Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Nothing to lose with Pryor, but back off the excitement

So what’s to make of the Browns claiming Terrelle Pryor off National Football League waivers Monday?

Not sure what position to place in front of his first name. Quarterback? Wide receiver?

If it’s quarterback, he automatically becomes the second-best at that position on the team. If it’s wide receiver, don't get too excited.

The ex-Buckeye quarterback sure knows how to play the former position. Did it very well at Ohio State. Struggled to translate his game to the NFL, though.

After crashing and burning with four teams (Oakland, Seattle, Kansas City and Cincinnati), Pryor had decided that switching to wide receiver is his last chance to prolong his professional career.

The Browns have made it clear that Pryor will begin training camp next month as a wide receiver. He will be like a baby just out of the womb when it comes to catching footballs.

After spending his entire life throwing the prolate spheroid, seeing the opposite end heading his way will be somewhat like culture shock to the nearly 6-5, 235-pounder.

So when he tweets that “I will make a great WR” after making the switch upon his release from the Bengals, he has no idea what life is like away from lining up either under or behind the center.

Unless he’s the greatest athlete since Jim Brown ever to pull on a Browns jersey, he will encounter all kinds of problems as he learns a position so radically different  than the one he’s used to.

Instead of watching his receivers run routes, he will run them himself. It takes many years to learn the nuances of the position and he will have to be a sensationally quick study to come even close in camp.

Receivers run much more than quarterbacks. They must run precise routes. They are called on to block. That’s the mental part of the game Pryor might find difficult.

About the only area Pryor will find simpler is learning the playbook. Far less to absorb. Quarterbacks are charged with the most responsibility of any player on the team on either side of the ball.

Route discipline, especially in the Browns’ conservative move-the-ball–slowly offense this season, is essential. It is not learned overnight. Recognition of what the opposition is doing on defense also will be new to Pryor.

Catching the ball while on the move with someone headed in your general direction can play havoc with your concentration. The kind of hits wideouts absorb is significantly different than those taken by quarterbacks. A plus are his large hands.

It is going to be a long, uphill climb for the desperate Pryor. There have been a few quarterbacks who made a successful switch from quarterback to wide receiver, the most notable being Hines Ward, who quarterbacked at Georgia.

Some like Matt Jones and Brad Smith failed. Others like Joshua Cribbs, Antwaan Randle El, Marlin Briscoe, Freddie Solomon and Gene Washington found moderate success.

But none of the above ever made the switch this late in their careers. That’s what is facing Pryor, who it would appear is going to have to learn to play the game all over again from a much different perspective.

So while the move by the Browns is probably being met with some excitement in some quarters of Browns Nation, cautious optimism is about the best they can hope for with the ex-quarterback, especially since the club's weak receivers corps can't get any worse.

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