Terrelle Pryor’s performance against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 has been one of the hottest topics around the NFL this week and might be causing a few people to rethink their evaluation of the Oakland Raiders and their young quarterback.
As head coach Dennis Allen pointed out during his press conference on Monday, however, Pryor’s game wasn’t without its hiccups. The two interceptions obviously stick out like a sore thumb.
The good news is Pryor has time to work out the kinks. Allen was encouraged by what he saw and has no plans to make a change at quarterback any time soon.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that Pryor did well against the Colts, as well as a few things that didn’t work out so fine.
What he did right
One of the earmarks of a young quarterback is indecision in the pocket, which can lead to all sorts of problems. Pryor, for the most part, displayed none of that. He made the proper reads for much of the game and got rid of the ball in a timely manner to receivers, especially on the quick slants dialed up by offensive coordinator Greg Olson in his effort to work to Pryor’s strengths.
He also took what the Colts gave him.
During one pass play early in the second quarter, Indianapolis dropped six men into coverage and rushed four, with linebacker Kelvin Sheppard staying in the middle as a spy on Pryor. Pryor took the snap and dropped back, but when he saw a huge gap in the middle of the Indianapolis defense he didn’t hesitate and took off down field, sprinting past Sheppard into the open field for a 29-yard gain.
Pryor also was quick to get to the edge on the read-option plays, which turned out to the X-factor for the Raiders offense. The 6’4”, 233-pound Pryor has a very long stride when he runs, and once he got to the corner it often turned into a footrace with some of the Colts defenders. That’s a matchup the Raiders will take.
Contrast that to last season when Pryor was more skittish in the pocket, didn’t look nearly as comfortable and hurried many of his throws.
The Raiders ran several play-fakes in order to freeze the Colts linebackers, which bought Pryor just enough time to take off and get downfield when he ran. It sounds like a simple enough task but, in theory, many quarterbacks overlook that part of the game.
Pryor had trouble with it during the preseason and was particularly critical of himself following his lone start of the exhibition season in Seattle.
Against the Colts, he had a few play-fakes that didn’t fool anyone because he didn’t come close to the running back. Most of the time, however, Pryor put the ball in so well on the fake handoff that television cameras covering the game lost track of who really had it.
Save for maybe the Raiders’ final play from scrimmage when, faced with a heavy pass rush, Pryor fired the ball into triple coverage, Oakland’s quarterback had a pretty level-headed approach throughout the afternoon.
He didn’t get flustered or panicked when the pass protections broke down. Nor did he seem to worry if his first or second reads weren’t open. Pryor calmly went through his progressions, and when he had time to throw, he seemed to find the open receiver more often than not.
The throwing mechanics and footwork still need a lot of improvement but the way Pryor handled the game mentally bodes well for both he and the Raiders.
What he didn't do well
Threw the ball up for grabs
Pryor completed 19 of 29 pass attempts, but only a handful of them were deep throws down the field. When he did try to go vertical, Pryor appeared to be just throwing the ball up for grabs.
Part of that is obviously attributable to the timing issue with the wide receivers. He and Rod Streater weren’t even close to be on the same page during one deep pass play in the first half. It just seemed that when the ball went deep, Pryor was more hoping for a completion rather than expecting one.
It’d be too easy to explain it away by Pryor’s inexperience and lack of passing acumen. He’s an NFL quarterback and you can’t just chuck the ball up in the air like he did at times with the deep throws.
Because of how teams will likely play the Raiders defensively—stacking the box with eight defenders in an attempt to take away Pryor’s running and the rest of the backfield—Oakland has to be able to get the ball deep to loosen up some of that pressure.
Funky throwing motion
When he wasn’t sucking down Purple Drank, JaMarcus Russell was actually a pretty gifted quarterback who could throw a bullet downfield with just the flick of his wrist. The problem was he preferred partying to playing.
Pryor’s priorities are a bit different than Russell but his throwing style is somewhat similar in that he makes several throws with a funky, wrist-flip motion that tends to make some of his throws look very sophomoric.
Color commentator and former Oakland quarterback/NFL MVP Rich Gannon pointed out the awkward delivery several times during the CBS broadcast. Some fans took to Twitter to bash Gannon over his criticisms, but he’s right.
Pryor’s throwing motion is too awkward at times, and it causes his passes to miss the intended target.
Mind you, there are definitely times when a quarterback needs to make that simple toss with a flick of his wrist. Those are the touch passes that Pryor had so many problems with previously. Throwing deep or even throwing to the short and intermediate routes requires a full delivery.