Second-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor champs at the bit when he sees other young quarterbacks such as Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick enjoying success.
Yet, he also realizes that coach Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp know what they’re doing when it comes to bringing along Pryor at a much-slower pace than some of his peers.
“Obviously, you want to play a little more,” Pryor said. “I’m human, just like everyone else. We all want to do something or have an opportunity to do something. My coaches are looking out for me. They know when I’ll be ready. They know when if I’m not ready. I commend them.”
With regular starter Carson Palmer out for the regular-season finale because of fractured ribs and a bruised lung, Allen said he intends to start either Pryor or veteran Matt Leinart on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
Leinart relieved Palmer against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday and attempted 32 passes. Pryor played three snaps, including one short pass to fullback Marcel Reece.
Pryor said he is eager to get extensive playing time, knowing that his skill set is comparable to that of several others already making their mark, especially Newton.
“Watching Cam, it definitely makes my heart jump because, when I look at Cam, I see myself,” Pryor said. “He can throw the rock around, too. I see myself, like I said, and, obviously, my heart, I just jump out, like, ‘Oh, my God, I want to get in.’
“But there’s a time and place. Whenever coach Knapp and coach Allen believe it, Mr. McKenzie (Reggie, general manager), I’ll seize the opportunity. But right now, I’m just working hard, staying late and trying to be the first one in and being the best that I can. That’s all you can control in the NFL.”
The Raiders selected Pryor in the third round of the NFL supplemental draft in 2011. He has attempted two passes and spent most of his time learning the Raiders offense and waiting for his chance to play.
Allen said he will decide upon a starter later this week after seeing Pryor and Leinart in practice. Those two players split the reps in practice Wednesday.
“Both of them looked pretty good,” Allen said. “They had a good day out there and both of them got reps with the 1’s, and we’ll continue to monitor it as we go through the week. We’ll make a decision at the end of the week, which way we’re going to go.”
On Sunday, Allen said Pryor wasn’t ready to be the backup quarterback. A day later, he changed his stance, saying Leinart and Pryor were under consideration to fill in for Palmer.
The revised outlook owed to Allen breaking down the quarterbacks’ play later Sunday night.
“When you get done with the game, your mindset is one (way), and then when we get a chance to come back and sit down and evaluate where we’re at, obviously, we got a chance to see what Matt could do and we might need to see a little bit more of Terrelle.”
— The bruised lung suffered by Palmer makes it too dangerous for him to fly. Therefore, he won’t be at the Raiders game Sunday, Allen said.
That means Leinart and Pryor won’t have Palmer to bounce things off during the game, after each series, at halftime, etc. This figures to affect Pryor more than Leinart, given Pryor lacks Leinart’s NFL experience.
“That’s news to me,” Pryor said, when informed of Palmer’s status. “That’s like a father-brother to me. Hopefully we can figure out some type of way that he could get there. Maybe have two or three doctors if we have to. I need my guy there. Like I said, he’s like a father figure/brother. I didn’t know that. Shocking to me.”
— Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler are the only players drafted by the Raiders since 1998 selected to the Pro Bowl at least once.
Pro Bowl selections will be announced on NFL Network at the top of the hour. A story on the results will be posted soon thereafter.
Janikowski seems to be the most likely player to be selected from the Raiders. He won the fan portion of the voting, which accounts for one-third of the total. Players and coaches also get one-third of the vote.
— The Raiders have three rushing touchdowns this season, the Chargers only four. More important, Chargers coach Norv Turner said, is how detrimental it is for a team that isn’t able to run the ball well overall.
“I’m not sure I put as much emphasis on rushing touchdowns,” Turner said in a conference call. “Obviously, it’s the running game production, and you want to be balanced. You want people to have to defend the run and defend the pass. It just makes life much easier for your quarterback. And, obviously, if you can run the football and control the ball, to some degree, it helps your defense a great deal.”
Allen echoed that sentiment.
“You have to be able to run the ball in this league,” Allen said. “Points are scored in this league through the passing game; that’s how you get big chunks. But you have to be able to run the ball to be effective, you have to be able to be balanced.
“From a defensive standpoint, when the offense is able to be balanced, it makes it a lot harder for you as a playcaller to know what defenses to call. So our ability to run the football and be effective running the football is something that we need to be better at.”
— The Chargers sacked Jets second-year quarterback Greg McElroy 11 times last Sunday. It’s safe to assume that the Chargers will employ a similarly aggressive approach against Pryor, if he plays Sunday.
Pryor said he isn’t worried about the Chargers teeing off on him.
“He was holding on to the ball,” Pryor said of McElroy’s problems against the Jets. “I’m not McElroy. Not to be cocky or sound like that, but he can’t … That’s what that was.”
So, how will Pryor react to the Chargers defense?
“You got to stay on top of that stuff, your reads,” Pryor said. “I’m not saying that I’m Tom Brady, by any means, because I’m nowhere it. I’m nowhere near Carson Palmer but I have to think like that. You can’t hold on to the ball. You have to get the ball out. If not, you got to take off and get 4 or 5 yards, just keep it on a positive note, just keep it moving.”
— Allen said he is impressed with the way defensive back Brandian Ross has played in recent weeks.
Ross’ playing time spiked when the Raiders waived cornerback Ron Bartell and safeties Tyvon Branch, Matt Giordano and Mike Mitchell, as well as cornerback Phillia Adams, suffered injuries.
“He’s done a nice job,” Allen said. “He gives us some flexibility. He’s played some safety for us. He’s played what we call the Joker role, which is kind of a hybrid safety-corner type of position. He’s played out at corner. He’s also worked inside in the nickel. He’s a guy that we’ve learned more about, and we’ve gotten an opportunity to play him a little bit more the last few weeks, and he’s done some nice things. I would anticipate seeing him more.”
The Raiders signed Ross off the Packers’ practice squad. Coincidentally, McKenzie talked Ross into staying with the Packers last season when another team showed interest in signing him to their 53-man roster.
Ross said he is pleased with the way things worked out for him with the Raiders, especially the ease with which he grasped defensive coordinator Jason Tarver’s scheme.
“The scheme itself was pretty easy for me to learn because I played in Dom Capers’ defense, which is a multiple defense. That was like learning Chinese to me, so I figured if I can pick that up at two positions, I could pick this up at multiple positions.”
Ross played quarterback in high school. However, his coach insisted upon his players playing both ways, so Ross learned how to play defensive back.
He started at cornerback before settling in at safety his junior and senior seasons. Lo and behold, those are the two positions he plays for the Raiders.
Based on the way Ross has played, it’s a safe bet that he will be asked back next season and given a chance to earn more playing time, if not a starting spot.
Ross honed his skills in the NFL by paying close attention to everything defensive back Charles Woodson did in Green Bay.
“Never see him sweat,” Ross said. “Never. Ever. He can give up a touchdown, he’ll come to the sideline, ‘Hmmm. OK.’ That’s about it. But then he’ll go out the next drive, the drive after that, and make a play, make up for it, and it’s like, ‘Man, this guy is a great player.’ He was a great guy to learn from.
“He talked me through a lot when I got there. He’s a vocal leader off the field as well as on the leader. When we were in meeting rooms or if there were any questions I did have for him, he had no problem sitting down with me, explaining it to me.”