Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen has yet to name a starting quarterback for the team's season opener against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 8. So Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks was a big opportunity for Terrelle Pryor, who's fighting it out with veteran Matt Flynn for the starting quarterback position. Pryor finished the game 3-of-8 for 31 yards and an interception, also adding 48 yards on the ground on just three carries.
While Flynn continues to deal with a sore arm and has been unable to practice, Pryor had an opportunity to step up and earn the starting position with a solid performance, but he failed to make that decision clear for Allen. While Pryor still may get the starting nod, he could have made that decision much easier.
Coming into the game on Thursday night, Pryor had completed 14 of 24 passes for 190 yards, adding one touchdown and one interception through three preseason games. He had also rushed the ball 11 times for 83 yards, with a touchdown on the ground as well.
But Pryor looked inconsistent at best against the Seahawks, and that inconsistency is what made Thursday night a lost opportunity for Pryor.
Below are two plays from Pryor and the Raiders offense against the Seahawks.
This first play shows the natural athletic ability that Pryor brings to the Raiders offense. It's the kind of game-breaking ability that could propel Pryor into the starting position. Because while Flynn may be the veteran with more experience and a better natural passer (with a healthy arm), the Raiders offense isn't as explosive with Flynn under center.
In this first picture, you'll notice the Seahawks bring six guys on the blitz on third down.
As soon as Pryor gets to the top of his drop (right foot planted), he sees the blitz, and before he even considers throwing it down the field, he takes off running the ball. With a quarterback like Pryor, who has exceptional athletic ability to run out in space, when there's a lane to run when you're facing six on a blitz, then you go ahead and run the ball.
This next picture shows you Pryor's ability out in space. He fakes inside with a dip of the shoulder and jab with his left foot and then bounces it back to the outside. When a defensive back is one-on-one on the outside with Pryor, there's a good chance Pryor will win that battle.
Pryor beats his man to the edge and turns it up the field for a big gain.
This is the kind of game-breaking ability that Pryor can bring to the Raiders offense. He showed that on this play against the Seahawks.
While his running ability has hardly been questioned, his presence in the pocket and "feel" for the quarterback position have been. It's fantastic that he can make plays like these with his feet, but if there are just a few of these plays per game with a whole lot of inaccurately thrown passes, there's still going to be some questions as to whether or not he's the right guy under center for the Raiders.
The term "feel" for the position can be summed up on this next play.
It's 3rd-and-10 and the Raiders are on the Seahawks' 20-yard line. You can see in the second picture that Pryor gets to the top of his drop and is scanning the field for an open receiver.
Pryor doesn't see anything he likes as the pocket begins to break down, so he does the right thing and slides outside the pocket. He possesses that great athletic ability, which we've already seen in the play described above, so sliding outside the pocket to extend the play is something that will suit Pryor well should he be named the starter.
The mistake is that when Pryor extends the play and still doesn't see anything he likes, especially on third down in the red zone, at that point, he needs to throw the ball away. Instead, he tries to extend the play even further and gets caught by the backside pursuit and nearly loses the ball on a fumble. He's turned a 37-yard field-goal attempt into a 45-yard field-goal attempt and nearly gave away the points on a fumble.
Pryor should have just thrown the ball away in that scenario. He did everything else right by getting outside the pocket, extending the play and giving his receivers more time to get open. But sometimes throwing the ball away is the best play.
When Allen makes his decision on who his starting quarterback is going to be, he's going to have to weigh everything. Pryor brings more game-breaking ability to the table, but Flynn may not make the kinds of mistakes that lead to turnovers, which could ultimately take points off the board.
Whatever decision Allen makes on who his starting quarterback is going to be come Sept. 8, that decision could have been much easier had Pryor shown as much promise with his decision-making, poise and accuracy as he did with his natural athletic ability.