Hopes were high for Calvin Pryor in 2014. Off the glow of Sheldon Richardson's Rookie of the Year, Jets fans were hoping John Idzik's latest first round surprise would turn into another stellar young piece of the Jets' rebuilding project.
In year one at least it was not meant to be. When a safety makes a mistake, the results can be catastrophic for a defense, and Pryor made more than his fair share of mistakes. From Jordy Nelson's 80 yard touchdown in Week 2 to Lamar Miller's 97 yard touchdown in Week 17, Pryor took a lot of bad angles and missed a lot of tackles that contributed to a lot of big plays for the opposition. At times it felt like the Pryor bad angle leading to a big play was a weekly event. He missed 15 total tackles on the year
Pryor also didn't provide many of the positive game-changing plays fans were hoping to see. He finished fifth on the team in tackles. He only recorded half a sack, had no interceptions, and forced zero fumbles.
Even more disappointing, a midseason benching came for reasons that reportedly had to do with him missing meetings.
I still have hope for Pryor. I think he's talented. and here and there you could see flashes of that talent. It was evident in a late season game against the Titans where Pryor was flying all over the field disrupting plays. It doesn't always click at once for a rookie, but it is important to see stretches of promise like that.
Will Pryor improve? Will he become a quality starter? Will he become an impact player? These are things we cannot know. Hopefully the game slows down for him, he'll start anticipating better, take better angles, and become a disruptive force on defense. Building the Jets will become a lot easier if Pryor becomes another quality young part of the defense.
There are simply too many other needs for the Jets to not hand Pryor a starting job and hope for the best. One thing that could help would be adding a true free safety. Pryor seems like the type of guy who is at his best going downhill and flying to the ball. Having the responsibility of holding down the deep middle tempers a player's ability to take chances. It is a big job. Centerfielders like Earl Thomas, Jairus Byrd, and Devin McCourty who take away deep passes down the center of the field and whose range assists corners are wonderful players and extremely valuable. This just wasn't the role Pryor was meant to play. He is going to be at his best uninhibited and allowed to roam the field and fly to the ball. I have heard people suggest the best role for him is in the box. I'm not sure I agree. I don't think he's purely an in the box safety at least. His range is what gives him so much potential. He can move from one spot to another so quickly that a defensive coordinator should be able to create havoc by moving him around. You can disguise looks because Pryor can move big distances fast. At the snap he can get from where he is to where he needs to be in a snap.
This is the dream at least. Pryor needs to show improvement. The Jets can still help this process. Hopefully the new coaching staff can better get it out of him, and the new front office can acquire personnel who will allow Pryor to move into a role that suits him better.