Forced into his job by default, Terrelle Pryor entered the season to Tim Tebow-esque expectations, and not the good (read: delusional) kind. The general consensus was that Pryor would be an inaccurate, unimpressive passer who was nevertheless a better fantasy than “real-life” option because of his running ability. He’d be a disaster, but sometimes he’d run for a 22-yard touchdown in garbage time.
What we’ve seen instead is a player who has put a team on his back — a team with no offensive line or defense to speak of — and made them not only interesting, but competitive. Never known for his accuracy, Pryor is completing 68.3 percent of his passes. He’s averaging 8.13 yards per attempt. Most impressive of all, however, is that he’s turned the ball over just twice in four games. Matt Schaub and Blaine Gabbert call that “one half.”
Pryor can’t save his bottom-barrel roster every week. Much like the rest of the NFL, he didn’t stand a chance against the Broncos (though he did draw them closer than anyone besides Dallas). But the quarterback everyone laughed at brought the Raiders to within a whisker of beating the Colts on the road, and guided them past Jacksonville and San Diego, the latter effort coming without his running back. A team that was expected to win maybe two games all year has already reached that mark one week into October.
Pryor is far from a finished product. Broken plays have been a common occurrence behind Oakland’s ramshackle line. But unlike the Tebows and Gabberts of the world, that’s all they are: Broken. They don’t become disasters because a desperate-to-impress quarterback tries to make something out of nothing. If we told you in Week 1 that the Raiders would get blown out in just one of their first five games (the fourth being started by Matt Flynn), would you have believed it? Absolutely not. Further along than anyone thought possible — and proof that some players just need a chance — it’s no longer inconceivable that Pryor will overachieve to the tune of earning himself a starting job beyond 2013, and not just plugging the gap.
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1. Justin Blackmon
Blackmon’s first catch of 2013? How about a 67-yard touchdown. Even with the abominable, incomparable Blaine Gabbert under center, there was no slow start for Blackmon coming off his four-game ban. Blackmon finished his day with five grabs for 136 yards and the aforementioned score, and served notice that he’s going to immediately challenge for WR2 value, even in hopeless Jacksonville.
2. Zac Stacy
Granted, it was against the Jaguars — who entered Sunday allowing 5.2 yards per carry and 165 rushing yards per game — but Stacy had easily the best game of any Rams running back this season, taking the rock 14 times for 78 yards (5.6 YPC). Expected to remain the lead back as long as his rib injury is as minor as he insists it is, Stacy is worth an immediate flier as a potential RB3.
3. T.Y. Hilton
This is the player we saw in 2012. Playing well ahead of glorified blocker Darrius Heyward-Bey, Hilton immolated the Seahawks’ league-best secondary, getting behind the entire defense for a 73-yard score in the first quarter before adding a 29-yarder in the third. Hilton finished his day 5/140/2, good for his second 100-yard game of the season. Hilton is going to remain boom-or-bust, but has laid to rest the notion he can’t make the same kind of impact in Pep Hamilton’s offense as he did in Bruce Arians’.
1. Matt Schaub
It took Schaub all of one pass to go where no quarterback had gone before. In a week where Blaine Gabbert, Jeff Tuel, Brandon Weeden and Carson Palmer all appeared in NFL football games, Schaub became the first player in league history to throw a pick six in four straight contests. Then, for good measure, he added two more “standard” interceptions, one to a backup defensive tackle named “Tony Jerod-Eddie.” That earned Schaub some pine, though the 31-3 Texans deficit likely had as much to do with it as anything else. Coach Gary Kubiak stood behind his quarterback afterward, but make no mistake: The hook will be quick if Schaub comes out of the gate slow against the Rams’ decidedly less fearsome defense in Week 6.
2. LeGarrette Blount
You were a star that shined too bright, LeGarrette. An increasingly bigger part of the Patriots’ game plan for reasons unknown the past few weekends, Blount did what he eventually always does Sunday: Fumble. That led to Bill Belichick doing what he always does, and banishing Blount to the bench even though he had no alternative with Stevan Ridley (knee) inactive. Blount touched the ball just three times over the game’s final 38 minutes. Ridley’s status is murky — isn’t it always in New England? — but his role should be that of reinstalled lead hammer upon his return, whenever that may be.
3. A.J. Green
Let’s make one thing clear: Green might be down, but talents of his level are never out. Nevertheless, with the Bengals putting the lid on their offense and taking the car keys away from Andy Dalton, Green’s WR1 blowups are going to be fewer and farther between than we’re used to seeing. The gifted third-year pro is averaging just 5.5/50 over his past four games, and has only one touchdown since Week 1. There are going to be big games — quite likely next week against the Bills’ still wounded defense — but Green is probably going to have a tough time living up to his 14.4 ADP. He’s a lower-end WR1 instead of the elite one we know he can be.
1. Anyone wanna tell Mike Sherman who his best players are, and that he needs to feature them every game?
2. After all the hits you’ve taken this season, this is what’s going to knock you out Michael Vick?
3. Why isn’t Hue Jackson already on a plane to Carolina?
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