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When the Oakland Raiders drafted Terrelle Pryor in the third round of the NFL’s supplemental draft in 2011, it came as no shock.
Pryor was a raw package of speed, size and arm strength, the type of player coveted by team owner Al Davis. The late Raiders executive was always enamored of physically talented athletes who might be able to blossom as game-breakers in the NFL even as others around the league looked at their skill sets and said, “No thanks.”
Last season’s head coach, Hue Jackson, echoed the Davis mantra when Pryor was taken, saying the former Ohio State star, “Can throw it, he can run with it. He’s smart, he’s tough.”
A year later, however – and after Pryor’s professional debut in a 3-0 loss to the Cowboys Monday night – the question might be, “But can he play quarterback?”
After not playing in the 2011 exhibition season and then playing just one snap during the regular season, Pryor going into Monday night’s game was a mystery man.
The Raiders and their fans knew the QB had physical tools, but had no idea what type of accuracy he would display in a game situation, or what type of poise and playmaking ability he would show.
ESPN.com AFC West blogger Bill Williamson, for one, didn’t set the bar high going into Pryor’s debut, writing before the game that, “I’m sure we will see Pryor make some nice throws Monday night, but there will also likely be some ducks.”
Williamson’s prediction was uncannily accurate.
Pryor completed 8-of-15 throws for 50 yards and an interception – which came on a floater into the heart of the Dallas secondary. Many of his throws were far too low to be caught or were thrown softly. He also was sacked twice and his coaches weren’t happy with his leadership in breaking the huddle.
Though he showed good speed when he scrambled from the pocket – running six times for 21 yards and picking up a couple of first downs – Pryor’s assessment of his own play was harsh.
“I’m angry at myself,” he told reporters after the game. “I thought everybody else on the team played great. I just think I played like dog crap. So I’m mad about that, about how I played. … I will be better on Friday.”
Friday night, the Raiders will play their second exhibition game at Arizona. Pryor is expected to see action, along with starter Carson Palmer and No. 2 QB Matt Leinart.
Understandably, after such a long time away from live competition, Pryor was rusty. He said he needs to do a better job on his reads, his progression and his footwork.
“I will play better,” he said.
Head coach Dennis Allen said he was happy to get Pryor some game action, but also said what was painfully obvious to anyone who watched the game: he’s still very raw and learning on the job.
“He’s a work in progress,” Allen told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, adding, “I want to see him get a little bit better every day.”
The question is, how much time will the Raiders give Pryor, and what do they see in his future? Do they see enough to keep him on the roster as a No. 3 QB? Do they believe he can eventually develop into an NFL professional quarterback?
Leinart, for one, says Pryor shouldn’t be so hard on himself and that becoming an NFL quarterback takes time.
“He has to realize that it’s not going to happen overnight,” Leinart told the San Francisco Chronicle. “He can make plays and he’s working hard.”
Not everyone is convinced, however.
Bay Area News Group columnist Monte Poole is intrigued by Pryor and his talent, and wonders if the Raiders coaching staff can make use of him in some way – but not necessarily as a classic quarterback.
“Pryor can develop into a useful player – though perhaps not at quarterback,” he wrote after Monday’s game. “He is a big, spectacular athlete with questionable judgment and severe accuracy issues. In the era of (Tim) Tebow, Pryor is the kind of talent a resourceful coaching staff finds a way to utilize.”