Oakland Raiders: Maybe Not So Deep at WR
John Doublin – Aug 2, 2012
Many in Raider Nation were shocked to hear that wide receiver Louis Murphy was traded by the Oakland Raiders to the Carolina Panthers for a conditional 7th round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The shock was offset by the fact that Oakland had a plethora of talented, young wide outs to fill the void left by Murphy.
Names like Juron Criner, Rod Streater and Eddie McGee being listed on the roster and receiving good reviews from coaches and fans in attendance at camp put the collective minds of Raider Nation at ease.
Then, the inevitable happened.
When 2nd-year phenom Denarius Moore missed time in camp with the dreaded hamstring injury, fans began to worry. Their worry was mitigated somewhat by reports that the injury suffered by Moore was minor and he will return to full participation in practice before the preseason starts. A sigh of relief could be heard from Raider Nation with the positive news.
Unfortunately, the relief was short-lived once injury news from day three of training camp was released.
3rd year receiver and special team's maven, Jacoby Ford missed practice with his own hamstring injury. The prognosis is not yet known and Raiders' fans are again filled with worry and anxious about the future of the position. Are any of the young, "up and coming" guys listed above ready to take over and play with the first team offense?
If Ford and Moore can't stay healthy, they'll have to be.
Streater and Criner stepped into the starting jobs for practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the injury bug affects much more than the offense or the wide receiver position. As mentioned before, Ford is a special teams standout, but Moore had been slated to see duty returning punts. Having one of these explosive receivers out is bad enough, but to have them both in the training room is concerning, to say the least.
One could argue that it's not a good idea to have your stars returning kicks in the first place. Returning kicks carries with it a much greater chance of injury, not to mention extra wear and tear on what are obviously fairly fragile bodies to begin with.
The two stars can be replaced on special teams much more easily than they can be replaced in the offense. Defensive back Brian McCann made the Dallas Cowboys as a kick returner and substituted fairly well for Ford last season. 2nd-year running back Taiwan Jones showed flashes of being a solid returner last year and returned a lot of kicks in college at Eastern Washington.
If you consider that nearly every 2nd string player with any speed knows he may be called upon to play on special teams, head coach Dennis Allen and special teams' coordinator Steve Hoffman will have plenty of players to choose from to supplement and/or replace Ford and Moore in the return game.
This leaves one to ponder how the offense will fare, should either or both of these young super-stars miss significant time in 2012.
The No. 1, or"X" receiver, position is sewn up by former 1st round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey. However, if Moore and/or Ford should miss significant time, the No. 2, or "Z" receiver will need to be replaced by one of the young, unproven guys.
Had the Murphy trade not happened, there would be no questioning who would step in. Murphy was the most experienced and had performed pretty well there in 2010. But, Murphy isn't in Oakland anymore, leaving the door open for an up-start to assume those duties. Streater, Criner and McGee are going to battle it out to assert themselves as the "Next man up" at the No. 2 receiver spot.
At the moment, it's a dead-heat between Criner and Streater, with McGee looking on from a distance. One of these young men will need to prove to coaches that they can be relied upon if one of the super-stars goes down for any length of time. Reports from training camp are suggesting they can, but there's a huge difference between performing in camp, and performing on Sundays during the regular season.
The best-case scenario is obvious: Moore and Ford don't get injured or miss any time. This would leave Criner, Streater and McGee to fight it out for the No. 4 and No. 5 positions, with the odd-man-out being relegated to watching from the sideline, or perhaps even the practice squad.
The worst-case scenario is that both Ford and Moore get injured and miss considerable time. This would force two of the aforementioned players into much more prominent roles in the offense, and allow for one of the lesser-known guys like Duke Calhoun or Derek Carrier to earn the No. 5, No. 6 and practice squad spots.
Ultimately, the coaches and Raider Nation will be hoping for the best with respect to injuries and the overall health of every player on the team. However, in light of recent events, general manager Reggie McKenzie, the coaches and the fans will be holding their breath, hoping that Ford, Moore, (and of course, Darrius Heyward-Bey) can stay healthy all year.
That way, they'll never have to find out if Criner, Streater, or any of the other young guys are ready or not—because some things are better left untested.
If you asked someone how the Raiders were set at wide receiver before the Murphy trade, the answer would have been easy—extremely deep. So deep in fact, that at least two or three very talented players were going to be cut. After the Murphy trade however, the depth at wide receiver could best be classified as "decent"—at best.
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