It was the 22nd and final day of Raider training camp in Napa and there were two newcomers on the field. Terrelle Pryor we knew would be here, but a late addition was veteran cornerback Lito Sheppard. Both players were full go with their teammates but, understandably, it was Pryor who garnered the bulk of the attention.
First observation was his number. He suited up as number 6, which I had theorized he would receive when Derek Hagan changed to number 80 earlier this week. Pryor would have liked to have the number 2 but as he explained, “Coach won’t let me wear No. 2. Why? I don’t know. You tell me. He won’t let me wear No. 2. I’m just going off what coach tells me.”
Raider fans certainly know why. The most infamous “Number Two” to ever put on a Raider uniform was colossal bust JaMarcus Russell. Pryor wearing that number would have caused him to receive a lot of flack from the media and fans. The other two Raiders to wear the number were Aaron Brooks and Leo Araguz. So, yeah, he wouldn’t be in good company. Best to stick with number 6.
When the new number 6 started out, it was mostly handoffs, which in themselves showed how unfamiliar he is with his fellow Raiders and the playbook. He had some botched exchanges with his backs and at one point collided with Rock Cartwright on a handoff attempt.
When they got into team drills, things got worse. His first six snaps were all handoffs. Of those six, he fumbled two of the snaps. They were clean snaps by third team center Alex Parsons but Pryor had difficulties with timing and snap counts.
He didn’t have his first pass attempt until his eighth snap and it was a pass into the flat that wobbled wide of the back so far that it could have been ruled a lateral and therefore a live ball. His next pass came a few plays later for his first completion but it was another wobbly short pass. He would later have another pass into the flat very much like his first one that wobbled like a wounded duck incompleted.
His line looked like this: 16 snaps, 4 of 9, 5 handoffs, and 2 fumbles. Of his four completions, only one was a good looking pass. All of the others were fluttering and not on target. His best looking pass of the day was an incompletion, mainly because I don’t think Kevin Brock expected it to be a tight spiral. The pass sailed through his hands.
Pryor attributes his play to being unfamiliar with his new team.
“The problem is that now I’m 17, 18 days, practices behind right now,” said Pryor. “I’m just playing catch up right now. Some of the stuff is getting there, and I’m starting to get familiar with some of the stuff. But it’s been one day. Give me a couple of days, and I should be able to fill it in and feel a lot more comfortable.”
Some of his issues can indeed be chalked up to lack of familiarity. But there were also some mechanical and accuracy issues that we have long known to exist — the same issues he displayed in his Pro Day that caused him to score very low in quarterback skills.
Hue Jackson didn’t have a lot to say about his new draft pick. At this early stage there are few observations that can be made.
“I think the guy is big, athletic,” said Jackson. “I think he can throw it. He looks like a quarterback, feels like a quarterback, sounds like a quarterback, and I’m very excited to work with him… I thought he did a good job, first day, and we weren’t able to give him a lot of information. All this happened very quickly but got him here. Obviously he’s here, he’s ours, and we’ll get him ready.”
Jackson has said that Pryor was brought in to play quarterback. At least that is the initial goal before considering anything else. Pryor will not say much on the matter. He deferred any decision about whether he is going to play quarterback for the Raiders to his head coach, but added that he is indeed determined to play quarterback in the NFL.
Early indications are that the Raiders will see whether he can play quarterback while knowing that with his physical attributes, he can move to another position. Pryor said that the only other position he has played was running back his freshman year in high school.
Pryor would not say what strengths he brings to the Raiders, though it would seem obvious watching his tape from Ohio State: his elusiveness and speed. While Hue had him playing the traditional pocket passer role in practice today, the one time he escaped the pocket resulted in his best looking completion. Pryor skirted a corner blitz, ran out right, and on the run hit his receiver on the numbers. He early plays best while on the move.
This could be the last time we will see him for quite some time. He will have a couple of weeks of closed practices before his regular season suspension begins. Hue Jackson said he is not sure yet if Pryor will play in the Raiders’ final preseason game in Seattle.
As for the other new acquisition, Lito Sheppard, his job will be much easier. He is a 10 year NFL veteran playing a far less demanding position. He looked decent today in practice. He certainly has a good shot at making this young team.
“It’s a fairly young group,” said Sheppard. “With that you’re going to have some mistakes in some area … They definitely want to see some veteran leadership around and I think once I get in shape, a little game shape, I’ll definitely be a big part of whatever they have planned.”
The one thing that stands out to me in this quote is that he states he isn’t in game shape. This is a bit concerning. How can he come in and lead by example if he is not keeping himself in game shape? It could mean that he is just a camp body while Chris Johnson is out for the preseason. Then again, Sheppard would be hard pressed to play as poorly as Walter McFadden has thus far in camp.
Sheppard will not be playing in the preseason game Sunday against the Saints so we won’t get a chance to see how he might fit in until the final game of the preseason. His veteran experience would suggest that he has a good chance to be the Raiders’ third corner. At this juncture he could be the third corner or unemployed. Unfortunately we won’t be able to see him in practice to get a better indication.