The Oakland Raiders are reportedly not expected to have starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor available for Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins, and it would be a crying shame if he does indeed miss Week 4. Not only is Terrelle Pryor an electrifying and extremely captivating player to watch, but he also has a terrific matchup in store against a terrible Redskins defense. I can just visualize Pryor carving up the Washington defense, because they have missed an absolutely obscene number of tackles this season (does the blame go to Raheem Morris based on his track record?) and have a bad secondary in general. If rookie Bacarri Rambo doesn’t step it up, then the Redskins could very well end the season with one of the worst safety tandems in the league. So yeah, that’s the kind of defense we could see Pryor run- and throw- all over.
So let’s get to the Friday Fades, which is a weekly analysis/opinion/stats-y piece I do here on NFL Spin Zone every Friday. There are five fades, and, ideally, I like each of them to be in-depth. So sit back, relax, and read five things on the Oakland Raiders.
Fade 1- A strong line
I have no idea if the Oakland Raiders can keep this up, but I’ve been impressed with the offensive line’s play, especially with Jared Veldheer on the shelf on the short-term I.R. When the news initially broke, I thought the Raiders offensive line was, quite frankly, screwed with Veldheer out. He’s one of the best players on the team, and he’s a darn good left tackle in this league. That said, I was also expecting Alex Barron to start for the Raiders, which was a stupid mistake on my part, since Khalif Barnes, as we are seeing, is clearly better than Barron. While Barnes is no great shakes and is mediocre at best, he’s a good bit better than Barron, whose play is reminiscent of that Sum 41 song “Walking Disaster”, which is a bad song anyway. Barron is not only a penalty machine (that doesn’t bode well in Oakland), but he also flat-out stinks in pass protection; at least Barnes doesn’t get embarrassed.
But the things about the Raiders offensive line that have impressed me the most are elsewhere. Right tackle Tony Pashos is a pretty streaky player, and he’s excellent when he’s at his best. He’s the definition of a plug-n-play veteran guy, and I think he’s a solid player overall. But so far this season, he has been playing out of his mind, and while his level of play is likely unsustainable, he’s been solid on the right side of the line.
The issue for the Oakland Raiders, though, is run blocking, because I still don’t think they are doing enough to help Darren McFadden out. He’s averaged just 3.9 yards per carry so far, and some of that is his fault while the other bit is the line’s fault. Pashos and Stefen Wisniewski are doing their jobs, but they are having a rough time running it to the left side. I think left guard Lucas Nix has no business starting in this league (it’s sucks to say that, since I’m a big Pitt fan), and the Raiders figured that out too and promptly replaced him in the starting lineup with veteran Andre Gurode, who isn’t much at this stage of his career either.
That said, the Raiders offensive line has impressed me because they haven’t been an abject failure, which was honestly the expectation I had coming into the season. Once Veldheer comes back, the only weakness that this line will have is at LG. The left side of the line currently has major issues, but those will be quelled in Week 11 with the return of the team’s franchise LT. This line is still not exactly good, but it’s a much better product than I thought it would be coming into the season.
Fade 2- Just how good is Terrelle Pryor?
Terrelle Pryor is undoubtedly the most interesting player on the Oakland Raiders, and he is a reason on his own to tune in to their games. Pryor is averaging 7.6 yards per rush and 7.7 yards per pass play, and he brings a lot more to the table than Matt Flynn does. Not only does Pryor have incredible running ability, but he’s also much better at stretching the field vertically than Flynn. Even though I think Flynn’s arm strength concerns are bloated, it’s evident that Pryor can send the ball deep with greater proficiency than his backup. The Raiders wide receivers are better at going deep, too, so that plays into the strengths of the offense. His ability to help keep defenses honest with his arms and legs is a huge asset for Darren McFadden, who is definitely reaping the rewards of having a running quarterback behind center.
So how good is Pryor? As a passer, I remain unconvinced at this moment (I’ll expand on that, don’t worry). He is averaging a healthy yards per pass average, and his adjusted yards per attempt is a solid 7.1. But when you look at his throws, you can see that he isn’t close to being the finished product. Pryor is undoubtedly a raw player, and I don’t think anybody expected him to be polished. That in itself is great news, because the accuracy and decision-making issues are correctable with coaching, especially for a player as young and raw as Pryor. In terms of talent, Pryor has all the tools, but he will have to be smart and accurate in order to avoid defenses from “figuring him out” in year two.
How good is Pryor as a rusher? He’s fantastic. While I view his passing ability as mediocre, that’s something we’ll definitely take. I mean, he has a QB Rating over 80, he averages 11.8 yards per completion, he is completing about 65% of his passes, and he has only thrown two picks. Anybody will take those numbers from a quarterback averaging 7.6 yards per rush, and that dynamic ability brings something else to the table. Can he take the hits? Yes, but 26 runs on the season thus far means 26 extra hits, so how much is too much for the Raiders to allow him to take? As long as he’s smart about it, I’m fine. He’s such a great rusher that taking that part of his game out would severely curtail his value at this point, but learning when to run etc. takes time.
Pryor has all the upside in the world, and his numbers through three games this season are excellent for a first-year passer. He clearly brings something different to the table for the Raiders, and defenses have to respect his arm and rushing ability. He’s still extremely raw, but he’s also quite impressive. All in all, the Raiders have potentially found a quarterback of the future, so there isn’t a need for them to key in on a quarterback in next year’s draft. I seriously think the Raiders need to roll with Pryor, because we’ll most likely figure out if he’s legitimate or not by the end of the year anyway.
Continue reading for fades 3, 4, and 5 on the Oakland Raiders wide receiver duo, the pass defense, and overall expectations.