The Oakland Raiders‘ Terrelle Pryor has easily been one of the biggest stories during the early part of the 2013 season. Pryor has made a solid case to be considered one of the most improved players with his play over the first several weeks of the season. Pryor has shown to make major strides with his ability in the pocket, which is a giant step forward in his development. Pryor had numerous mechanical flaws when he entered the league in 2011, and that was a key reason for his his inability to push for the starting quarterback position, despite the lack of talent at the position.
Pryor is an exceptionally gifted athlete, and during his first two seasons, he was showing that he was definitely more of an athlete than a quarterback. The biggest questions marks about Pryor coming out of college were his accuracy, footwork, and decision making. The question marks weighed so heavily that many believed a position change to wide receiver or tight end would be in his immediate future.
Those rumors seemed to persist even heading into this year. Pryor, outside of a couple of spot starts last season, has really only seen action in special packages that utilize his athleticism. His best shot at consistently playing would seem to be a move to wide receiver, where his size, speed, and playmaking ability would make him a matchup nightmare for opposing defensive backs.
Pryor was determined to prove that he should be an NFL quarterback. He needed to show that he could work on his flaws and show improvement from coaching. Pryor spent his offseason working with notable throwing specialist Tom House. House has worked with Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, and Tim Tebow. Pryor saw a total difference in his mechanics and footwork and how poor they were before he started.
“I never really knew how to throw a football before,” Pryor said. “It’s coming along. I’m getting way better. I probably missed four or five throws out of 80, 85 throws today. I might ice my arm as a precaution tonight, but it feels great.”
Pryor finally made that breakthrough that young players need to make. They need to realize that they have flaws and that those flaws are magnified in the NFL. Pryor knew he needed work and he spent his entire offseason on rebuilding his throwing motion.
When training camp started, Pryor wowed early in the camp with his new mechanics. This started the rumblings that Pryor could end up competing with Matt Flynn and highly touted rookie Tyler Wilson. Pryor would continue to show off his ability to make plays outside the pocket and now he could make plays in the pocket, especially on his deep ball accuracy.
During the preseason, Pryor proved he deserved a shot to become the starting quarterback for the Raiders. He showed a knack for being able to moving the offense down the field, which was not apparent with the other quarterbacks on the roster. Pryor’s ability to move around in the pocket and pick up huge chunks of yardage with his feet made him a perfect fit behind the Raiders’ patchwork offensive line. Pryor has the skills to keep plays alive longer and allow his receivers the time needed to get into their routes and get open.
He seems to be improving with each and every week. He had the best game of his career two weeks ago against the San Diego Chargers, as he outplayed a top-tier quarterback in Philip Rivers. The last week was a humbling moment for the young player, as the Chiefs brought him back down to Earth. A lot of it can be contributed to poor line play, as he was sacked 10 times and faced consistent pressure every time he dropped back to throw. This pressure led to some poor throws and even poorer decisions.
The Raiders have a bye this week and Pryor is planning on paying Dr. House a visit. Pryor hopes the visit will maintain the mechanical work that he did and prevent him from falling into old habits. Pryor had some interesting comments about avoiding becoming just a flash in the pan like another athlete playing quarterback, Tim Tebow, in this interview with ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez:
“He said [Tebow] was ready to go. Tebow looked great, he was throwing the ball great, wasn’t missing anything. Then they said he went to [training] camp, and when he went back, he reverted back to himself because [that's] when the bullets are flying at you. I hope when I get the rushers, people are rushing me, I hope I don’t go back to the old thing.”
Pryor realizes the pitfalls in front of him and he knows that he must work to maintain the progress that he is making. He is doing everything right to avoid becoming another cautionary tale. He is actually working to perfect his craft and working on the nuances of being an NFL quarterback.
The way Pryor avoids from finding himself out of football like Tebow, would be to not be as stubborn as the former Heisman Trophy winner. Tebow would put in the initial work, but would be unable to build upon it. He feels that because he was able to succeed in college, that it will work in the NFL. He was unable to adapt his game to the pro level.
Pryor on the other hand, he is trying to adapt his game to the NFL. He knows where his weaknesses lie and he is actively working to continue to make progress as a passer. Pryor would continue to grow in the mental side of the game, as he gets more starts and game experience. He needs to constantly work on his throwing mechanics, until the muscle memory is rewritten.
The work is not going to happen overnight and I believe Pryor finally understands that. He is taking the reigns on his development and is seeking any and all help to harness his tremendous talents. It would not be surprising to see Pryor become the cornerstone of the Raiders’ offense and franchise in the near future.