By Ryan Leong
After waiting five days to get the official word from head coach Dennis Allen, Terrelle Pryor will make his first career NFL start this coming Sunday against the Chargers in San Diego.
There was pretty good debate among media and fans as to why there was such a delay in naming a starter. Since the Raiders season began to fall by the wayside after peaking at 3-4, it was evident the team needed to look forward to next season. Part of that process is auditioning the players of the future. No one on the team is the face of that future more than Pryor who was the final pick of late owner Al Davis in the 2011 supplemental draft.
“I feel that I’m ready,” Pryor said. “I felt comfortable. I felt like a leader in the huddle when I was in there. I feel good about it and look forward to the opportunity.”
Allen wanted to see how Pryor performed in practice along with fellow backup QB Matt Leinart. Last week, Carson Palmer was hit hard and had to leave the game with cracked ribs and a bruised lung, putting an end to his season.
When Palmer was injured, Leinart played the remainder of the game except those three players designated for Pryor. Leinart was 16-of-32 for 115 yards. He was sacked and intercepted one time and had a QB rating of only 45.7 His longest completion went for 20 yards but many of his throws were screen passes behind the line of scrimmage.
“I wanted to see how each player responded,” Allen said. “I thought Terrelle responded well. I think he gives us a unique element of athleticism at the quarterback position, and I think he deserves to get an opportunity to get out there and see what he can do.”
Pryor has been active in the last four games getting three snaps in each of the last two games. In the win vs. Kansas City, Pryor started the second quarter and promptly went three-and-out. The first two downs were handoffs to Darren McFadden and the third was an incomplete pass. Last week he had three plays in the shotgun when the Raiders were inside Carolina’s 10-yard line.
Allen says he weighed his decision on who would be best suited to win the game while looking towards next season. He’ll also let Pryor play as long as he feels he is effective.
“Yeah, if he’s playing well…he’s the starter and we’re going to go into it with him the starter just like we would any other game and the plan is for him to be the starter and then we’ll see what the game dictates after that,” Allen said.
Pryor admitted he’s nervous making his first start since he led the Ohio State Buckeyes to a 36-21 win over Arkansas in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. Pryor was named the game’s MVP.
Earlier this week, veteran defensive tackle Richard Seymour was placed on season ending injured reserve with knee and hamstring injuries. He hasn’t played since Week Eight and given his bloated salary and advanced age, he likely won’t be wearing silver and black in 2013.
Cornerback Phillip Adams was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury so he will be replaced by Brandian Ross and will be on the opposite side of the field from Michael Huff. Tony Bergstrom is ready to play at right guard if Mike Brisiel is unavailable. Brisiel has an ankle injury and listed as questionable.
Running back Mike Goodson was out with an illness on Thursday but returned to practice Friday. Strong safety Tyvon Branch (ankle) was on the field and should be healthy enough to play on Sunday.
The Chargers are a banged up bunch. Running back Ronnie Brown was limited in Friday practice after missing Wednesday and Thursday. He is questionable with a hamstring injury. ILB Takeo Spikes (hamstring) had two full practices after missing Wednesday He starts on Sunday. ILB Demorrio Williams (ankle) went from limited to a full participant on Thursday and Friday. He’ll be available on Sunday. CB Shareece Wright (shoulder) was a full participant all week and is also good to go on Sunday.
Although the Raiders have struggled to run the ball this season, with Chargers’ linebackers Donald Butler and Spikes nursing injuries, Oakland might have an edge in trying to exploit this possible weakness.
LB Miles Burris (knee), DE Jack Crawford (toe), WR Juron Criner (hip), TE Brandon Myers (shoulder), TE David Ausberry (knee), T Khalif Barnes (triceps)
QB Carson Palmer (cracked ribs), CB Philip Adams (groin)
S Tyvon Branch (neck/ankle), G Mike Brisiel (concussion/ankle)
San Diego Chargers
ILB Takeo Spikes (hamstring), ILB Demorrio Williams (ankle), CB Shareece Wright (shoulder)
RB Ronnie Brown (hamstring)
LB Donald Butler (groin)
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.