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SPOT: Are the Raiders in “QB Purgatory?"


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#1 OFFLINE   Brad Bordyn

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Posted 08 November 2013 - 09:08 PM

Few expected much of the Raiders this season - only 2 returning starters on defense, a patchwork offensive line after pre-season injuries, and a murky quarterback situation where none of their 4 options stood out as the obvious starter. But what could have easily been a painfully dismal start to Oakland’s 2013 campaign has in reality been respectable (and at times, downright exciting) football. And quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s emergence deserves much of the credit.

After an injury to Matt Flynn in the Raiders’ final preseason game, Terrelle Pryor was thrust into a starting role to surprising results. Oakland nearly pulled off an opening day victory against the heavily-favored Indianapolis Colts, in large part due to Pryor’s playmaking ability. Through his next 3 appearances, Pryor showed dramatic progression from his preseason form. His touch on the ball, especially on deep throws, dramatically improved. His mechanics were more refined. Even when plays broke down Pryor’s eyes would be downfield, often making something out of nothing. In his best outing, a convincing win over the Chargers, Pryor was confident and efficient moving the Raiders offense.

But even as Pryor continued to improve, Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie was evaluating his options at quarterback. Reports indicated some Raiders interest in then-free agent Josh Freeman, with Mike Silver’s sources going as far to say that if they acquired Freeman he would be Oakland’s starter. If the Raiders were indeed interested in Freeman, it’s safe to say McKenzie is still searching for a franchise quarterback.

It’s entirely possible that Pryor has already hit his ceiling already. Since the San Diego game, Pryor has been beaten up by the Chiefs, put up a second-half stinker against the Steelers which almost cost Oakland the game, and looked shaky in an embarrassing loss to the Eagles. A banged up offensive line and a distinct lack of playmakers around him certainly haven’t helped Pryor at all. But there should be just as much concern for the problems that Pryor has caused himself.

By the end of this season, Reggie McKenzie will need to know whether or not Terrelle Pryor is the answer at quarterback. If questions about the quarterback situation remain after the 2014 season, there’s no guarantee that McKenzie is the one who gets to answer them. So far, Pryor has shown he’s good enough to win some games. But is he good enough to win the important ones? Can the Raiders eventually be a team who can keep up in a shootout? At this point, Reggie McKenzie’s fear should be that the Raiders have found themselves in “quarterback purgatory”.

Teams like the Texans, Bengals, and Bears are good examples of teams stuck in quarterback purgatory this season. They’re all good teams who can win a fair amount of their games but ultimately their fatal flaws are with their signal callers, who are usually the reason when they lose. Terrelle Pryor’s situation with the Raiders is in many ways reminiscent of Tim Tebow’s with the Broncos. A quarterback whose best trait might be his improvisational skills, on a team whose defense’s “bend but don’t break” style and ability to rush the quarterback often puts the team in position where a couple timely big plays can make the difference. But when things get out of hand and the offense needs to put up points, they’re simply not good enough to compete (see: Tebow’s playoff win against the Steelers, followed with his loss to the Patriots). Teams in quarterback purgatory are often stuck with their starter for too long – in part because they still hope he can take the next step, and in part because they never pick high enough in the draft to bring in a franchise player at the position.

The Raiders sit at the halfway point in their 2013 season. Reggie McKenzie has 8 more games to figure out what he has at quarterback. In the offseason McKenzie needs to know exactly what he has at quarterback – where Pryor succeeds and whether or not his shortcomings can either improve, or are the kind that can be hidden. And if Pryor isn’t the guy, Reggie McKenzie needs a plan to find one.

It’s not as if Pryor is devoid of positive traits. First and foremost, his work ethic and leadership have been integral to how competitive the Raiders have been so far this season. His teammates believe in him and want to make plays for him, which is crucial for a team that had so much uncertainty before the season. Pryor is exceptional at extending plays, even in the worst circumstances. His ability to escape a collapsing pocket gives his teammates multiple chances to make plays.

Moreover, it seems as if Pryor’s accuracy is almost better when he’s on the move. This is often how the Raiders have stayed in games where otherwise they’ve been outplayed. In addition, having a quarterback who is a big-time threat as a runner has opened up opportunities for the Raiders’ running backs. The fact that the defense needs to account for Pryor means that there’s on more hole than there otherwise would be.

But the Raiders are still waiting for Pryor to progress in certain crucial areas. And in some, he has actually regressed over his past three starts.

