The Pryor Effect on Darren McFadden's rushing

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Week 1 was Pryor's week to shine and he did so, busting out with a huge rushing day. In Week 2, though, Pryor was held relatively in check. Fortunately for the Raiders, it was Darren McFadden to the rescue, breaking out for the big day that fans have been waiting for ever since that injury that sidelined him in 2011.

To recap, 19 rushes, 129 yards, 6.8 avg and 4 runs of over 20 yards.

But was it just a matter of "DMC getting on track" or was it something else?

One of the tenets of the Read Option play is to force the defense so that "They Can Never Be Right." If they play one way, go the other; if they go that way, go the first way. The read is designed to put defensive players in jeopardy and forces THEM to make quick reads. The QB must then decide upon the proper decision based on his read of their reactions.

If all goes well, the defense is never right. If they play to contain Pryor, DMC gets free. If they attack DMC's running lanes, then Pryor runs wild.

In Week 2, very often the Jags were not right.

Here are three plays that show this effect. In particular, just by having Pryor execute the run fake it can influence potentially all the linebacker-level players and get them to vacate their gap responsibilities. The result is that this eases and simplifies the blocking responsibilities; since defenders are putting themselves out of position, linemen just need to seal them or wall them off instead of fighting them head-on in open space with two-way gos. In some cases, the defenders run themselves totally out of the play, leaving blockers with no responsibilities!

Obviously it won't always work this way. Struggling teams sometimes try too hard and players can try to do too much and overpursue. We've seen this with the Raiders in the past and this may be one reason why the attack was so effective against the Jags' defense.

Pryor's play 1 :

Pryor executes the fake handoff to DMC. Notice that the linebacker level will bit hard on this. The Edge Defender (Jason Babin) is left unblocked and sells out on the DMC Fake. The two linebackers (Geno Hayes and Paul Posluszny) both attack McFadden's run gaps. Safety Dwight Lowery is the contain man and he is blocked by Marcel Reece.

Lowery is the contain man, but everyone else has crashed hard inside. There is no help.

Jason Babin sold out on the run fake and now can't get to Pryor. The linebackers are walled off. Nothing but green grass.

McFadden play 1 :

This is the same play as above. AND Olson calls it right after the Pryor's play. So you know that the Jags' defense has it fresh in their minds. They just gave up about 27 yards to Pryor on the read play. Executing this again gets the defense to bite hard on Pryor. Lowery plays it the same and this time both linebackers jump out to attack Pryor's running lane. Oops. DMC has the ball!

Pryor's run fake gets 4 defenders to the outside. Babin is blocked by Reece (nice block, by the way).

The two blockers seal the linebackers and there's a huge gap to run thru. Nothing but brown dirt in front of DMC (Damn infield) !

McFadden play 2 :

Very similar action as the previous two plays. This time Posluszny stays at home, but Geno Hayes bites so hard on Pryor's fake that he takes himself totally out of the play. Hayes is actually left unblocked. in this play.

Three defenders on the right side of the field. Notice the totally open middle of the field. Also, Wis gets a nice release and block on Poz.

Reece gets the block on Babin (another nice one). And look at that hole. Huge.

Tony Pashos really wants to do something, but there's no one there. Hayes is busy sliding around on the dirt. So Pashos gives a token chuck to Babin just to make sure he doesn't close the hole.

When thinking about the Option play and the running QB, many fans will think only of the effect it has on the Unblocked Edge Defender. That is usually where the conversation begins and ends. And it is true that the Edge defender is important. He can determine many things depending on how he reacts; he particularly important in cases where he is left totally unblocked because he becomes very dangerous.

But it is perhaps even more important to pay attention to the influences that are felt all across the defense. By looking at how the linebackers move and flow, we can see the very clear effect Pryor had on the running game. There were no run fits during these big runs. These weren't just holes being opened up, they were gigantic gaps because the defensive responsibilities were gone.

If the first level does their job--and it is a credit to both the offensive linemen and Tony Sparano that these men are able to make their blocks--then there are large open areas of field to run into, leading to big runs.

In the past year or so, there have been many instances where there was a big gain to be had on a running play but because a missed block or poor execution by the line or a missed gap cut by the runner resulted in a poor play. In this case (and hopefully in the future), the Raiders were able to get DMC into the clearing and running free. He rewarded us all by delivering those yards.

As we come up on the Monday Night game against Denver, keep an eye on this. Greg Olson has been experimenting and adding to the scope of these plays. He's been tinkering with it and has refined some elements of it. With an extra day of prep time, we might see some new implementations that will (hopefully) be very effective.

Hopefully we will see more of the Pryor Effect at work.

On a side note : obviously not every DMC run was a result of the defense being fixated on Terrelle Pryor. There were some cases where the blocking was just excellent or the one cross-field running play where DMC just made something happen. This is just to point out that when Pryor is effective running the ball and drawing attention from the defense, DMC is more likely to break big runs and perhaps even a huge one. This is a significant advantage. And considering that the offensive line is still a question mark and a work in progress, the Raiders can use any advantage they can get.


For more details on these plays as well as some others, visit