Terrelle Pryor is just days from the biggest start of his young professional life. That’s what the hype machine says.
Monday night’s game against Denver is a chance for the young quarterback to anoint himself the next big thing and prove that his team is better than expected. If he can lead the Raiders to victory in Denver, his stock will fly a mile high.
ESPN would like you to come and see. Tune in for Peyton Manning, stay for the new-age phenom. Pryor’s creativity gives the Raiders a puncher’s chance in this perceived mismatch.
That’s a lot for a 24-year old to take in. The Raiders would rather he block it all out. They’d like him to affix blinders posthaste, to ignore everything save positive yards and touchdowns.
“The leaders and playmakers on this roster need to help him out. Let the young guys make plays for him and the veterans be vocal leaders. We’ve been on this stage. We’ve played in this environment. We know what it’s like and we can handle the intangibles.
“If he guides us on the field and we take care of everything else, we as Raiders can win this game.”
The Raiders want Pryor to be himself. They want him to ignore what Denver does on offense, and avoid a direct competition with Manning’s quick-strike capability. Pryor knows those battles are hard to win.
“Peyton’s great and I can’t let that get into mind,” he said. “I have to play my game and focus on my team. He’s going to make big plays and I can’t go in there and say, ‘I’m going to fire back too, because he is.’ I need to go down for down, one play at a time, and take my time. That will be a lot better than going in and trying to match back to back and force some things.”
Pryor must maintain that perspective at the expense of his competitive zeal. His confidence is high. He believes, as any quarterback should, that he’s among the best at his craft.
Despite the fact that focus will be on the quarterbacks, the Raiders aren’t a one-man show. That was evident Sunday, when solid defense and Darren McFadden flourished in a game he managed relatively well.
The Raiders are easing Pryor into the system, giving him plays that accentuate his strengths. They want him to focus on his reads and use athleticism to his advantage when appropriate. While he gives the Raiders a chance to win, he needs help to actually do so.
“He’s got 10 other guys out there with him,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “It’s not just a one-man show. He’s just got to go out and do his job and do the things that we’re asking him to do to the best of his ability.”
No matter how much they try to downplay it, this is a chance for the Raiders to prove themselves better than expected. A competitive showing on a rare national platform could make that case.
“I don’t want to get too excited about a stage or anything like that,” Pryor said. “At the end of the day, I still have to drop back and play quarterback and help this team win. I don’t want to get too excited. I know there’s a big task ahead against one of the greatest quarterbacks ever; Peyton’s a Hall of Famer. I just have to go handle my business as 1/11th of the offense and get us in good position to score.”