Can Terrelle Pryor prove he’s not a one-year wonder?
As the old adage goes, NFL really stands for “not for long”. As a player, you never know when you might suffer a serious injury or have a major drop off in your production. Therefore, a general rule of thumb for NFL players is to get as much money as you can, whenever you can, because there are very few guarantees about what the future holds.
With this rule of thumb in mind, it was incredibly surprising to see Terrelle Pryor sign a one-year contract with the Washington Redskins this offseason. While it is unclear whether he was offered any long term deals by other teams, it seems that he left a four-year deal on the table in Cleveland before taking his talents to the nation’s capital.
This is a classic “prove it” deal. Considering he has only played one year as a receiver in the NFL and is already 28 years old, this was a major gamble for Pryor to not sign a long term deal. However, he’s betting on himself and I think he will win big. Here’s why:
Pryor Already Looks Like A Number-One Receiver
This was kind of overlooked last season because the Browns were so bad, but Terrelle Pryor already looks like a stud receiver. Pryor has all the raw natural ability to be one of the best receivers in the league. He has great size at 6‘4” and about 230 pounds. He also ran a 4.38 forty-yard dash and has MASSIVE hands. However, in only his first full season as a receiver, he showed that he’s far more than raw size and speed. He had over 1,000 yards in a less-than-ideal scenario in Cleveland.
Having over 1,000 yards is an impressive milestone for a lot of receivers, but how he did it was just as impressive. Last season, Pryor demonstrated an ability to gain separation from corners and simply catch the ball at a level so high that it’s hard to believe that he just started playing the position. He only dropped four passes all of last season and had a drop rate lower than Pro Bowlers Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, and T.Y. Hilton.
His ability to gain separation shows how hard he worked on his route running prior to the season. Last season, he had the third highest separation at target rate among number-one receivers at 2.76 yards. If he was able to achieve this kind of success in his first season at the position, the sky could truly be the limit for Pryor. He’s been working with former superstar receivers to try and fine tune his craft, most recently Randy Moss.
His Quarterback Situation
The “How good is Kirk Cousins?” question is one of the biggest NFL quarterback questions outside of “Is Joe Flacco elite?” However, regardless of what you think about Kirk Cousins, there’s no doubt that he’s a significant upgrade over the Island of Misfit Toys that was the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback situation last year.
Last season, five different quarterbacks threw at least 20 passes for the Browns and three different quarterbacks threw at least 140. With this revolving door under center, it was pretty difficult for Pryor to develop a strong rapport with anyone throwing him the ball. Along with being unable to develop a rapport with Pryor, none of these quarterbacks were nearly as good as Cousins (only Cody Kessler was particularly good at all).
As a unit, the Browns’ quarterbacks completed less than 60% of their passes last season and posted a cumulative quarterback rating under 80. Cousins completed 67% of his passes last season and had a quarterback rating over 97 while pushing the ball downfield far more often than the Browns’ quarterbacks did.
*All stats via Pro Football Reference
Along with being statistically superior and more stable than any player throwing Pryor the ball last season, Cousins is playing with a major chip on his shoulder. You know how we talked about the “How good is Kirk Cousins?” question? Well, the Redskins have not given a definitive opinion regarding this question. Cousins is expected to play under the franchise tag for a second straight season, something that’s pretty unprecedented for a quarterback. Cousins is playing to prove himself, and for a massive payday (like Pryor is).
He’s Going To Get The Football
Shockingly, even though the Browns lost almost all of their games last season, they still didn’t throw the ball nearly as much as the Redskins did. Cousins threw almost 50 more passes than the hodgepodge of Browns quarterbacks did.
It’s no secret that the Skins love to air it out and they have a gaping hole of available targets since Cousins lost his two favorite receivers this offseason, with Pierre Garçon going to San Francisco and DeSean Jackson heading to Tampa Bay. Both players had 100+ targets and over 1,000 yards last season.
Some of those targets will go to 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, who will be returning from an injury that forced him to miss his rookie season. Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Reed should also see additional targets if he’s able to stay healthy the full season (a big if). However, a majority of these available targets should go to Pryor, giving him every opportunity to have a huge season.
The Deep Ball
This isn’t rocket science. Kirk Cousins likes to throw the ball deep. Pryor loves to go deep. The Redskins lost their top deep threat this offseason (Jackson). Last season, Pryor was the third-most targeted receiver on deep passes (passes more than 20 yards downfield), tied with Jackson (and Antonio Brown).
In his final season in Cleveland he saw more deep passes come his way than most of the WRs in the NFL. Will that continue in Washington? pic.twitter.com/Fy8dCuIprA— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 15, 2017
Pryor was targeted this frequently down the field in an offense where his quarterbacks were not throwing the ball down field that often. Cousins very much has the green light to go deep when the opportunity arises. Last season, Browns quarterbacks averaged over a yard less per attempt and per completion than Cousins did (see above chart). Cousins also threw for the most yards in the league on deep passes.
Go long. pic.twitter.com/7Z8W8OuYP6— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 14, 2017
We can expect a lot of Cousins-to-Pryor downfield connections this upcoming season (if Pryor doesn’t outrun Cousins’ arm).
More Touchdown Opportunities
It’s no secret that the Redskins’ offense is way better than the Browns’ offense. The Redskins were third in the NFL in total offense and 12th in points scored last season, compared to the Browns who were 30th and 31st, respectively, in the two categories. This alone should provide Pryor with more scoring opportunities than he had last season.
However, a lesser known aspect of the Redskins offense last season is that they were TERRIBLE in the red zone. They were 30th in the league when it came to scoring touchdowns in the red zone, finding pay dirt under 50% of the time when they got inside the 20. With this being the case, expect them to use Pryor’s aforementioned 6‘4” frame and basketball skills for some jump balls to improve that efficiency.
All in all, it’s evident that Terrelle Pryor has an unbelievable chance to win the bet that he made on himself by signing a one-year deal. He looked like a number-one receiver in his first full season as an NFL receiver and is now playing with a much better quarterback in an explosive offense that can definitely use his talents. You can expect Pryor to have a monster season and sign a big money deal when he becomes a free agent again next offseason.
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