Oakland Raiders: The wide receiver logjam

The Oakland Raiders did not have one of the better passing offenses last season. Flip flopping between struggling quarterbacks Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin gave no continuity to the offense, while Rod Streater was the only consistent pass catcher. The Raiders were in the bottom 10 of most passing categories, and needed an upgrade.

The team first signed veteran receiver James Jones, formerly of the Green Bay Packers. Jones worked with current Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie in Green Bay, and McKenzie knew he could be brought in to be a sure handed No. 1 type receiver. Then they traded for veteran QB Matt Schaub.

Behind Jones and Streater is a cluster of talented bodies who are currently battling it out in camp for meaningful snaps, and in some cases a roster spot. Here is each of them, and what they could bring to the table.

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Andre Holmes (6-5, 205 pounds): Holmes played lights out football toward the end of 2013, catching 25 passes for 431 yards and a touchdown. Holmes is a large option on the outside, and frequently leaped over defenders to snag a ball. He has continued his hot streak into camp, lining up as a starting outside receiver in 3-wide sets and making plays up and down the field. Matt Schaub said even that Holmes will be their field stretching playmaker

Given his production and upside, his roster spot is probably guaranteed, as well as a role carved out in the offensive game plan.

oakland raidersDenarius Moore (6-0, 190 pounds): Despite being one of the few playmakers in Oakland since he was drafted, Moore doesn’t seem long for the Bay Area. It’s already been argued that the team should trade Moore while they still hold his rights in order to get proper compensation.

Moore has been an inconsistent weapon. Although he averages over 15 yards per reception in his career, he is plagued with drops and has landed in Dennis Allen’s dog house a few times. Holmes has already passed up Moore on the depth chart, and unless Moore becomes an outstanding return man this camp, he will definitely be gone by week 1.

juron-criner-wr-oakland-raiders_pg_600Juron Criner (6-3, 220 pounds): The forgotten man of the group, not many remember the budding impact Criner had his rookie year in 2012, showing off great route running skills and jump ball ability. He fell behind Holmes and Brice Butler early in 2013 then went on IR with an AC joint sprain.

So far in 2014 camp, Criner has been making coach’s heads turn with acrobatic tough catches all over the practice field, including a deep jump ball on Family Day. Criner likely will only play about 10-20 percent of offensive snaps IF he makes the team, and will likely have to carve out a role on special teams just to make his roster spot a lock.

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Greg Little (6-2, 220 pounds): We’ve already pointed out how Greg Little has become a star this training camp, overcoming his drops and showing off the talent that made him a second round pick of the Browns in 2011. He has caught everything thrown at him over any defender that lines up on him.

However Little’s roster spot depends on if he can make an offensive contribution. He has never played special teams outside of seven kick returns he made in 2013. He would need to beat out Andre Holmes for a spot in starting three wide sets to secure his roster spot.

Brice Butler (6-3, 210 pounds): Last year’s impressive 7th round rookie, Butler managed to play meaningful offensive snaps for the first six weeks before floundering and letting Andre Holmes run away with a starting spot. Butler showed outstanding speed and great hands, but struggled adapting to NFL offenses. He spent the offseason training with Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green.

Even if he has developed his outstanding potential into tangible on-field skills, Butler is already buried on the depth chart, and doesnt stand much of a chance to rise up, barring injury. He will likely have to make a role covering kicks in order to stay in Oakland.

Greg Jenkins (6-1, 208 pounds): Jenkins wasn’t promoted to the Raiders’ active roster until mid season in 2013, and only played special teams. He returned both kicks and punts in addition to running them down. He made a fumble recovery for a touchdown on Thanksgiving vs the Cowboys.

Jenkins will probably never see an offensive snap, but given that he knows special teams better than anyone, his roster spot is a lock. (Dont believe me, ask Matt Slater on the Patriots.)

Mike Davis (6-0, 189 pounds): Davis is more of a “name” undrafted free agent. He has speed to beat most corners, which he has done throughout camp so far, but is unlikely to ever see the field even if he made the team. His speed his his primary asset, and if he can use it to translate into special teams skills, he can lock up the final wide receiver spot.

As shown, wide receiver is a stacked group this year. As long as the signal caller plays consistently, this group should be able to make plays and help the Raiders through a brutal schedule.

Here is our prediction for the unofficial final roster in terms of the receivers.

-Andre Holmes

-James Jones

-Rod Streater

-Greg Little

-Juron Criner

-Greg Jenkins

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