Breaking down Terrelle Pryor's move to wide receiver
By TAYLOR ROSEN
College Contributor Network
It's that time of year again. July is winding down, and we're just a month or so away from the season kicking off. All 32 NFL teams will use the next few weeks to practice and prepare for the upcoming season. Football is officially back with the arrival of training camp.
Training camp tends to bring about interesting headlines to the attention of all NFL fans. This year, one of the biggest headlines is coming out of Cleveland, yet again. We all know how training camp went for the Browns a season ago. However, there is currently a major transition taking place at Browns training camp, but it doesn't revolve around the man who stole nearly every headline at Browns training camp a season ago.
It's not often you see an NFL quarterback abandon his position in the midst of the prime of his career. But that's the massive mountain former Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Terrelle Pryor will attempt to climb, as he prepares for his first training camp as an NFL wide receiver with the Cleveland Browns.
"I believe I can do this,'' the former Ohio State quarterback said. "When I work out and when I train to do something, I don't do it just to be okay. I believe in my heart with my God-given ability that I'm going to be the best. That's not being arrogant or cocky. No one outworks me, so I believe in my heart if I put my mind to anything, I can accomplish it. I believe you have to have that edge.''
Pryor decided to make the switch from field general to pass catcher in late June. Since, Pryor has been doing a cluster of wide receiver drills in a variety of locations across the country. Pryor has been holding intense work out sessions with future hall of fame wide receiver Randy Moss, and current Browns receiver Josh Gordon. Browns quarterback Josh McCown even linked with the three in North Carolina to throw some passes to the new Browns receiver.
The trio of Moss, Pryor and Gordon have been close this summer. It seems logical to conclude the three have developed a close bond while training at the Randy Moss Football Academy camp, which Moss organized to help teach young kids the game of football. Now, Pryor is asking potentially the greatest receiver to ever play the game of football to teach him his ways. Pryor has all the makings to be an elite wide receiver in the NFL. The one thing that remains to be seen is if Pryor can consistently catch the ball, with a defender breathing down his neck.
Pryor has even raved about his newest teammate and mentor, Josh Gordon. Gordon will be forced to sit out this season due to another suspension but believes a combination of Pryor and himself would be lethal. Pryor has been ecstatic with Gordon's willingness to teach him the position, and the two have developed a close relationship since Pryor's made the switch.
"I've known Josh (Gordon) for about three years now,'' said Pryor, who shares the same agent with Gordon in Drew Rosenhaus. As soon as he heard I was making the switch, he got in touch with me and said, 'hey man, I want to work with you on some of the stuff at receiver because I think you can be great.' I had the opportunity to work out with him over the past few years, obviously throwing the ball to him and stuff before. He's a big role model for me. I really can't explain it. His work ethic -- he's been working very hard and it's been a treat to work with him.''
Pryor even chimed in on Gordon's troubled past in the league, and what he's doing now to turn things around.
"He's a great guy,'' said Pryor. "If you really spend time with him the way I've spent time with him over the years, of course he got into a little trouble but he's a great kid. He's made a couple of mistakes and he knows it and he's fixed that. He's working on his (charitable) foundation and talking about visiting kids in hospitals in Cleveland. He knows he's a role model and he's looking to make that change.''
Six-foot-4, 225 pounds and 4.33 speed in the 40-yard dash doesn't come along often. It's that rare combination of size, strength and quickness that you see the few elite NFL wide receivers who play the game today possess. That list of elite wide receivers who currently play isn't an extensive one, by any means. In terms of availability of those elite playmakers, the list of names shrinks even more when trying to obtain one of these pass catchers.
Pryor said Moss, who's also taken him under his wing, compares Pryor to other elite receivers in the game today, in terms of his speed and stature.
In fact, Pryor and Moss happen to be of very similar stature. Pryor and Moss are basically the exact same height. Pryor, listed at 230, has a bit of an edge in the weight department over Moss, who weighs 210 pounds. However, Moss has Pryor beat by a long shot in the 40-yard dash. Moss clocked an all-time best 4.25 40-yard dash time, while Pryor's best time in the drill was 4.38 seconds.
"I'm not going to say I'm not far off, but there's some stuff I look very similar with my cuts,'' Pryor said. "Randy pretty much talks to me about the similarities I have with those guys and some of the stuff I do better than them in terms of some of their routes. Big guys like myself, 6-5, 230, 220, it's not going to be as sharp coming off a cut as a 5-10 guy. But I've worked out with Josh (Gordon) and Mike Evans and I've seen how they get out of their breaks. I don't think I'm too far off from that. It's going to be interesting from that perspective.''
