Yet as much as Pryor is responsible for the team’s current slide, his supporting cast of wide receivers hasn’t helped, either.
Since completing nearly 79 percent of his passes and garnering a career-high 135.7 passer rating in the Raiders’ win over San Diego in Week 5, Pryor has gone into the tank. Over the last four games, his completion percentage has tumbled, his rating has dropped to anemic levels and he’s thrown just one touchdown against eight interceptions.
As bad as those numbers are, it’d be foolish to pin all of it on Pryor, even though his individual regression has been a big factor.
First, consider that he’s had to play most of the season with a makeshift offensive line that has been without starting left tackle Jared Veldheer since training camp. As a result, the Raiders have also struggled to run the ball—with a few exceptions—making it easier for teams to load up against the pass.
Equally critical has been the lack of consistency from Oakland’s wide receivers. None of the six wide outs on the roster have caught more than six passes in a game this season, and Denarius Moore is the only one to have a 100-yard game this year.
The lack of steady production from the receivers is as much to blame as anything for the Raiders’ 3-6 start.
The truth is that Oakland simply doesn’t have a go-to receiver among the bunch. Moore and Rod Streater would be No. 2 receivers—if not No. 3s—on most NFL teams.
The last playmaker that Oakland had at wide receiver was Jerry Rice, who is also the team’s last player to have a 1,000-yard season—which occurred all the way back in 2002. Furthermore, no Raiders wide receiver has caught more than 69 passes since Jerry Porter in 2005.
Moore leads Oakland with 35 receptions this season, but his current pace would give him 62 for the year. Streater, who has 29 catches, is even further behind.
Even those two have been mediocre for most of the season. Moore caught six passes for 124 yards against Denver in Week 3 but has scored just two touchdowns since. Streater, conversely, has had two decent games and a bunch of ho-hum outings, including last week against the New York Giants, when he was limited to one catch for six yards.
A combination of things are to blame for this.
While Moore and Streater have both shown the ability to stretch the field and make big plays in the passing game, the two have had a tough time separating from opposing defensive backs. With a mostly inexperienced quarterback like Pryor, that’s an invitation for disaster because of his tendency to try to force throws into tight spots.
Because Pryor has also had trouble getting the ball downfield, defenses are able to play tighter coverages without fear of getting beat deep.
Moore and Streater have also had a few problems holding onto the ball. Moore is tied with rookie Brice Butler with three drops, which is only slightly better than he did in 2012 when he had nine drops, per Pro Football Focus.
Oakland has a few other options, though none of them are very attractive.
Butler whiffed when given a shot at extended playing time. Jacoby Ford nearly played himself off the roster earlier in the year. Andre Holmes and Juron Criner are lucky just to get on the field, although Holmes did get open downfield twice in the loss to the Giants.
Simply put, until the Raiders start getting better and more prolonged performances out of their wide receivers, the passing game isn’t likely to get off the ground.