SAN DIEGO -- Plenty of passes missed their target, and a few simply were dropped. Some wobbled, others sailed. Only one deserves to be included in an instructional video.
Yet Terrelle Pryor is considerably less mysterious after spending three hours on an NFL field Sunday afternoon.
Much more important than the game itself, a 24-21 season-ending loss by the Raiders to the San Diego Chargers, was Pryor's three-hour debut as a starter, an audition to determine if he might someday evolve from tantalizing project to reliable NFL quarterback.
He just might.
Pryor's performance, even in defeat and despite scattered showers that turned Qualcomm Stadium into a well-manicured swamp, confirmed there
"He did some good things," coach Dennis Allen said of Pryor, who spent most of the season as an inactive third-stringer. "Obviously, there's still some work to be done."
Plenty of work still to be done. Pryor is not yet ready to start in the NFL, much less win. He is not a truly accurate passer and may never be. He needs to shorten his memory after mistakes. He faces a steep learning curve. He is adjusting to the speed of the league.
But he was not at all the disaster some feared he might be, based on an erratic training camp and uneven practices.
"On a wet, soggy field, I was most pleased with the way he protected the football,"
Pryor's passing numbers were pedestrian: 13 of 28 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His best throw surely was a beautiful 38-yard pass to wide receiver Rod Streater that led to Oakland's second touchdown, a 3-yard scamper by Pryor.
The 23-year-old showed himself to be a sturdy and elusive runner, as expected (49 yards on nine carries). He flashed leadership ability, which could not have been presumed. And his competitive desire, a key component for the growth of any quarterback, was unmistakable.
Pryor's aptitude for leadership and thirst for victory were on display early in the second quarter. During a second-and-14 play from the San Diego 17, Raiders running back Mike Goodson engaged in a scuffle with Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes, which led to teammates coming to the aid of each. Pryor physically yanked Goodson away from the scrum, flinging his teammate to the turf.
It was an impressive show of strength for a quarterback, even one who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 233 pounds. Moreover, it was a startling exhibition of leadership from someone who practically is a rookie.
"I love Mike Goodson; that's my guy," Pryor said. "That's one of my very good friends. I know that I slammed him. But you can't do that. We were about to score. ... I just said, 'Mike, you can't do that.' He said, 'What do you expect me to do? He hit me.' I said, 'You gotta be the bigger man.' "
Goodson and Spikes received personal foul penalties and were ejected, resulting in a repeated down, which erased a pass interference penalty Chargers cornerback Antoine Cason incurred while trying to cover Streater near the goal line.
Pryor simply lined up for the next play and scrambled 8 yards. He followed up with a 9-yard dart to wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey for his first career TD pass.
"He did a great job in the huddle," Heyward-Bey said of Pryor. "He kept everyone in line, called the plays right and executed. He made some plays out there -- and a few mistakes -- but he's new, and he will get that right."
With Oakland's offense putting up more points than it had scored since ringing up 32 in a home loss to Tampa Bay in early November, it was obvious Pryor's athleticism, his ability to move about the pocket and be a threat to run provided a dimension that troubled the San Diego defense.
"I think he earned the chance for us to evaluate him some more," Allen said. "That was a good first step in that direction.
"He needs to improve. There's still a lot of room for improvement, but there were some positive things that he did in the game that he needs to learn from and try to enhance."
Pryor eventually could, with proper cultivation, become an effective starter. He certainly expects as much.
"I will be great at the quarterback position," he said, "but I have to just let things slow down for me. Just let it slow down. Be calm, be a leader and get to the next play. If I do that, watch out for us."
It's only one game at the bitter end of a forgettable season. But the Raiders educated themselves. They can more clearly visualize the possibilities that come with Pryor.
As it is, they should have every reason to believe he is capable of working himself into a No. 2 role next season.
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