Oakland Raiders Receivers a Deep and Talented Group
Justin Smith – May 18, 2012
The Oakland Raiders have a lot of talent and depth on the roster at the wide receiver position this year. Returning standouts Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy have all flashed moments of brilliance in their young careers, and fifth round draft choice Juron Criner has been turning heads in training camp a la Moore last season.
Carson Palmer is feeling comfortable with his new team after a rocky first season and has had time to work and mesh with his receivers unlike last year. Expect the Raiders passing game to do big things this year, and it begins with a deep and talented group of receivers.
The Raiders currently have twelve wide receivers in camp, with some of those likely to be cut in the very near future. There are some intriguing undrafted free agents, combined with the incumbents and the thus-far impressive Criner, there could be some gems unearthed. Either way, the Raiders have drafted, developed, and put together a deep group of young talent ready to make some noise in 2012.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: Although he's had some negative non-football headlines recently, DHB finally showed some flashes of his lofty draft status last season as he seemed to start to get it on the field. No longer afraid to attack the ball, and running far more crisp routes, Heyward-Bey put up career highs in catches, yards, and touchdowns and should only improve on those numbers with a full offseason with Palmer and a greater comfort and confidence in himself.
Denarius Moore: Moore was a steal as a fifth round draft choice last season and quickly served notice in training camp he was there to start and there to stay. He cemented that with a coming-out performance in Buffalo in Week 2 in which he caught five balls for 150+ yards and a touchdown. When Moore was injured later in the season, it directly contributed to the Raiders struggling and missing the playoffs. He is healthy, and should be opposite Heyward-Bey whether he's number one or number two.
Jacoby Ford: Ford is another player who has shown flashes of brilliance but has been plagued by injuries. Playing far bigger than his 5'9, 185 pound frame, Ford is an animal in traffic and attacks the ball with reckless abandon. Raider Nation expects him to get frequent action as a slot receiver, but he's the fastest player on the team and should see plenty of deep balls from the big arm of Palmer as well.
Juron Criner: Criner, could be the number four at this point. The Raiders need a guy with his skill-set. He doesn't have the best top-end speed, but he runs crisp, technical routes, catches everything that comes near him, has a nose for the first down marker and attacks the ball in traffic with uncanny body control. He has been as impressive as Denarius Moore was when he played his way into the starting lineup last season, if not moreso. They were both fifth round picks. Don't be surprised for Criner to see the field early, often, and before Louis Murphy.
Louis Murphy: Another player who has had some big moments but has had far more injuries. Murphy could be the odd man out with the rise of Criner and the impressive skill-set and showing of young Eddie McGee, who was on the Raiders practice squad last year and who has impressed the coaching staff. Murphy has excellent size and speed, but has been plagued by dropped passes and moments of mental lapses. The Raiders needed him in the past; but with this group, that's no longer the case. He needs to earn his spot.
Eddie McGee: As previously mentioned, McGee was coming on strong last season, impressing on the practice squad and he has continued that in camp this season. McGee has excellent size and agility, and even though he just recently became a wide receiver in college after playing quarterback much of his life, he has shown excellent hands and a natural ability to run routes and make plays. McGee should make the active roster and see special teams duties at first.
Duke Calhoun: A special teams standout with the Giants, Calhoun suffered a serious injury last season and was cut. Signed by the Raiders, he's most likely a special teamer at best, and a practice squad player at worst. He should make the team as the sixth receiver for his special teams play, and he did actually catch one pass while with the giants. He has good size and speed and could be a sleeper in regards to catching the ball, so don't be surprised to see him play in 2012.
Derrick Carrier: An intriguing prospect from tiny Beloit College, (Division-III) Carrier did what he was supposed to do: he excelled against inferior competition. A great size-speed combination, but very raw as a wide receiver. Some have talked of him moving to tight end, but it's not likely the Raiders do that two seasons in a row while David Ausberry is still on the roster and a better option. Carrier will likely make the practice squad; his talent, agility, size and speed are too interesting to simply cut loose. But he's too raw to make any impact this season.
Rod Streater: This unknown from Temple has really impressed head coach Dennis Allen as an undrafted free agent tryout and seems fully recovered from a shoulder injury that likely knocked him out of the late rounds of the 2012 NFL draft. He's a guy that, based on camp performance, will likely make the practice squad as a favourite of the staff for his work ethic and willingness to learn.
Brandon Carswell: Carswell didn't get much playing time at USC despite being highly recruited out of high school. Don't expect much from the local kid from Mesitas, Calif. He has good size and speed, but really never put it together in college. At best, Carswell is a practice squad player, but he's more likely one of the first receivers cut.
Thomas Mayo: Mayo was behind the eight-ball to begin with, being from a small school and being little known. He was having issues in camp with the dropsies, and limped off the field Tuesday. He's likely to be cut in the first go around.
Travionte (Tray) Session: Session played against lower-level competition at Nevada and still put up less than impressive numbers and was signed as a camp body, most likely. Not much is being said about him in camp. He's likely to join Carswell and be one of the first receivers cut.
When it all shakes down, the Raiders will probably keep six receivers: DHB, Moore, Ford, Murphy, Criner, and probably Eddie McGee. If they keep seven, it'll be Calhoun. Otherwise, look for Calhoun, Carrier and Streater ending up on the practice squad—and the other three being cut outright.
With the addition of Criner and the development of Eddie McGee, the Raiders should have six viable options at wideout to go along with a nice pass-catching backfield and an intriguing set of young, talented tight ends.
When combined with the potent rushing attack the Raiders are sure to have, it's exciting to think about this potentially dynamic passing attack and the damage that can be done through the air.
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