OAKLAND — Chip Kelly is very familiar with what Terrelle Pryor can do as a quarterback.
Kelly tried to recruit Pryor to Oregon when he coached there, lost to him in the Rose Bowl, and now gets the chance to face him in the NFL when Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles visit the Oakland Raiders.
“Terrelle was always driven to be a quarterback, which is an awesome thing,” Kelly said. “I’ve seen him play quarterback for a while; I lost to him in the Rose Bowl when he played quarterback at Ohio State. He threw the ball on us then. I think he’s starting to develop.”
Pryor and Kelly have both had up-and-down seasons in their first years in their new roles. Pryor has provided a spark to the Raiders’ offense with his game-breaking speed as a runner and improved passing.
Kelly has brought his up-tempo offense to the Eagles (3-5), who have put up a lot of yards but not enough wins to please Philadelphia fans.
Kelly has a fan in Pryor, who ultimately chose Ohio State over Oregon because of its proximity to his mother in Pennsylvania, and because he felt a pro-style offense would better prepare him for the NFL.
“I loved his personality and the fire he brought to the game,” Pryor said. “He came to my high school and spent a lot of time there, from showing me uniforms to showing me the playbook, some of the stuff that he runs. Seeing that was very interesting and intriguing, but my whole thing that cut it out right away was the distance.”
Here are five things to watch for when the Eagles visit the Raiders (3-4):
Pryor dazzled Raiders fans with his 93-yard touchdown run to open last week’s win over Pittsburgh — the longest run in franchise history and longest TD run ever by a quarterback. But Kelly has been most impressed with Pryor’s improvement as a passer. He is completing 63.1 percent, showing the accuracy that many doubted he had when he came out of Ohio State.
“They’re doing a lot more things with him as a passer,” Kelly said. “He seems like he wants to stay in the pocket and throw the ball. He’s that package that you worry about as a defensive group because he can throw it, but he can also tuck it down and make some really good plays. He’s obviously a very big threat, and we need to make sure we contain him.”
Because of injuries, the Eagles have had to use three quarterbacks this season. Nick Foles has clearly been the best passer of the lot and will get the start this week after sitting out one game with a concussion. Michael Vick started in the loss to the Giants but was replaced by rookie Matt Barkley after reinjuring his hamstring. Foles has completed 52 of 90 passes for 622 yards with six touchdowns. He has not thrown an interception, and has a 101.3 passer rating this season.
“He’s got a great grasp of where we are as a team offensively,” Kelly said. “He’s got a really good understanding of what we do and we’re excited to have him back.”
Tale of two halves
The Raiders have been a vastly different team in the first half than the second in recent weeks. Oakland has outscored the opposition 59-20 in the first half the past four games, generating 196.3 yards of offense to build the leads. That has changed in the second half when the Raiders have been outscored 63-10 and gained just 91.3 yards per game. That trend of fast starts could continue this week as the Eagles have been held scoreless in the first half the past two weeks.
For all the talk of Kelly’s fast-paced offense, the Eagles are averaging 67 1-2 plays per game, just 2 1-2 more than the league average. While it’s not quite what Kelly had going at Oregon, Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has experience going up against Kelly. Tarver was a defensive assistant at Stanford in 2011 when the Ducks beat the Cardinal 53-30.
Slew of sacks
The Raiders make it difficult for the opposing offense by using almost every player on defense as a pass rusher at times. Fourteen players have gotten credit for Oakland’s 21 sacks as the unusual blitzes have confused quarterbacks and are a major reason the defense is so improved from last season. The Raiders blitzed 35 percent more this year than at this point last season because they trust their secondary more in coverage.
“We’ve been able to implement a few more things that we want to try to do defensively,” coach Dennis Allen said. “We can get a little more aggressive.”