The big question is, can Oakland QB Terrelle Pryor play Sunday vs. the Redskins? (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Washington Redskins know that Terrelle Pryor may not play against them Sunday, but they’re taking no chances.
Redskins coaches and defenders have been preparing for Pryor this week, knowing that if he’s cleared to play they’ll have to deal with his running ability.
A defense that hasn’t been very good against the run can’t afford to be caught unprepared for one of the NFL’s best running quarterbacks.
“He’s a dangerous weapon,” Washington nose tackle Barry Cofield told the Washington Post this week. “We feel like he’s going to be out there. If he doesn’t show up, then we’ll adjust. I feel like they’re going to run their offense as is. They’re a running team. … Maybe a few play, a few wrinkles that they add with Terrelle, they won’t run. But I don’t think they’ll be re-writing the book if they put (Matt) Flynn in there.”
As of Friday morning, it appeared Pryor was more likely to miss Sunday’s game than play in it.
Pryor played a few snaps in Thursday’s Raiders practices, but hasn’t yet gotten complete clearance after suffering a concussion late in Monday night’s loss to the Broncos.
“I don’t want to speculate on where we’re at,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen told reporters Thursday. “I’ve got to see when he gets cleared for contact and when he’s fully able to participate in practice.”
Oddsmakers are expecting Flynn to be the Oakland starter Sunday at O.co Coliseum, with the 0-3 Redskins listed as 3½-point favorites over the 1-2 Raiders.
Even if Flynn is the starter, the Redskins are concerned about the Raiders running game. Washington has had a hard time stopping the run and the Raiders are No. 3 in the NFL in rushing, averaging 148.7 yards per game. Pryor has been a big part of that, with 198 yards on 26 carries and a 7.6-yard average, but running back Darren McFadden has gained 186 yards on 48 carries (3.9 average) with two touchdowns.
McFadden could be in line for a big game Sunday, based on how Washington has played against the run. In Game 1 vs. the Eagles, Washington allowed LeSean McCoy to run for 184 yards; in Game 2, the Packers’ James Stark had 132 yards. Only last week in a loss to the Lions did Washington’s run defense finally stiffen, holding Detroit to 63 total rushing yards.
Washington improved by implementing more of its base 3-4 defense – rather than playing nickel (two linemen, four linebackers and a fifth defensive back) – even in passing situations. The Redskins may use that tactic again, especially in that Oakland ranks 28th in the league in passing. They may just dare Flynn (or Pryor) to beat them in the air.
“There hasn’t been many instances since I’ve been here where teams have run the ball down our throats when we’re in our base defense,” Washington’s Cofield said. “We have a lot of confidence in that.”
Meanwhile, the Raiders will need to put pressure on a much-less mobile Robert Griffin III, the second-year Washington quarterback who’s still not 100 percent following a knee injury late last season. The NFL’s Rookie of the Year was terrific in 2012, completing nearly 66 percent of his throws with a passer rating of 102.4, and also ran for 815 yards. But this season the ‘Skins offense hasn’t been nearly as dynamic in consecutive losses to the Eagles, Packers and Lions.
In the loss to the Lions, however, Griffin threw for 326 yards and ran six times for 37, indications that he – and the offense – may be ready to break loose.