While the Oakland Raiders hope they have found their quarterback of the future in Terrelle Pryor, the jury is still out on whether oft-injured Blaine Gabbert will be running the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense for years to come.
Pryor looks to build on an impressive season-opening performance when the Raiders play their home opener Sunday against a Jaguars team that again will have Gabbert watching from the sidelines due to an injury.
Oakland visited Indianapolis last Sunday and coach Dennis Allen refused to say whether Pryor or Matt Flynn would start for “competitive” reasons. Flynn worked with the first-team offense for most of training camp but Allen went with Pryor against the Colts, a decision that nearly led to an upset victory.
In his fifth NFL game, Pryor completed 19 of 29 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown and set a franchise record for rushing by a quarterback with 112 yards on 13 carries. He became the eighth QB since the 1970 merger to throw for at least 200 yards and run for at least 100 in a game.
Pryor had a chance to put Oakland ahead in the final two minutes when he led the team to the Colts’ 8-yard line, but he took a bad sack and threw an interception on third-and-goal from the 24 with 31 seconds remaining that sealed the Raiders’ 21-17 loss.
“This one’s on me,” he said. “Everybody else did a great job. The receivers did a great job catching the ball when they had a chance. There’s no one really to point fingers at but me, literally, this time. I’ll take the blame and get better. We’ll be better.”
Pryor also threw an interception at the Colts’ 32-yard line on the Raiders’ first drive and completed just 1 of 7 throws over 20 yards.
“It’s a process when you’re trying to get better at something,” Pryor said. “I feel like I got better at throwing the ball and that I can take a team downfield with my arm.”
Allen liked what he saw from his inexperienced signal-caller, especially in the running game.
“That’s the element that he brings,” Allen said. “So, that’s always going to be there, his ability to create, his ability to make things happen with his feet. The thing that we judge on the practice field is his ability to make good decisions, his ability to throw the ball on time, with accuracy.
“Those are things that we want to see that he continues to improve because that’s what’s going to make him a really good quarterback, is if he continues to improve in those areas.”
Jacksonville was looking for improvement from Gabbert when he won the starting job over Chad Henne in camp, but he struggled in last Sunday’s 28-2 home loss to Kansas City and was hurt late in the game.
Gabbert sliced open the back of his throwing hand while scrambling in the closing minutes and needed 15 stitches to close the wound. This injury comes after he missed two preseason games last month with a hairline fracture in his right thumb and sat out the last six games in 2012 due to a forearm injury.
“It’s got to heal and we need to keep it clean,” coach Gus Bradley said. “The big concern would be with all the stitches that it could reopen and then the chance of infection occurs. So we’re going to handle that right.”
Gabbert completed 16 of 35 passes for 121 yards and two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, while getting sacked six times.
Henne came on in relief and completed 3 of 6 passes for 36 yards, and he should feel comfortable stepping in after starting the final six games last season and the last two preseason contests.
“Obviously it’s been a roller coaster, but at the same time, I just try to keep a level head,” Henne said. “I go out there each and every day, try to get better and compete and just show the coaching staff that I’m ready whenever my number’s called. … You never know what’s going to go on throughout the season. There are injuries that happen, and I just have to stay ready at all times.”
Henne finished with 2,084 yards passing, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 10 games last season.
“If there’s one good out of that now we have a guy that’s seasoned, that’s played a lot of football for us,” Bradley said. “We have a lot of faith in Chad. I know that he’s a guy we felt strongly about going through the whole process.”
Oakland ended a four-game skid to Jacksonville with a 26-23 overtime win at home Oct. 12. Gabbert left that game after injuring his non-throwing shoulder and was replaced by Henne.