Time to give Terrelle Pryor a start?


Time to give Terrelle Pryor a start?

ALAMEDA -- Limping along at 3-10 while carrying around a six-game losing streak like some silver and black albatross, the line between trying to win games and playing youngsters for evaluation is a thin one indeed for Raiders first-year general manager Reggie McKenzie and rookie coach Dennis Allen.

But it's one they have to navigate with three games left in the season, including the home finale on Dec. 16 against Kansas City.

So yeah, the time is growing nearer -- if it has not already passed -- for the Raiders to throw third-string quarterback Terrelle Pryor into a game. Maybe even start him in a not-so-hostile atmosphere in Oakland against the Chiefs, to give him a better opportunity to succeed.

But not with the sense that starter Carson Palmer is being benched, or with the understanding that backup Matt Leinart has been surpassed on the depth chart. Rather, the Raiders need to see what Pryor can do in a game, against legit NFL defensive players, and not the third-stringers and washouts he faced in the exhibition season.

Pryor is the most intriguing player on the roster but the questions surrounding him as a potential NFL quarterback are outnumbered only by his athletic skill. Meaning, the Raiders have to see if he is indeed cut out to be a QB for them.

"I think the biggest thing is to start getting him in a game, a little bit of game action," Allen said Friday. "I'm not ready to say that he would be a starter. I think that Carson, obviously, he's made a couple of mistakes the last couple of weeks but yet, Carson's been one of the reasons why, specifically, earlier in the year, why we had a chance in certain games.

"So I'm not down on Carson at all. Obviously, we want to see some of these younger guys play."

The first name Allen drops is that of offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom, the first player drafted by the McKenzie-Allen regime. But a grunt does not move the needle like Pryor. Then again, no one on the Raiders roster moves the needle like Pryor…even if, as the joke goes, he could not thread one with a pass.

"What we have to understand as players and coaches, we've got look to the future also," Allen said. "We're trying to go out there and win and it's our job to go out there and win on a ay-to-day basis.

"This process is not an overnight process; it's going to take a little bit of time. So the only way we can continue to move forward is to continue to look at some of these young guys."

In 2005, the Raiders faced a similar situation with Norv Turner as the coach and Kerry Collins under center. Collins was having a decent season stats-wise but even with LaMont Jordan and Randy Moss, the offense was stuck in the mud. And having lost four of five, the Raiders turned to Marques Tuiasosopo.

For a game. Against the New York Jets. In the Meadowlands. In December. Just to see what they had in the popular "Tui."

It didn't work out so well as Tuiasosopo was pummeled for six sacks with 19 yards rushing on two attempts and harassed into a 14-of-26 passing day, for 124 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions in the Raiders' 26-10 defeat.

The next week, Collins was back under center and he finished the season with 3,759 yards passing, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 15 games. The Raiders went 4-12.

The next year, though, Collins was gone. As was Turner.

Palmer, meanwhile, is on pace to pass for 4,683 yards, a mere six yards behind Rich Gannon's 2002 franchise single-season franchise record, with 27 TDs and 17 INTs. That 2002 Raiders team went to the Super Bowl.

"I've got a big-picture view of what I want this football team to look like and Reggie and I have talked about it," Allen said. "And we knew what we were dealing with when we came here, and we knew that we had some depth issues on the roster and we couldn't sustain a lot of injuries and we've sustained some injuries in a few spots.

"We all want to win and I understand that and I want to win now. But I'm looking at the long-term future of this team and we've got to prepare for the future."

Then how close is Allen to having the roster he envisions?

"I wouldn't put any time frame on it," he said. "It's going to take time. It doesn't happen with one decision; it's a cumulation of decisions made over time that gets everything to be exactly how you want it."

Cooper: 'I can go nowhere but up,' wants improved play down the stretch

Cooper: 'I can go nowhere but up,' wants improved play down the stretch

The Raiders searched in vain for dynamic receiving production before Amari Cooper came along. Thousand-yard seasons proved elusive even in the golden age of passing stats, with a full decade’s drought after Randy Moss posted a four-digit total in 2005.

Cooper’s made that old hat.

The 2015 first-round pick has two 1,000-yard campaigns in as many seasons. Ditto for Pro Bowl honors. Those feats have become increasingly common, Cooper’s already in rarified air.

Cooper’s career is off to a solid start, but the No. 4 overall pick two years ago believes he can be much better. That especially true later in the season, where production has waned in his first two seasons.

He has nine 100-yard performances in two seasons, with just two coming after week 8. He noticeably struggled with injury at the end of 2015, but wouldn’t make excuses for a production drop last season.