Maybe that's why the Browns didn't look too far into shopping around for an elite receiver on the open market. It takes an asset of equal value to acquire a playmaker of that caliber, and the Browns are not a team swimming in assets. But that's why the addition of Pryor is a low-risk high-reward gamble. The Browns need a playmaker out wide, and Pryor now has every opportunity to be that guy and ultimately resurrect his career.
It makes complete sense for the Browns, a team desperately lacking playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, to take this low-risk high-reward type of gamble on Pryor. If he can run crisp routes, and consistently catch the ball, he has all the potential and abilities to be one of the best pass catchers in the NFL.
The Browns had a few weaknesses a season ago - the team struggled mightily at converting on third down, scoring touchdowns in the red zone, and stopping the run on defense. The Browns only had 294 first downs the entire season. The team converted on a dismal 29 percent of its third down attempts, which is just not going to get it done in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.
The Browns offense ranked 28th in points scored per game, 23rd in yards produced per game, 20th in passing yards and 17th in rushing yards. Therefore, it's no secret the Browns are desperately lacking playmakers on offense.
Andrew Hawkins led the Browns in receiving yards in 2014. Hawkins finished the season with 63 receptions, for 824 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers aren't bad for a slot receiver, but to have your slot guy lead the team in receptions, doesn't exactly boast the team's weapons on the outside of the field.
NFL fans know what Pryor is capable of doing in the open field. So giving him the opportunity to showcase his long-strides and speed on the edge, could end up benefitting both Pryor, and the Browns organization this upcoming season. Maybe that's just the position Pryor was meant to play, he can display his size and speed in the open field whenever he is targeted. He has everything you look for in an elite wide receiver.
"Whatever position I'm playing, I believe I can do it,'' he said. "When I was playing quarterback, I believed I could succeed. The thing about playing quarterback is that it's repetition. You need the reps. If you're not getting them, it's tough to make progress. Some of the coaches know I can do it, but where are the reps going to come from with the great quarterbacks already there? So the biggest thing for me is to go with the plan and do what the coaches want me to do and be the best I can be at this position.''
With that being said, this isn't going to be a walk in the park for Pryor, at least it shouldn't be. Pryor's head coach, Mike Pettine, just wants Pryor to focus on the task at hand. Pettine doesn't want Pryor to think about having to play the quarterback position again. Asking a guy to go from orchestrating the offense for his entire playing career, to lining up out wide and catching passes with defenders attempting to ring their bell, could be asking too much. But that's a risk the Browns are more than willing to take at this point.
"It's a situation where he's bounced around,'' Pettine said. "(Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) Flip had him and we talked about it. I'm not going to eliminate that, but I'm not going to sit here and say, 'hey, there's a chance.' I want him to focus 1,000 percent on wide receiver, and if the circumstances change, then they change."
It may seem peculiar for a guy to play one position his whole career, set records at the collegiate level, be drafted at the professional level, and then be asked to switch his position. After already having won games in the league as a starting quarterback, now Pryor is being forced to make the switch, which is something he's more than confident he's capable of doing. For team executives and coaches, it's within their rights to expect a player to fulfill the commitment signed in the contract, and continue to stride forward and master their respective craft.
"As of right now, that's why he's here and (receiver is) the position,'' said Pettine. "When you start worrying about being the combo platter and 'maybe I'll still be a quarterback,' then he's going to have a hard time making it at the other spot. I'm not going to close the door on it, but for now, he's a wide receiver. Plus, I don't want a quarterback wearing No. 87."
Expecting a player to take step forwards and improve is normal, and it happens in nearly every sport. However, when you start asking a player to change a routine and the position they've played and worked to perfect since they were a kid, that's what makes what Pryor is attempting to do so difficult. Usually, the team requests the player switch his position before drafting them.
That's why many are intrigued by Pryor's decision to make the switch, and will have their eyes glued to the former Ohio State quarterback during his time back in the Buckeye state.
Taylor Rosen is a junior at Kent State University. He spent time with The Stater covering Kent State football and basketball. Taylor is from Cleveland, and has Cleveland sports under a microscope. Follow him on Twitter: @TRosen12