Evolving NFL Makes Terrelle Pryor Important Piece of Oakland Raiders Future

Dan WilkinsCorrespondent IIFebruary 1, 2013

Dec 30, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor (6) drops back to pass during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

It is no stretch to say that the 2012 NFL season has been highlighted by the emergence and dominance of the dual-threat quarterback. 

There is certainly something to be said for the “gimmick” offenses and packages that have come and gone throughout the league’s history. The “Wildcat,” for example, proved to be ineffective once defenses solved what was pretty much a one-dimensional attack.

The read-option, however, and the variations created by athletic, dual-threat quarterbacks, just may be here to stay. 

Quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton have all established themselves as versatile weapons for their given offenses. In turn, it is no secret that they have been the talk of the league as well. 

What they bring to the table has proven to be more than just a change of pace. The threat of a quarterback making plays on the ground—be it with the read-option, designed runs or even extending broken plays—challenges opposing defenses to prepare for and defend that many more possibilities. 

The idea of which, and the endless benefits that these kind of players bring, will certainly have teams across the league looking for the next player who can open up their offense to the absolute fullest. 

In Terrelle Pryor, the Oakland Raiders already have a player who may be just that. 

Pryor entered the league in an unconventional way. Having ended his Ohio State career after the 2011 NFL draft, he entered the supplemental draft instead, where the Raiders selected him in the third round. 

With a late joining to his team, serving a suspension and sitting while Carson Palmer learned the offense on the fly, Pryor’s entire rookie year was quite unconventional as well. As a result, we can essentially consider this past 2012 season to have been his rookie campaign. 

When Palmer was ruled out for the last game of the season with an injury, Pryor got his shot as a starter. While the Raiders didn’t come out with a win, losing 24-21 to the San Diego Chargers, he showed what he is capable of bringing this team. 

What Raiders fans should be looking at is the electricity he brought to the offense in what was his first extended action since his final game at Ohio State in 2010. As the Chargers game went on, Pryor seemed to get more and more comfortable, leading the Raiders offense to two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Looking ahead to 2013 and beyond, it will still be a while before we all know what new offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s plan will be for Pryor. However, considering that the NFL has long proven to be quite the copycat league, it isn’t hard to speculate. 

A quarterback running the read-option occupies the unblocked defensive end, allowing any handoff to the running back to have a numbers advantage blocking up front. Should the end vacate his contain and crash down the line, the quarterback pulls the ball and takes off right toward where the end is supposed to be. 

For Pryor, we already know the ability to make plays on the ground is there. He can run, and run very well. In fact, his 4.36 pro day 40-time topped the posted times of Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton. 

When defenses use an in-the-box safety to compensate for the numbers advantage that a read-option ground attack creates up front, receivers have that much better of a chance to get behind the secondary. RGIII, Wilson, Kaepernick and Newton were all among the league leaders in yards per attempt in 2012, and that is no coincidence. 

For Pryor, coming out of Ohio State, the most impressive parts of his passing game were indeed both his arm strength and his deep-ball accuracy. 

This is not to say that Pryor should or will be pigeonholed as an option-read quarterback. Nor is it to say he is to be directly compared to any of the other mentioned quarterbacks. 

Instead, this is to say that the Raiders would be wise to make the most use of the significant talent that he brings to the table. The league-wide outbreak of option-read-variation offenses simply shows one way in which players of similar skill sets have succeeded this season. 

In light of issues on offense in 2012, the play-calling needs to be tailored to its players’ strengths. 

Overall, we don’t yet know what it is to expect from Terrelle Pryor in the near future. However, if his talent level, work ethic and the current evolution of NFL offenses are any indication, he could very well be a huge piece to the future of the Raiders organization. 

Whether it comes this year or further down the road, Pryor should and will get his shot as the Raiders starting quarterback.