By Steve Corkran
Monday, August 13th, 2012 at 9:45 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Second-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor has a lot to learn about playing in the NFL. Placing blame elsewhere is not one of those things that Pryor has yet to grasp.
Pryor took full responsibility for the Raiders losing to the Dallas Cowboys 3-0 on Monday night. Of course, there was plenty of blame to go around, given Pryor played only the final 23 minutes or so of the game.
Still, it’s pretty admirable for a young player to stand tall in the face of defeat and do what a quarterback is supposed to do at this level, or any level, for that matter.
“I just played like dog crap, and I’m mad,” Pryor said. “I’m mad at myself. It’s my fault we lost; I’m mad about that, too.”
Pryor completed 8 of 15 passes for 50 yards and one interception, which came on a fourth-and-26 play on Oakland’s final down of the game.
He also rushed six times for 21 yards and showed great athleticism in eluding would-be tacklers time and again in the backfield.
In fairness, Pryor was under pressure most of the time he played, with his offensive linemen not holding up their end of the deal. Still, Pryor blamed himself.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen wasn’t anywhere near as critical of Pryor, ever mindful that Pryor was playing in an exhibition game for the first time since he joined the NFL.
“For the first time to be on the football field in real game action, I was pleased that he was able to get out there and get some reps and get some experience,” Allen said. “Obviously, we’ve got to do a little bit better job of getting in and out of the huddle, getting the play snapped a little bit sooner.
“But those were all things that can be corrected, so … he’s a work in progress, and just like I’ve always talked to him about, want to see him get a little bit better every day.”
Pryor promised that he will be better next time out. The Raiders play the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night, so he won’t have to wait long.
“I don’t think I played well,” Pryor said. “I thought Matt (Leinart) played great, I thought Carson (Palmer) played great, 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 today. So I’m angry and I’m going to come back stronger (Friday).”
Palmer said he is there for Pryor, someone he has mentored since he arrived in a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals last October.
“I’ll be there for Terrelle; he knows that,” Palmer said. “But he’s a very confident guy, obviously very talented. He’s played quarterback for long enough to know you can’t show negative body language. He’s bummed mentally, but he’s a champ. He’s a professional, and for being so young, he’ll bounce back. I can’t wait to watch him play again (Friday).”
– There’s a reason coaches don’t get too excited about a player standing out in offseason workouts or practices during training camp.
For one, they know all too well that performing at a high level in practice is one thing, in a game quite another.
Take rookie wide receiver Juron Criner, for instance. He made a handful of spectacular catches in offseason workouts. He has yet to do that in camp and Monday he clanked a pass in the open field, with no one nearby.
Criner finished with one reception for 5 yards and looked nothing like the player we saw in offseason workouts.
On the other hand, some players keep it going and carry over their strong play into games, which really catches the coaches’ eyes.
Case in point, rookie receiver Rod Streater. He caught six of the eight passes thrown his way Monday for 66 yards. He led all receivers in reception and yards tonight.
Even then, Allen is hesitant to bite.
“Statistically, it looked like he had some yards, had some catches,” Allen said. “So in that regard, I thought he did a nice job. But I want to look at the tape and really study the details and make sure that he was executing.”
– Third-year receiver Jacoby Ford had a rough night all the way around. He got blasted on the opening kick-off after a 4-yard return, was unable to make a play on a deep pass that Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh intercepted, had a pass hit off his hands and wind up incomplete and stepped out of bounds after looking shaky fielding the punt.
Few people are worried about Ford, though. He showed his first two seasons that he can be counted upon to make plays on a consistent basis. Again, just another example of a player shaking off the rust in the first game of the season and getting acclimated to a game setting.
– Allen said Palmer made the proper decision in taking a shot deep for Ford on the play that resulted in the interception.
After all, Ford was in man coverage on the outside, with Sensabaugh lined up in the middle of the field.
“We had a shot called with Jacoby, a little double move,” Allen said. “The safety made a nice play on the ball. So we’ll go back and take a look at it and see exactly what happened on the play. But you get single safety middle, you’re going to throw the ball on the outside lanes and see if you can win.”
Palmer loves taking those kinds of chances. He struck gold on a number of those plays last season, especially to then-rookie receiver Denarius Moore.
He said those are the types of plays that he and the Raiders want to work on in exhibition games.
“We had some momentum going on that first drive and just wanted to get a shot downfield,” Palmer said. “Part of that’s what the preseason’s for, to see when you have those opportunities, to take them. Obviously, now, I’d take it back. The safety ended up making a great play on it. We’ll continue to work and continue to figure out what’s best for our guys individually and when to take those shots, just continue to work.”
