Terrelle Pryor Must Start over Matt Flynn for Raiders Week 1
The quarterback controversy in Oakland is over.
Yes, Terrelle Pryor did not look like a starter in Week 4 of the preseason against the Seattle Seahawks as he went 3-of-8 passing for just 31 yards and an interception, but his competition in Matt Flynn did not even participate due to a sore arm, per Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Pryor's performance in one meaningless game has little to do with whether or not he will be named the starter. He has been the starter for quite some time—Week 4 was just a way for him to get more experience.
A few days before the game offensive coordinator Greg Olson told the media, per Scott Bair of CSN Bay Area, that the offense was looking for playmakers:
When you see Terrelle in a game, he just looks faster than the other players on the field...That’s what jumped out at me, and probably jumped out at most people when they watch him play. He can run. He is a tremendous athlete, and he’s got the ability to make plays. Right now we’re looking for playmakers.
The focus there from Olson is clearly on the running ability of Pryor. His arm may have been unimpressive, but Pryor was electric on the ground, rushing for 48 yards on three carries—one of those a 25-yard scurry on third down.
That ability to run is why Pryor will start. It's more difficult for opposing defenses to prepare for than a pocket passer like Flynn, and, ideally, Pryor's ability will be paired with the skills of running back Darren McFadden to pummel defenses—if the back can stay healthy after missing 13 games the past two seasons.
What also helps Pryor's case is the putrid state of the offensive line. The domino that started the line woes was left tackle Jared Veldheer and his partially torn triceps, which will hold him out of around 10 games and force major changes, per Tafur:
Olson said Jared Veldheer's injury not only forces change on o-line, "It’ll impact how I use Darren McFadden ... how I use Marcel Reece."— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) August 21, 2013
Those major changes? Rookie Menelik Watson, who has never played left tackle at any level of football, gets the nod there for Oakland:
Rookie left tackle Menelik Watson held up well in his first start. “Overall, I think he did a pretty nice job,” Allen said.— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) August 30, 2013
Watson looked good in preseason action against backups, but he will not be able to rely on his athleticism all season. Also as a result of his move, Khalif Barnes has to move to right tackle rather than guard and Lucas Nix has to move to guard.
In other words, Flynn would not stand a chance behind the patchwork offensive line. Remember that this "elbow soreness" struck last year at this time while Flynn was in Seattle. It's either a nagging issue, bad luck or a way for the coaching staff to get more playing time for a youngster on the hopes they can seize the job from Flynn.
Pryor has done just that by merit of ability on the ground. He has also taken better care of the football and used his feet to escape sacks, as you can see by the final statistical tally from the preseason:
Who should start Week 1?
The results are in—Oakland's offense thrives with Pryor under center when compared to Flynn. The unit scores more points and turns the ball over less.
It is easy to wonder how Pryor's poor performance in Week 4 will impact his chances, but in reality it was just a way for him to warm up for the regular season. If things implode, Oakland can also give Flynn his shot, but right now the better man for the job is Pryor.
Pryor must start in Week 1. Anything less and the Oakland coaching staff will fail to put the best players on the field.
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling
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