First, Pryor needs to improve his short and intermediate accuracy. His slant passes have a tendency of being either low and inside or high and behind – the latter have turned into interceptions on multiple occasions. He also continues to miss high on intermediate passes outside the hashes. His pocket presence also leaves much to be desired. This can be hard to evaluate due to the near-constant pressure Pryor faces. But at times he begins sensing pressure when there is none. He can sometimes roll out of a clean pocket into edge pressure. When he does this, his instinct is to spin back the other direction, but in going backwards he has caused sacks that give up ten yards or more. And while one of the big improvements he made was keeping his eyes downfield, it still seems like he has problems seeing the entire field. Pryor has missed his fair share of opportunities while scrambling around, possibly because he’s merely waiting for a single read to come open.

If Pryor does not improve these parts of his game, the Raiders can’t rely on him as a long-term option. But the question, then, is what are the Raiders’ other options? In the draft, the highest reated quarterback prospects who are expected to declare are Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota. Bridgewater looks like a lock to go in the top 2 picks, and if Mariota declares he’s a top 10 talent. It doesn’t look like either the Buccaneers or Jaguars will win 3 games this season, so the Raiders can kiss their chances of drafting Bridgewater goodbye. Mariota could conceivably be in the Raiders range – his skill set in reminiscent of Pryor’s in many ways, but at only 20 years old he has worlds of potential. Still, it’s unlikely he’ll be within the Raiders’ grasp in the 2013 draft.

Once slated for a “certain” top 5 pick, the Raiders are now more likely looking at the 8-12 overall range. In which case, projecting their options in the draft becomes much less clear. Brett Hundley is no lock to declare, and even if he did he isn’t a finished product. Same could be said of 2nd tier quarterback prospects such as Derek Carr and Zach Mettenberger. The Raiders could take a player later in the draft to develop, or turn to a free agent such as Jay Cutler. But in these situations it’s hard to see clear upgrades from Terrelle Pryor. And on a team with so many holes, it’s doubtful Reggie McKenzie will be trading future picks in order to move up.

In 2014, the Raiders might have no choice but to roll with Terrelle Pryor and try to build around him. With some more playmakers and a stronger offensive line, Pryor might indeed take the next step. And even if he doesn’t, the next quarterback who comes in will be in a much better spot. But McKenzie and his head coach Dennis Allen will have pressure on them to “win now”, assuming things don’t completely collapse and both make it out of the 2013 season. They may not have the luxury of another season in the quarterback wilderness.

No doubt, Pryor’s progression thus far has been impressive. His game is refined in ways few thought it could be. But his growth needs to continue this upward trend. Over the next 8 games, Pryor will have every opportunity to take that next step and establish himself as the future of the franchise. In the end, McKenzie and Dennis Allen’s best chance to avoid the 2014 hot seat lies in Terrelle Pryor’s improvement.

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#2 OFFLINE   Seth Keysor

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Posted 08 November 2013 - 09:14 PM

Wow, that's a level-headed analysis.  I suppose I've considered it a given that Pryor would be the guy moving forward.  And I didn't realize he'd been that bad vs. the Steelers.  I only saw that amazing run...

 

I think it's impossible to say what's going on with Pryor given the utter lack of help he's getting.  I think unless he continues to regress, he ought to get a shot with a couple OL upgrades and a legitimate #1 WR. 


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#3 OFFLINE   Brad Bordyn

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Posted 08 November 2013 - 09:27 PM

Pryor's struggles against the Steelers came mainly in the second half. They started off quickly and won the field position battle in the first half, but once the Pryor had to begin dealing with a long field the wheels began to fall off. Lots of 3-and-outs in the second half. Jeremy Stewart's run last week (when McGloin had already come in for Pryor) was their only second half score in the last 3 weeks.

 

But even still, I think Pryor is good enough to get them another 2 wins or so this season. It's just hard to project how much adding more talent will help cover up his accuracy issues in particular. But I do think if the Raiders end up with 6 wins or more they'll roll with him, if only out of necessity because there won't be any clear upgrades available to them.


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#4 OFFLINE   Rybcon

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Posted 08 November 2013 - 09:29 PM

As long as Pryor continues to show improvement I think he'll go into 2014 as the starting QB.  You must remember, throughout the 2013 off-season and into the preseason he wasn't taking snaps as the starter.  At some point in the 2013 season the Raiders will need to focus more on him gaining experience and less on trying to win games, if that makes sense.  Continued improved play, a full off-season practicing as the starter, strong free agent signings with the O-line and receivers and you have the making of a top 15 QB (maybe top10) for many years.


