Terrell Pryor is the Raiders' X-factor on offense.
He can beat a defense with his legs and arm and is a master of improvisation. Even when each defender fulfills his role and executes his responsibility to perfection, there is still the possibility that Pryor can extend the play and make something happen. A challenging and frustrating matchup in general, what makes Pryor even more dangerous is that he continues to make strides every game.
"I think, for right now, I'm playing pretty decently," Pryor said on a conference call with Philadelphia reporters. "I just have to keep taking steps forward, but I'm going to get a lot better in this back end of the season."
Pryor and Eagles head coach Chip Kelly have a bit of a history, as Kelly tried to recruit the former Pennsylvania high school football – and basketball – star to play quarterback for him at the University of Oregon. Pryor has said before that he and Kelly clicked, and if it was not for Oregon being on the opposite side of the country and so far away from his family, he likely would have made the commitment.
"Just his personality, he's a great guy," Pryor said of what he likes most about Kelly. "Phenomenal coach, obviously. He's won big time in college. He's just a great guy, and I like being around guys like that who love football and are excited about getting better and making his (team) better. Anytime you talk about Chip Kelly, I have nothing but positive things to say about him."
Kelly was equally effusive in his praise of Pryor and knows the Eagles face a substantial challenge in trying to slow him down.
"Really good athlete," Kelly said. "I think the first thing that will strike you when you see him is just actually how big he is. You watch him on tape, he had a 93 yard run, the longest run for a quarterback in NFL history. But when you see him you look like you're looking at a defensive end. There's two guys that I've had an opportunity to coach against, Cam Newton and Terrelle Pryor, that when you look at them they're kind of like an NBA power forward, but they can run, and that's kind of the thing that jumps out at you is his athleticism.
"I think he's really come along as a quarterback. We actually faced him my first year at Oregon in the Rose Bowl, and I think he's a really good player. I think he's growing. You can see him gaining more confidence each week. He's really working on everything in his game. But I think the one threat that he's always had is his ability to kind of take the ball and tuck it and run, so you've got to be really conscious, similar to like in the Washington game when you had (Robert Griffin III) that you'd better know where your rush lanes are, you'd better know who's got containment and where we are and try to keep him hemmed in and not let him escape because when he escapes it might not be a 6 yard gain, it could be a 60 yard gain with the type of wheels that he has."
Sunday will mark the second time Pryor and Kelly go head-to-head. The first time was the 2009 Rose Bowl, Kelly's inaugural season as head coach at Oregon, when Pryor and his Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Ducks, 26-17. Pryor completed 23 of 37 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, adding 20 rushes for 72 yards – accounting for 338 of Ohio State's 419 total yards. With the way Pryor has played for the Oakland Raiders and excelled as a dual threat, he could once again account for a majority of the team's total yards on offense. The Eagles defense must prevent that from happening.
Pryor knows he is going up a defense that has, like himself, steadily improved over the past month and is eager to show it can shut down one of the league's most dynamic threats.
"We can't take them for granted," Pryor said of a 3-5 Eagles team coming off two tough losses as home. "This team's coming in hungry. ... We're going to have to bring our 'A' game."
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