Pryor biding his time under center


Pryor biding his time under center

ALAMEDA -- Dennis Allen said the first-team reps at quarterback in practice Wednesday were "evenly split" between Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor.

Pryor said, "Matt started with the first team for a good bit and I was getting like the last two or three snaps. Not much, but more than I was."

Wait, what?

Welcome to the cloak and dagger world of NFL prep week…even if it is the final week of a lost regular season, for both the Raiders and San Diego.

Because while starter Carson Palmer has already been ruled out of the finale with cracked ribs and a bruised lung, Allen said he will not announce a starter until later in the week. In fact, Allen essentially said Leinart and Pryor were auditioning this week not only to start against the Chargers, but also to be Palmer's backup next season. Even if, after Oakland's 17-6 loss in Carolina last weekend, Allen said Pryor was not ready to be No. 2 on the depth chart.

So what switched?

"I think 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, I think, obviously, we got a chance to see what Matt could do and we might need to see a little bit more of Terrelle," Allen said. "But we'll evaluate that as the week goes on."

So there, even as Allen acknowledged the possibility of using both players in San Diego.

"They're two totally different quarterbacks," Allen said. "Terrelle, obviously, is an athletic quarterback that can really do some things on the move. Matt's a little bit more your prototypical pocket passer. And so, I think when you look at those guys, you've got to take into (account) those skill sets and what they do well."

Pryor, meanwhile, the last player ever drafted by Al Davis, re-assumed the role of dutiful good soldier after seemingly sulking a tad in Carolina.

"Today I thought I did a fairly decent job," Pryor said. "I commend coach Allen and coach (Greg) Knapp, two great coaches, and they knew I wasn’t ready. Still may not be. I’m just trying to work hard at what coach Flip (John DeFilippo) is trying to get in terms of footwork and stuff like that. I’m just trying to do my best to stamp it in. I feel like I’m close.

"I’ll be a great player in this league, without a doubt. I believe it 100 percent, but I just have to keep working and having the faith that I can throw the ball, knowing that I can make plays. As long as I know it, and when I’m with my teammates, as long as they can see a little bit and I can try to prove it to them and get their respect, that’s all I ask for. I’m trying my hardest."

Pryor, though, was downgraded after his three-play performance against Kansas City in the Raiders' home finale on Dec. 16, when he flubbed a cadence and caused a false start.

Pryor has only been dressing and active this season since the Cleveland game on Dec, 2.

"I still studied like I was the starter," Pryor said. "I got that from Carson. He told me that -- study like you’re a starter. Even last year with Al Saunders. It just carries on. I believe the boring stuff, watching film and stuff like that, is what’s going to make you a great quarterback.

"Growing up, my favorite quarterback was Tom Brady, and I still, to this day, like him. He’s one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game. Obviously, Carson, I’ve watched him a lot. Just watching them guys, why are you so smart? Peyton Manning; why is he so smart? It’s the things that you do that are boring. The things that Cam Newton, RGIII (Robert Griffin III), they’re getting better at it and doing, I’m sure, too. I commend them. I’m just trying to get better from that standpoint. Just keep working."

Seeing a guy with a similar skill set in Carolina's Cam Newton up close and personal Sunday also got his juices flowing.

"Watching Cam, it definitely makes my heart jump because when I look at Cam, I see myself and all that," Pryor said. "Fifteen-extra-pound guy. 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 (Greg) Knapp and coach Allen believe it, Mr. (Reggie) McKenzie, 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."

LB Smith praises Raiders' turnover ratio, but wants much more

LB Smith praises Raiders' turnover ratio, but wants much more

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders defense gave up 344 yards Sunday while beating the Jacksonville Jaguars.

That sum’s a season low, still way too many for Malcolm Smith. The Raiders weakside linebacker has higher standards, even after one of two solid defensive efforts in seven games.

“That’s still a lot of yards,” Smith said. “We’re not where we want to be.”

Just because Sunday was better doesn’t mean it’s good enough. The Raiders defense ranks last in yards allowed and 22nd in scoring defense at 25.6 points per game.

There’s a main reason why the Raiders aren’t dead last in both categories. Takeaways.

The Raiders have plundered the opposition this season 13 times in seven games. Special teams got one Sunday on a muffed punt, but the defense has been incredibly active stealing possession.

Reggie Nelson has a nose for the ball, with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Sean Smith and David Amerson have two picks each and Bruce Irvin leads the league with four forced fumbles.

Turnovers make all those yards allowed easy to stomach, and has kept the Raiders in several close games. The force big mistakes and don’t make many, proven with a plus-eight turnover ratio ranked No. 3 overall.

“It’s given us a chance to win some games, where you could just look at other statistics and say we wouldn’t have a chance.” Smith said. “That’s what the game is about, and us finding ways to compete. Hopefully we stay after it that way.”

The Raiders have stayed after it in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just 50 percent of opponent trips inside their 20-yard line.

While big plays have brought wins and positivity to the defense, the season’s first half has been difficult for Raiders expecting more.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Smith said. “You come into the year with all these aspirations and things you want to do. When it doesn’t go your way you have to stay after it, keep putting the work in and know it’s not going to be wasted. Hopefully we’re making strides and those improvements will show on Sundays.”

The Raiders believe the defense is close to being good, and has done a solid job masking issues with takeaways and timely production.

“Our team has done a great job of competing to win games,” Smith said. “If we keep doing that, everything will be fine.”

Del Rio pleased with Raiders' mature attitude towards 5-2 start

Del Rio pleased with Raiders' mature attitude towards 5-2 start

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders were certainly happy they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars into submission. They jumped out to a strong halftime lead, played smart complimentary football and, at 33-16, ended up with a large margin of victory.

All, however, was not right with the world.

Derek Carr lamented settling for too many field goals. Latavius Murray wanted more efficiency from his runs. Defensive players saw progress in several deficient areas, still seeking greater cohesion and consistency.

[BAIR: Top 5 takeaways from Raiders' 33-16 win over Jaguars]

Sunday’s big victory over lowly Jacksonville was not a sign they've arrived. It was proof these Raiders remain a work in progress.

Records normally suffer with much to correct. These Raiders are 5-2, and feel better football’s ahead.

“That’s what is great about this team is that we haven’t played our best yet,” Murray said. “That’s a good feeling moving forward, knowing there are things you can get better at and you’re still 5-2.”

Winning while fixing things; that’s a coach’s dream. It’s also easier when players know it, that egos don’t expand and confidence doesn’t become arrogance.

“I like that part. I like the fact that we recognize it,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I’m certainly going to point it out. There are things that we have to do better. I think it’s healthy.

“You should enjoy the wins. You should feel good about the success. Take pride in it. We worked hard for it, but to have a healthy respect for what’s coming and the need to play better and the need to continue to grow as a football team as we go throughout the year. That’s a mature way to look at it, and I’m very pleased about that with a younger team.”

The Raiders are a confident bunch and have survived several games on guts, guile and turnovers -- a recipe for success with inconsistent production.

The Raiders defense believes it made strides in the Jaguars win, though there’s significant work remaining to be a decent defense. With the offense rolling, that’s all the Raiders need to be a top team. Defenders aren’t striving for decent. They want more, and believe that realizing potential could put them in position for a playoff push.

“This team has so much talent, with good coaches and good players,” cornerback David Amerson said. “The sky’s the limit. Once we all start clicking, we can go out there and beat teams 30-0. Once we get to that point, that’s when we can look towards the playoffs and things like that. We have just as much talent as any team in the league.”