Thursday, October 24, 2013

Oakland is Coming off a Bye Week and is Last in the NFL in Passing

Final score, Sept. 23, 2012 
(all photos accompanying this post are from that day, courtesy of
The headline above is pretty much all we know about the 2013 Oakland Raiders, other than the obvious, which is their record (2-4) and some familiarity with their neo-celebrity quarterback Terrelle Pryor -- who had a storied high school career at Jeannette H.S. in the Pittsburgh area and a tumultuous college career at Ohio State, which he left following his junior year to enter the NFL's supplemental draft.

Jonathan Dwyer's crucial first-quarter fumble, Sept. 23, 2012
Lest we forget, Pryor was a phenomenal high-school basketball player, scoring more than 2,000 points at Jeannette High School. More relevant, in football, he was just as good, if not better. In 2007, Pryor was named the USA Today and Parade Player of Year, when he had 4,238 career rushing yards and 4,340 career passing yards, the first 4,000-4,000 year ever in Pennsylvania.

The NFL ain't high school. Arguably, however, Pryor has the raw talent to be every bit as good as some of the other young but much more celebrated quarterbacks in the NFL like Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton.

Darren McFadden's 64-yard TD, Sept. 23, 2012
No doubt, Pryor is a talented young guy and has had some flash moments this year, including vs. San Diego three weeks ago when his passing was "off the charts," according to one Bay Area reporter. By all indications visible, Pryor works hard and takes the game seriously.
"Coming into this league there are so many different things to learn: the defenses, pressures, there’s so many things that you have to have an eye for," Pryor said earlier this month. "I think the main thing is that every day I’m trying to find a way to get better, and I knew that coming in, but it didn't catch me by surprise. I’m a guy who comes in early and leaves late. I just know that to play this position, and how great I want to be, and the places I want to take the team, I know that I have to be sharp and I have to keep learning, keep experiencing, and keep on just getting a feel for the game, because you can never stop learning at this position, at this level, ever."
Pryor remains a work in progress. In his last game, two weeks ago in Kansas City, Pryor took 10 sacks. Ten sacks in one game! To his credit, Pryor put accountability for eight of those sacks.

Ben hit hard by Lammarr Houston, Sept. 23, 2012 
Still, Pryor will be looking across the line of scrimmage at a Dick LeBeau defense for the first time. The Raiders have a couple of offensive linemen whose names will be familiar to Pittsburghers: guard Lucas Nix (from Pittsburgh Thomas Jefferson H.S. and Pitt) and center Stefen Wisniewski (Pittsburgh Central Catholic H.S. and Penn State).

Darrin McFadden is a very, very good running back, and wide receiver Denarius Moore is having a decent year. Their defense has a bunch of guys whose names are not familiar to most fans, but Lamarr Houston (Texas) is a disruptive force at defensive end. He'll be a handful. Bobby April, formerly on the Steelers' staff, is Oakland's special teams coach.

Oakland head coach Dennis Allen is about as nondescript as a coach can be in the NFL, and except for Pryor, his team is fairly vanilla, too. The following nuggets of typical coach-speak are from his press conference this week:
Reporter: Your passing game is last in the league right now; what do you guys have to do to be more effective? 
Coach Allen: It’s a lot of different things. I think it’s Terrelle, as a young quarterback, still continuing to learn how to play the quarterback position, to make the right reads, to get the ball out on time, throw the ball with accuracy. I think it’s protection, which is the offensive line, it’s the backs, it’s the tight ends, everybody is involved with that. And then it’s the receivers getting the timing down and making sure they’re in the right spots for Terrelle. There’s a lot of factors that are involved in that. I also think our ability to run the football and run the football effectively will help us in the passing game. There’s a lot of elements that are involved in it. We’ll continue to work on it and I think we’ll continue to get better."
Got it? Competent, maybe; inspiring, not so much.

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