That could have a big effect on offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s play-calling in Sunday’s game against the winless Washington Redskins.
Flynn took first team reps with the offense on Wednesday, his first time doing so in practice since late in training camp when he lost the top spot on Oakland’s depth chart. Since then, Flynn has been the backup—the same role he had in Seattle a year ago after getting beat out by then-rookie Russell Wilson.
Pryor, who was injured last week when he took what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit from Denver linebacker Wesley Woodyard, must pass a series of concussion protocol tests before he can be cleared to practice.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Wednesday he isn’t ready to rule Pryor out just yet, but the longer he sits out practice the more likely Flynn will get the nod.
If Flynn does indeed start, here’s now it will likely impact what Oakland does offensively.
Passing the Ball
It’s not likely Flynn’s presence at quarterback will dramatically alter what the Raiders try to do when they throw the ball. Although he is a more polished passer, Flynn is still more comfortable making the short and intermediate throws similar to those that Pryor utilized during the first three weeks.
Whether it will affect Oakland’s ability to throw the ball deep is debatable. Pryor struggled with that part of his game, and although there has been incremental progress, he still frequently overthrows his targets or misfires on the deep throws. Pryor’s longest completion, a 73-yard touchdown to Denarius Moore, was a short route that Moore turned into a long gain after breaking a pair of tackles near midfield.
Flynn, who took just four snaps after Pryor got hurt in the loss to Denver, throws a tighter, crisper spiral than Pryor and had minimal success throwing the ball deep in training camp, though it didn’t translate into preseason games.
Still, it will be tempting for Olson to try to open up the passing game just a little if Flynn is the starter.
Washington heads into the game with the NFL’s worst-ranked defense. The Redskins are giving up an average of 333 yards per game through the air, though a chunk of the total yardage has come from Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford.
Something else to consider: Flynn had a sore elbow in training camp, which was part of the reason Pryor jumped ahead of him on the depth chart. As a result, Flynn didn’t take any reps with the first-team offense in practice for nearly a month.
Although he will take all of the reps this week in practice—unless Pryor gets cleared—Flynn’s timing with his receivers will be a big question.
Running and Scrambling
If Flynn does start, you can be guaranteed the Raiders won’t be running the read-option. If anything was learned in the preseason, it’s that Flynn’s running ability is a lot more like Kerry Collins than it is Colin Kaepernick.
Pryor’s greatest strength so far has been his ability to scramble away from pressure to keep plays alive. He used it to burn the Indianapolis Colts for a 112 rushing yards in Week 1, and he’s still the Raiders’ leading rusher through three games.
Flynn won’t be able to move around in the pocket as nimbly as Pryor, but Olson could counter that by calling for designed rollouts where the protection moves with him. Too many times in the preseason, Flynn was a sitting duck in the pocket.
Pryor said he won’t put his “team in harm’s way” if he not 100 percent. “Matt (Flynn) can lead us to a win if I can’t go.”— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) September 25, 2013
Oakland’s offensive line has gotten marginally better since the start of the season but is still a patchwork unit.
The Redskins have been as equally bad defending the run as they have against the pass, so Oakland will counter Flynn’s lack of mobility by getting Darren McFadden the ball early and often.
To do that, look for Olson to call for more three-receiver sets. Detroit was able to spread Washington’s defense out by doing that in Week 3, and it opened up running lanes in the middle of the field.
Because Flynn has the reputation for being a better passer than Pryor, it will be interesting to see if the Redskins still try to pack the box in order to take away the running game or if they drop back to prevent the pass.
Either way, a big day from McFadden would go a long way toward taking some of the pressure off Flynn’s shoulders.
There is a definitively different feel to Oakland’s offense with Pryor at quarterback. Part of it is that he brings the ability to break a big play both with his feet and arm, which is something Flynn can’t do. With Pryor, there is a sense something could happen. With Flynn, it’s more of a hope.
Something else to ponder is that if Pryor is held out and Flynn struggles, would the Raiders be willing to pull him in favor of Matt McGloin? The undrafted rookie from Penn State didn’t get much playing time in the preseason but showed enough promise that Oakland kept him on the 53-man roster.