– So much for any concerns about running back Darren McFadden’s health. He allayed any and all concerns in a three-plan span at the outset.
McFadden bulled his way for 4 yards on Oakland’s first offensive play, then turned a short pass from Palmer into an 18-yard catch-and-run play and capped his night with a 16-yard run.
On the 18-yarder, McFadden went in motion out of the backfield, lined up wide right as a receiver, cut inside and hauled in the slant. That’s the kind of play the Raiders used when Tom Cable was coach. To great success, too. It appears as if that’s back in the playbook.
“We got accomplished what we wanted to get accomplished with him in this game,” Allen said, “which was get him a few touches early, let him get bounced around a little bit, see what he can do, and then get him out of the game and get ready for next week. We’ll evaluate next week as we go and see how much we want to play him (Friday).”
Palmer seemed almost giddy about the prospect of playing in a game with McFadden for the first time.
“He’s pretty special,” Palmer said. “It’s just great to have him in the huddle, great to see him on the field. I’m just excited to keep working with him. We want to feed him the ball. We’re going to obviously feature him in this offense.”
Allen and Palmer said it’s imperative that offensive coordinator Greg Knapp find a way to use McFadden as often as possible and in as many ways as possible.
“He’s just an explosive playmaker,” Allen said. “And we got to find ways to get him the ball and give him an opportunity to be explosive for us.”
– Center Stefen Wisniewski left the game after the first series with a calf injury, Allen said. Wisniewski got worked on by a team trainer on the sideline and missed the remainder of the game.
The fact he wasn’t taken to the locker room and watched from the sideline bodes well for a swift return to action. Alex Parsons replaced Wisniewski at center.
Tight end Richard Gordon was ill before the game, and he wasn’t able to play as much as expected. He caught one pass for 8 yards.
– As promised, first-year running back Lonyae Miller received a sizable workload in the absence of Taiwan Jones and Mike Goodson.
Miller rushed 15 times for 39 yards and caught three passes for 23 yards. He busted off a run for 9 yards and ran hard, with little to show for his effort.
“I’m just thankful for the opportunity that coach D.A. gave me and I just tried to make the most of it,” Miller said. “Obviously, running the ball for these carries, you’re going to be tired, but that’s expected; it’s preseason. You’re out there interviewing for the job. You just have to put your best foot forward.”
Miller likely will receive another healthy dose of touches against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night unless Jones and/or Goodson returns from injury.
Miller said he is banged up but ready for more action.
“Still got work to do; that’s how I take it,” Miller said. “Whether I have a good game, a bad game, you just got to take it and forget about it and continue to move forward. We still got three games to go, so I’m not going to get too high, not going to get too low.”
– The Raiders committed only five penalties for 37 yards, while the Cowboys were flagged 12 times for 91 yards.
Not a bad start for a Raiders team fresh from a season in which it set league records for penalties and yards penalized.
“For the most part, the penalties were pretty clean,” Allen said. “Obviously, there’s a few things that we’ve got to get corrected.”
– Rookie Miles Burris filled in for injured starter Aaron Curry at the weak-side spot. Pretty heady stuff for a rookie that was selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft less than four months ago.
Burris finished with three tackles. Most important, he looked like he belonged, Allen said.
“I’ll have to go back and take a look at the tape and see exactly how he was,” Allen said, “but he, obviously, didn’t stand out in a negative regard. There were a few times where there might have been some rookie mistakes but, overall, he got experience and he got a chance to get a lot of football in and he’ll get a chance to learn from everything that happened out there.”
Burris said he settled in soon after the first snap, once he got past the jitters.
“I was a little bit nervous just because it was the first game,” Burris said. “That’s normal, similar to my first college game. We play with a pretty good speed in practice, so the speed didn’t feel too different to me when I was out there. We do a real good job of practicing and staying crisp. Obviously, the coaches have done a really good job of coaching us up on the defense, so I felt pretty sharp out there, considering it was my first game, got my feet wet and felt pretty good.”
– Second-year cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke has played as well as any defensive back in camp so far. Again, his play Monday showed why coaches are wary of making too much of things until they get a look at players in games.
Van Dyke struggled on numerous plays Monday, late to make a play on the ball, missing open-field tackles and not being close enough to his man.
It’s all part of the process, Allen said.
“I’m not ready to say it was a step back,” Allen said of the subpar play by Van Dyke and Ford. “Obviously, it wasn’t the performance that we were hoping for, but they’ll bounce back. It happens in the game of football, and they’ll bounce back. We’re looking for them to play well (Friday).”