season.
While Pryor's career numbers pale in comparison to Flynn's, his ability to extend plays and threaten defenses with his legs makes him the ideal starter for the Raiders in 2013.
After all, then-rookie quarterback Russell Wilson beat out Flynn for the starting job in Seattle a season ago. The biggest difference between Wilson and Flynn: Wilson's athleticism and escapability allowed him to accomplish more with the Seahawks offense.
Pryor has a ways to go before he can be discussed in the same light as Wilson, but it's difficult not to be impressed by the 24-year-old when you look back on recent performances he's had in Oakland, especially Friday night's.
The Raiders haven't had a winning season since 2002, and after going 4-12 a year ago, Oakland is in position to take a risk with Pryor. And if all else fails, Flynn has shown in the past that he performs best as a backup.
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