PHOENIX -- He made big plays, now he must master the position. That’s the next step in Terrelle Pryor's evolution as a receiver, one Washington Redskins coaches want to see. If that happens, he can go from being a one-year productive player to a consistent force.
It can be as simple as ignoring his steps.
“Sometimes, receivers, when they first start playing receiver, they count steps,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, “and they’re like, ‘OK, one, two, three, four, five, six,’ then it becomes natural.”
That’s when receivers such as Pryor can enhance their game. Rather than worrying about his steps, he can eye defenders and set them up with stronger moves. It’s why, as of now, the Redskins consider Pryor raw, as do many others in the league. Still, the tantalizing part is that he caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns last season with Cleveland.
“There’s nuances to the game that he’s going [to learn],” Gruden said. “Those are all things that he can work on, and he did great on some of them. Some of them he was very effective [on], some of them he can work on, [like] reading zones and some of our option routes.”
But transitioning from NFL quarterback to receiver does not happen without a certain amount of work, something many point to with the 6-foot-4 Pryor. The 27-year-old had been working out in Pittsburgh since early in the offseason and went to Florida this past week. He was part of a group that included Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.
“He’s not coming in here thinking he’s a finished product with one year of playing,” Gruden said. “He understands that he has a long way to go, and he’s going to work at it. He has a strong desire to become great, and you can argue that he already had one great year. To be a great player in this league, it’s got to be consistent year in and year out. He’s got the height, he’s got the speed, so now we just got to keep working with him.”
Gruden praised Cleveland coach Hue Jackson for helping Pryor develop in 2016. But one reason Pryor signed in Washington stemmed from others telling him how Gruden could help him develop more. That, and the fact that the Redskins’ quarterback situation, for 2017 at least, is better.
Gruden also recalled how Pryor fared versus Washington early last season, catching five passes for 46 yards and a touchdown. Pryor caught a back-shoulder pass against corner Josh Norman. Then, on a double-team in the red zone, the long-legged Pryor ran a crossing route in traffic to break free.
“You just watch him running around, and you’re like, ‘Golly, who’s that guy?’ “ Gruden said. “He’s a good-looking guy in a uniform, that’s for sure. Tall, long-legged guy. You can tell he’s a great competitor. He was at Ohio State, and will continue to be.”