Cooper wants to finish as strong as he starts, and has full confidence that will happen this season.

“Of course it’s been on my mind, but it’s a good thing to me because I feel like I can go nowhere but up,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “I know that I can have a lot more production than I’ve had in the past two seasons, so we’ll just see.”

Cooper has sought counsel from other NFL greats – Calvin Johnson has been in Alamenda this week, offering sage advice – and Raiders coaches have identified ways where he can be even more dynamic working with quarterback Derek Carr.

“Certainly there are things that we think we can do to help,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Also, for him, I think he has a much greater understanding. I thought last year was a step forward. I know he wants to continue to push. It’s great when you have a young, talented player that’s really eager to be special, wants to make a mark in this league. The way he’s working at it right now is outstanding. That’s all we want of our guys.

Cooper is a versatile presence, able to do most everything well. His route running was luaded out of college, though he can be a good deep-ball receiver and can create big plays after the catch. Cooper knows his hands much be more consistent, but the Raiders want to exract more from his natural talents.

“There are a lot of different facets to him,” Del Rio said. “Where his speed is really one of his greatest strengths, obviously, his route running ability was pretty doggone polished when he got here, but even that can continue to improve and the timing with Derek. We think he’ll continue to ascend.”

That’s the goal heading into his third NFL season now armed with greater knowledge of how he’s being covered and muscle memory of what went wrong at times later in the year.

Cooper believes detail work will help him this fall and winter, and that starts in earnest during the offseason program.

“It’s easy to forget the small things like high-pointing the ball, looking the ball all the way through and not trying to run before you actually catch the ball,” Cooper said. “Overall, I’m just working hard in the offseason so that you can come back and you can be dominant.

“I want to be the best Amari Cooper that I could possibly be. I want to be better than every other year that I’ve played football, so that’s how I am looking at this year.”

Penn still haunted by only sack allowed in 2016; 'That play sticks with me'

Penn still haunted by only sack allowed in 2016; 'That play sticks with me'

Editor's Note: The above video is from Dec. 24, 2016.

Donald Penn was nothing short of awesome last season. The veteran Raiders left tackle proved impenetrable, allowing just one sack and 27 quarterback pressures in 676 pass-blocking snaps.

He ranked high among the NFL’s best left tackles at 33, engulfed a career renaissance that began after joining the Raiders three years ago. Penn made the Pro Bowl. He was a vital piece of a 12-4 team that helped the Raiders reach the playoffs.

He hasn’t reveled much in that. Penn’s driven by opportunities missed, and one mishap that haunts him still.

Penn locked horns with Indianapolis linebacker Trent Cole off the left edge during a Week 16 contest against the Colts, and slipped as he was tracking his man away from the pocket. Penn’s feet got tangled and the big man fell. Cole remained upright, darted in and sacked quarterback Derek Carr.

It was Penn’s only sack allowed all season. And Carr got hurt. He suffered a broken fibula that ended his season and realistic hopes of a Raiders playoff run.

Nearly five months have passed since that fluke play. Carr is healthy and a full participant in the Raiders offseason program. The Raiders offensive line might be better after allowing a league-low 18 sacks last season.

There’s plenty to be excited about as the Raiders enter OTAs and a mandatory minicamp. Penn can’t help but lament that isolated incident when Carr went down.

“You have to be an athlete. You try not to think about it too much,” Penn said Tuesday. “You wish you could go back and get it back. I’ve taken that same set I don’t know how many times, on the same field and never just slipped out of nowhere. I’m not going to put it on myself. I should have been able to do something better. You know me, I’m never going to blame the slip for happening. I should have blocked him and held on to him and taken him down with me. That play sticks with me.”

That isn’t all bad. It fuels Penn to continue growing as a player, even at 34 coming off an excellent Pro Bowl season.

“I’m going to try to do what I can do better and make sure it never happens again,” Penn said. “I’ve never gotten a quarterback hurt in my life since I’ve been playing. That was a first. That’s something I take pride in. I’m going to try my hardest to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Penn wants a different ending to this season. Last year the Raiders lost the AFC West crown and a shot to win the team’s first playoff game. Penn suffered a knee injury the following week that kept him from playing in the postseason.

The goal is to realize vast potential now that the Raiders offense is back healthy again.

“I’m all about karma and stuff like that,” Penn said. “Maybe (God is) trying to tell us that this is our year. We have to put in the work to get it. I know D.C. is happy, I’m dang sure happy to get him back. We’re growing and masterminding this offense trying to make it as explosive as possible.”