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#5 OFFLINE   BroncosUp2391

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Posted 08 November 2013 - 09:41 PM

Like others, they should upgrade the OL and get him some playmakers and then decide if he's the guy or not.

 

Also not sure they'll be in position for one of the top QB's unless they lose out.



#6 ONLINE   Chad Jensen

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 02:53 AM

We gotta keep in mind that Pryor has done what he's done WITHOUT ANY ABOVE AVERAGE PLAYMAKERS AT THE SKILL POSITIONS. 

 

That's key. Put an Eric Decker, or even a James Jones, or a Fred Davis (I know he's in the doghouse, but he has skills) on this team, and I think you'd see Pryor's stats and results skyrocket. 

 

The Broncos will likely opt to not resign Eric Decker. I could really see the Raiders going after him in FA next year. 

 

If the Raiders' brass can give him a bit more time, I think Pryor will flourish, but they gotta get him some weapons. Were I a Raiders fan, I'd say, "In Reggie We Trust".


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#7 OFFLINE   BroncosUp2391

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 04:27 AM


 

The Broncos will likely opt to not resign Eric Decker. I could really see the Raiders going after him in FA next year. 

 

 

You have any evidence of this?
 

Unless he's asking for #1 money, i dont see why they wouldnt try to keep him.



#8 OFFLINE   Seth Keysor

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 05:51 AM

Rybcon makes a good point.  You've gotta remember how far he's come in just the last year.  Yeah, he's struggling with accuracy and other issues, but the man is 10x the QB he was last year.  You gotta imagine that a whole offseason as THE guy would do him a world of good.


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#9 OFFLINE   Evan Massey

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 09:49 AM

Personally, I believe that the Raiders have their future at quarterback in Pryor. As someone above mentioned, the Raiders really don't have anyone too terribly talented at the wide receiver positions, and McFadden has been slowed down so much by injuries that he has been unable to get things going consistently. Moore is a very good wideout, but he's just not the player that Pryor needs to become the best that he can be.


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#10 OFFLINE   Brad Bordyn

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 02:41 PM

IMO, Jordan Matthews has "2nd round Reggie McKenzie Wideout Special" written all over him.


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#11 ONLINE   Chad Jensen

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 05:23 PM

You have any evidence of this?

Unless he's asking for #1 money, i dont see why they wouldnt try to keep him.


Evidence, no. But look at these names that require new deals this coming year and next. Demaryius Thomas, Wesley Woodyard, Von Miller, Knowshon Moreno, Eric Decker, Orlando Franklin, Rahim Moore.

Thomas' deal will take precedent over Decker's. With all the other priority players and the fact that the Broncos still will have the Thomases, and Welker, I think they let Decker walk. There's only so much money to go around and Decker will justifiably be looking for his big payday. But I could be wrong.
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#12 OFFLINE   Lucas Polglaze

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 07:00 PM

Evidence, no. But look at these names that require new deals this coming year and next. Demaryius Thomas, Wesley Woodyard, Von Miller, Knowshon Moreno, Eric Decker, Orlando Franklin, Rahim Moore.

Thomas' deal will take precedent over Decker's. With all the other priority players and the fact that the Broncos still will have the Thomases, and Welker, I think they let Decker walk. There's only so much money to go around and Decker will justifiably be looking for his big payday. But I could be wrong.

 

Don't forget Julius Thomas.


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#13 OFFLINE   BroncosUp2391

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 09:03 PM

Evidence, no. But look at these names that require new deals this coming year and next. Demaryius Thomas, Wesley Woodyard, Von Miller, Knowshon Moreno, Eric Decker, Orlando Franklin, Rahim Moore.

Thomas' deal will take precedent over Decker's. With all the other priority players and the fact that the Broncos still will have the Thomases, and Welker, I think they let Decker walk. There's only so much money to go around and Decker will justifiably be looking for his big payday. But I could be wrong.

Welker is only signed for 2 years, his money can go to Decker when his deal expires.

 

It wont stun me if we let Moreno walk, and go with Ball/Hillman/Anderson next year.

 

Like i said, it depends how much you think he's asking for, but yes Elway/Sullivan have their work cut out the next few years to sign some players to new deals.

 

Obviously you can't keep everyone though, only so much money to go around.


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#14 ONLINE   Chad Jensen

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 09:27 PM

No doubt. I hope the parties find a way to keep Decker in Denver but with Manning's deal essentially being a 3 year deal through 2014, they might go all in and keep Decker, or extend his rookie deal by 1 year, which I think is a team prerogative.

We shall see. Go Broncos!




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