Programming note: Watch Friday's Raiders press conference with head coach Dennis Allen streaming live here at 12:10 p.m.
ALAMEDA – Greg Olson watched every Raiders game from last season after being hired as offensive coordinator. It helped create a knowledge base for his new job, especially for the offensive weapons retained.
Olson revisited 2012’s regular-season finale against the Chargers this week while brushing up on Sunday’s opponent, a game that doubled as Terrelle Pryor’s first NFL start.
Olson couldn’t believe the quarterback on film was the same he works with every day. He sent Pryor a text message expressing such shock, awe and admiration.
“It had been a while since I watched that game, so when it came up this week I got a chance to see it again,” Olson said. “It refreshed my memory, and I thought, ‘Oh, this guy has shown a lot of improvement in the course of when he last played the Chargers in that last game.’ That was encouraging to me after watching that.”
Pryor had happy feet then. He threw lobs when fastballs were required and vice versa. Passes wobbled and he looked uncomfortable in the pocket.
Pryor is far from a finished product now, but his improvement makes the tape borderline useless as an opponent’s scouting tool.
“I just feel like he’s a lot calmer in the pocket,” Olson said. “His footwork is much better; he has better instincts. He just looked like a rookie player in there last year, so he looks much better.”
We all know how much work Pryor put in this offseason, how he went through a mechanical overhaul with private quarterbacks coach Tom House. We know he has thrived under Olson, who has slowly expanded his repertoire and streamlined his decision-making. We know he gives these Raiders a real chance to win.
Pryor watched last year’s film and replicated Olson’s reaction. The coordinator's text validated his feelings and gave him a sense of pride in an offseason well worked.
“He’s right. I made big strides and big steps throughout the process,” Pryor said. “I have to keep on working hard and understand you’re never good enough. You always have to keep on pushing and try to better yourself because that’s only going to help the team.”
Pryor has improved during the regular season, and his best game as a pure passer was his last. The Sept. 23 game at Denver was his most accurate, moving the team from the pocket. He threw for a career-best 281 yards a 112.4 quarterback rating. He hasn’t thrown an interception since the regular-season opener.
That offers stark contrast to that 2012 start, when he completed just 46.4 percent of his attempts.
While it’s easy to bag on his first professional start and see how much better he is now, Pryor was an unrefined version of himself. There’s still a legit playmaker in there, just below the surface.
That was crystal clear on one fourth-quarter scoring play. Pryor felt the pocket collapse, wiggled to his right to extended the play and stalled the rush by threatening to run until Denarius Moore found open space. He lobbed a pass Moore secured for a touchdown earned with playmaking ability.
Despite all the mechanical improvements and on-field mental clarity, Pryor hasn’t lost the basic instincts that guide him so well.
“I just try to make the right decisions and the smart decisions and be a smart person and player,” Pryor said. “Just be myself and play football. That’s how I have to play.”