May 26, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Terrelle Pryor (3) looks to throw during OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
In 2010 when the Philadelphia Eagles were looking for a quarterback to lead the team following their split with long time quarterback Donovan McNabb, the team turned to a quarterback with less than superior throwing ability, but still to a player who fit their system well and could lead a creative and dynamic offense. That player was Michael Vick.
Oct 6, 2013; East eadutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) scrambles during the first half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
Vick fit Andy Reid‘s offensive approach to the game. He possessed an only adequate arm, but packed some real strength in that same arm. This allowed Reid to utilize a vertical attack in the throwing game, which demanded defenses to spread out. In turn, this gave running backs for more space to run and allowed for more varied routes in the passing game. The experiment worked pretty well, as a team reeling from the loss of their long time franchise quarterback managed to win 10 games and the NFC East. Vick may not have been the ideal starter, but for a team that lacked a true starter, he filled in well when necessary.
This year the Cincinnati Bengals may possess their own version of the 2010 Michael Vick in Terrelle Pryor. The Bengals have a firm starter in Andy Dalton, but lack of strong backup. They have made it a priority to upgrade the position over the past few seasons. They drafted A.J. McCarron in 2014 and signed both Josh Johnson and Pryor this offseason. As the offseason progresses, time may prove Terrelle Pryor to be the ideal backup for the team.
Like Vick in Philadelphia, Terrelle Pryor has been matched with an appropriate coach in Hue Jackson; in part, it’s why the team gave him a tryout this offseason. Jackson is the man who gave Pryor his original shot in the NFL after his Ohio State career ended in tumultuous fashion. He likely chose to draft Pryor due to his athleticism and arm strength. Jackson likes to employ a dynamic offense, and like Reid, Jackson does so effectively.
Pryor’s skill set would allow Jackson to be as creative as he wants to be. His ability to run is at an elite level amongst NFL quarterbacks. And because Jackson is looking to implement a power running system, Pryor’s ability to run would naturally add something to this offensive approach. The combination of he and Jeremy Hill or Giovani Bernard could be deadly in a read option situation. And with regards to Rex Burkhead, Pryor’s ability would likely make him a better running back in such a situation.
As for the passing game, Pryor’s throwing ability (or lack thereof depending on how you look at it) would be aided by the running attack. Pryor’s ability to run at any moment demands that the opposing defense employ at least one defender to specifically guard against Pryor’s potential to run. This while Hill’s ability to break a big run would also force defenders to focus more on the run and less on the pass. All this would ease the passing defense Pryor would have to overcome and theoretically allow him to be more effective.
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More than this, the Bengals have taken some time to help Pryor along. The team signed veteran wide receiver Denarius Moore earlier this offseason. In 2013, Moore was one of Pryor’s top targets. Moore was one of the team’s deep threats that helped Pryor spread the field when under center. Having a solid rapport with a receiver he’s likely to work with in camp is an unexpected advantage for a quarterback in Pryor’s situation. But this advantage may allow the Bengals to get a better understanding of exactly what kind of potential Pryor has.
Let me be abundantly clear, I don’t expect Pryor to start for the Bengals, but this wasn’t the intention with Vick in 2010 either. Rather, what I see in Pryor is what some saw in Vick. A unique, versatile quarterback who, if necessary, could potentially take over the team, present a unique threat, and help the Bengals win games.
The skill set of the two quarterbacks is similar, as is the auspicious coaching situations and offensive approaches to the game. If Terrelle Pryor proves he has improved as a decision maker, I expect the Bengals to have a unique threat at quarterback who is a capable backup; one who is similar to that of Michael Vick.