The Raiders’ pass protection was leaky, at best, in Sunday’s opener, surrendering 13 pressures (which ties them for 14th most in the NFL). That equates to one pressure every three pass snaps. By comparison, the 49ers’ pass protection (largely considered one of the best in the league) allowed a pressure every seven snaps or so. In total, according to ProFootball Focus, Terrelle Pryor was the seventh most pressured quarterback in Week 1. Despite the high number of pressures, Pryor was only sacked once, or on 6.7% of pressured snaps. That’s the 4th lowest in the league.
Granted, these stats represent Pryor’s work in one game, but this ability to allude pressure is nothing new. In the preseason, Pryor was pressured on 48.8% of snaps, but took a sack only 14.3% of the time. Conversely, Matt Flynn was pressured 48.6% of the time, while taking sacks on 38.9% of those pressures.
While Pryor is clearly the most mobile quarterback on the Raiders, the numbers might illuminate something more nuanced than just physical mobility. Perhaps what they show is Pryor’s pocket presence/awareness . That is, his ability to read/feel pressure and extend plays to keep the Raiders out of 3rd-and-impossible could be something special.
Here are a few examples:
1. 3rd-and-7 on the Raiders 36: Terrelle Pryor pass complete to Rod Streater for 18 yards.
Pryor not only recognizes the pressure coming up the middle from both Aubrayo Franklin (I think) and the blitzing LaRon Landry, but he also extends the play by scrambling to the right — where he is being pursued by Corey Redding and Landry. Despite the secondary pressure from Redding and Landry, Pryor keeps his eyes down the field to find Rod Streater. In so doing, Pryor avoids a sack and picks up the required yardage for a first down, plus an additional 11 yards.
2. 3rd-and-6 on the Raiders 45: Terrelle Pryor pass complete to Darren McFadden for 4 yards.
This play isn’t terribly exciting, but it is impressive regardless. Though the Raiders failed to pick up the first down here, Pryor put his receiver in position to convert on third, in spite of the pressure from Ricky Jean-Francois. As you can see, Jean-Francois pressures Pryor from the blindside, yet Pryor senses the pressure and uses mobility to extend the play. Also of note is the locate of Pryor’s pass. He delivers the ball just behind McFadden, thus allowing the running back to turn up the field. Antoine Bethea makes a first-down saving tackle, but had McFadden been able to beat Bethea (which he really should have), then the Raiders gain the first and then some.
3. 3rd-and-10 on the Colts 19: Terrelle Pryor pass complete to Rod Streater for 17 yards.
The Colts were poised for a coverage sack here, but again, Pryor is able to evade the pressure of Cory Redding and Robert Mathis to convert on a 3rd-and-10, which would ultimately propel the Raiders to their first lead of the game. What’s impressive about this is Pryor’s ability to locate his receivers downfield, despite having to scramble around wildly.
4. 2nd-and-10 on the Colts 30: Terrelle Pryor left end for 1 yard.
This isn’t a 3rd down, obviously, and Pryor only gained one yard. But those facts obscure the tremendous play made by Pryor to keep the Raiders out of 3rd-and-16. Most any other quarterback — but especially Matt Flynn — would have been sacked here by the virtually unblocked Erik Walden. Not Pryor, however, as he is able to side-step Walden and scramble some twenty yards for a one yard gain.
In total, the Raiders converted seven 3rd downs on Sunday, which amounts to 53% of their total 3rd downs. Three of these conversions were of seven yards or more and were converted by Pryor ability to extend plays with his legs and gain yards with his arm.
Then, finally, there was one 4th-and-9 where the Colts rushed six, Pryor with the pocket collapsing stood tall and…
5. 4th-and-9 on the Colts 29: Terrelle Pryor pass complete short middle to Denarius Moore for 21 yards.
None of this is to say that Pryor has made it as a passer. For as great as he was under pressure, he could have been better. Both of his interceptions came when pressured, after all. And, beyond that, he completed just 45.5% of his passes when under duress, which ranks him in the bottom 12 for Week 1. This is to say, however, that Pryor performed remarkably well against a playoff team despite limited help from his offensive line. If he and the offensive line continue to improve, there is no telling what Pryor’s ceiling will be.