Next monday night, the Raider Nation will have its first opportunity to see quarterback Terrelle Pryor in action. Unless you want to consider his meaningless QB sneak nullified by a false start against the Chiefs in october 2011, the upcoming pre-season game against the Cowboys will probably be remembered as the proper NFL debut of the last draft pick ever made by Al Davis. “Probably” because there’s always a chance that coach Dennis Allen decides to put his 3rd string QB on hold for whatever reason. But assuming all goes by what we expect on a pre-season game, it’s going to be the usual chance of decent playing time for those on the lower levels of the depth chart. So, barring any setbacks, Pryor will be under center for quite some time in a just a few days.
The former Ohio State Buckeye was a superstar in college. Whether it was with his arm or with his legs, Pryor was a touchdown machine, scoring 76 times throughout his 3-year career. But even when he was running past defenders or throwing bombs to the endzone, it was hard to see him as a NFL-ready type of player. His unique skill set is still unusual to the league, as NFL coaches prefer more traditional QBs with pocket presence rather than athletic scramblers. So as soon as Pryor was selected in the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft, words like “adaptation” and “transition” were always near his name.
To make his NFL jump harder, Pryor came to the league in a year where, at some point of time, not having a season was a real possibility due to the CBA lockout. And even though the 2011 season happened, there were less off-season workouts for the teams, which was a big problem for rookies, and a bigger one for guys like Pryor who had longer paths of development. And to make things even worse specifically for Terrelle, he faced a 5-game suspension, beginning with the season opener, only being reinstated to the team after the game against the Houston Texans. Therefore, it would be fair to consider Pryor still a rookie, or a “semi-rookie”.
In the 2012 Training Camp, it’s easy to see why Pryor has such a rare but raw potential. The man can throw a tight spiral and catch his receiver on the run for a big gain, and in the next play throw a wobbling duck. He can tuck it in and run for a nice gain, showing his 4.4 second 40-yard dash speed, or throw a pass with poor accuracy and touch while on the run. Raiders beatwriter Vic Tafur gave the best description of Pryor so far, when he said that “he can make all the throws and he can miss all the throws”. It’s almost like his inconsistency is as big as his potential. So it’s conceivable that Pryor still has some more off-seasons to work before he can get on the gridiron prepared to play up to his abilities. Will that ever happen? Will the Raiders be able to make Pryor perform in a high level like he did at Ohio State?
Only time will tell. But luckily for him, there’s no rush to put him on the field. The Raiders are quite established at the QB position right now with Carson Palmer as the unquestioned starter, and Matt Leinart as a solid backup. Pryor has plenty of time to continue to work on his skills as a backup and try to figure out his own puzzle. It doesn’t look like he’s going to be switched to Wide Receiver any time soon (although, since he’s only in his very first Training Camp, that ship hasn’t sailed yet). But taking into account that coach Allen doesn’t even seem to be considering the idea, he’s a QB until further notice, regardless of those who like the idea of putting the athletic 6’6 tall player as a wide out.
So while Pryor isn’t needed in the regular season in a consistent basis, in the meantime, he has the pre-season games to show coaches and fans where he is at in terms of development. And the first test is quickly arriving. The fans’ anticipation to see Al Davis’ last draft pick is pretty high, but that doesn’t mean the expectation should be the same regarding his performance. We all must remember that Pryor is still a project and is working to be the future, not the present. In other words, a bad performance won’t mean that he’s a bust, in the same way that a good one won’t make him the next big thing. Let’s just sit back and see what the kid has to offer right now.