- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The show Terrelle Pryor put on Sunday in Indianapolis did not necessarily surprise his position coach. That would be oversimplifying Pryor’s individual game and, to an extent, demeaning what he accomplished.
"I could see all the hard work paying off on the field," Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
"I could see all the hours that he and I have spent together being paid off. Again, we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re always looking for improvement. Our motto is, 'Just get better every day.'"
Pryor made a quantum leap, and not just in compiling stats, though those were impressive: He passed for 217 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions, and ran for 112 yards.
In fact, he became only the third quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lose a game despite throwing for at least 200 yards while running for at least 100 in the Raiders’ 21-17 defeat.
So would it be too simplistic to say Pryor has improved?
"He has improved," DeFilippo insisted. "He has improved from where we were at this point last season, or even before [organized team activities].
"He's greatly improved his huddle procedure, his decision-making, his timing, his accuracy. It's a lot of hard work by him. It's been a lot of man-hours by a lot of people to get him ready to go, and it's a credit to him. He knows the things he has to work on. He knows the mistakes he made in that game. He's very coachable in recognizing those mistakes, and I don’t think he'll be a repeat offender when it comes to those."
It's all a process, you see. Meaning that Pryor would not have been able to have the kind of game he did against the Colts before having said game against the Colts. Get it?
"We have a grade sheet and I pretty much graded out at about 95 percent in decision-making," said Pryor, in his third NFL season. "So the decisions I made were phenomenal, and if I stay doing that, we’ll be good -- and I believe I will."
Consider: Five times a zone-read option play was called, and five times Pryor kept the ball himself and took off, gaining 33 yards on those plays. Only once did he misread the play, when he should have given the ball to running back Darren McFadden.
And really, when run properly, the decision to keep the ball or hand it off in a zone-read option is not supposed to be dictated by the quarterback; it's dictated by the defense, and how a linebacker or defensive end crashes down on the point of purported exchange between the quarterback and running back. If the defender is taking a sharp angle, the quarterback is supposed to pull the ball out and run around the end. But if the defender takes a wider route, the ball is supposed to go to the running back.
It's something the quarterback has to recognize in a split second.
And yet … Pryor is so determined to become a prototypical NFL quarterback that he stopped fully utilizing his skill set, lest he be seen as a one-dimensional running QB. He was overcompensating in trying to improve his weakness -- passing -- at the expense of his strength -- running.
"All spring he was very hesitant to run the football," DeFilippo said. "He wanted to prove to everyone that he was going to be a pocket-passer guy, and that’s not his game. His game is bringing his God-given athletic ability to the field and to this football team, and that's what's going to help this football team win a lot of games.
"I tell him all the time, I say, 'T, if you’ve got it, man, go. Go, go, go, go, go.'"
Despite his impressive rushing total in Indianapolis, Pryor could have had more -- DeFilippo said there were "movement" plays where the strong-armed-if-inconsistent QB tried to force a ball into a tight space when he had 15 yards of open real estate in front of him.
Still, Pryor is eager to learn. He spoke of his "basket," in which he puts certain traits of other quarterbacks that he wants to implement himself.
"The one-step drop off [of Tom] Brady," Pryor said. "Just being balanced … that gives me 100 percent more accuracy because I’m just always balanced on the football field. He's a guy I really like to watch and understand his techniques.
Why not indeed? The goal this week, then, is for Pryor to build upon what he accomplished in Week 1, and get better at translating the play call from offensive coordinator Greg Olson off the play sheet on his wrist and relaying it to the offense in a more timely manner.
"He's going to improve as a passer," DeFilippo said. "He'll improve out of the huddle. But he's so big and so fast, [running is] a major strength of his game right now.
"The more reps he sees, the better he’ll get."
6dEric D. Williams
8dEric D. Williams