Go to a K-Mart in Santa Rosa, California to sign autographs for the "City of Hope" charity event and you may end up giving a lengthy interview to a Bay area reporter. That's what happened to Cliff Branch, anyway. The three-time Super Bowl champion and former Raider wide receiver opened up on many topics. The topic that most tickled my fancy was his take on the current set of wide receivers in Oakland.
Branch said, "[Jacoby Ford] has a bright future; he is well ahead of [Darrius] Heyward-Bey."
Timeout -- he said what?
Ford is basically still a rookie with only a few starts under his belt. DHB has had two years to get acclimated to life in the NFL. What say you now that you are equipped with this knowledge, Mr. Branch?
"So there," he finished.
You can't really argue with him either. Perhaps the biggest differences between the two players are attitude and confidence. Plus it helps that Jacoby's hands aren't made of stone.
Ford seems to be light years ahead of DHB in terms of NFL mental readiness – attitude and confidence, etc. And that was a big knock on him coming out of college – was he mentally ready for the NFL? As it turns out, he apparently is.
"[Ford] is a playmaker," Branch went on to say. "He makes big plays. They were probably just counting on him to be a return guy. They put him in at wide receiver, and he made plays. He also became very consistent."
Branch also said that this is a make or break year for DHB. "This year is going to be a big year for Heyward-Bey; he has to show his stuff."
He also added, "My pick was Jeremy Maclin." Branch indicated that he would've taken Maclin over both DHB and San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree. So far, based on the early stage of their respective careers, Cliff Branch knows his wide receivers.
And he is spot on when he says it's proving time for Darrius Heyward-Bey. If he doesn't step up and have a big year in 2011, then he will start confirming the skepticism that says he is a bust. In order to get out of the doghouse, DHB is going to have to have a very productive season. In the third year of his mega-contract, the Raiders will be looking for him to at least double his career numbers in 2011. There is only so much room for patience in the NFL.
Branch cited the unmentionable as a prime example of NFL patience: "He was the quickest #1 pick to ever be released. His preparation, he wasn't prepared. Being a #1 draft choice, he should have been watching film. He didn't put in enough effort."
Though DHB has been given credit for being a hard worker, the results on the field thus far leave a lot to be desired. But many people chimed the same bells with regards to Darren McFadden after 2009 and just look how his make or break year turned out. Instead of crying for his release or trade, Raider fans wouldn't want to imagine their team without him in 2011.
I know you want me to, but I just can't go out on that limb right now. I cannot say that DHB will have a break out year. Even if it would make me look incredibly brilliant if he did. The main reason why I won't is not because I think he's a bust, but rather my belief that more than just one talented receiver stands in his way. I would also put Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens ahead of DHB.
Talented downfield blocker, extraordinarily fast, but soft hands is not how you would describe Heyward-Bey. And let me tell you, as a writer, having to write his name all the time is annoying. Therefore I declare it is necessary that he take the next step in his career. Or at least a few baby steps.
The jump from 2009 to 2010 was 17 catches for 242 yards; if we tack those numbers onto his 2010 total that would give him 43 catches for 608 yards. He would also increase his rushing attempts by two, running the ball six times for 67 yards and a fumble. He's been pretty consistent with his one touchdown per year, but I'll be generous and give him two receiving touchdowns.
I'll leave you with this word of advice though, Darrius -- Cliff Branch is watching you and he knows his wide receivers. You better give this guy a call this offseason and see if you can hook yourself to the belt loop of his pants for a while. Perhaps then you can be a playmaker with a bright future. Exactly what Al Davis has been looking for all these years – another Cliff Branch.
i watched all the raider games too, and he doen't get no balls thrown his way. is it his route running, no seperation, or no confidence from the q.b. cause the 1 game he got targeted a couple times (seahawks) he put up good numbers. yea he disappeared in some games this year (pittsburgh) (texans) (49ers) (cardinals), but so did the whole team! as a mater of fact, he got the pass interference call that set up jano for that chip shot fg he missed at the end of the cardinals game. the reason he got that was cause the ball was so far behind him from jc that he had to slow up. in our offense we run, no receiver is gonna put up great numbers because no one respects our passing game cause of our line and q.b. play. i bet his numbers would be a whole lot different with rich gannon in that offense! he made a star out of jerry porter, who by the way, is he even in the league anymore? better line play and qb will help him alot. and for those who think murphy is so much better, he hasn't done anything i can remember since steeler game last year!
I hope you are right Rob G, I watch all the Raider games and do not believe DHB has the potential to be a top NFL caliber wr. This would not be the first time the Raiders have reached for a player and that player did not work out. The Raiders continue to have a huge need at O-line. I don't care that DHB is a bust, the Raiders have much better wr's on the team now. The Raiders need to focus on the O-line in a big way. The Raider organization has neglected the O-line for long enough!!! DHB has terrible hands and is a track guy. As I have said before and I will say it again, DHB is a track guy trying to play football. It does not work that way most of the time. If the Raiders make moves to solidify the O-line they will be a force again in the NFL.
Common Don't Be So Brainwashed By The Media. I Garantee You That Murphy had more drops last year than DHB, Also I Garantee You Murphy Had More Opportunities To Prove His Worth Than DHB, I Went To A Few Raider Games Last Year And I Can Tell You, DHB Was Open Downfield At Least Twice A Game. Now If Cambell Gives Him A Fighing Chance To Grab At Least Half Of those, We'd Be Looking At A Completely Different Stat Line For DHB, Now Is He The Best on the Team now? NO. Could He Be? Well He Has More Intangables Than Anyone On The Team I Can Tell You That Much. Who Cares Where He Was Drafted That Was Years Ago, Untill he gets Targeted More Than 2 times A Dam Game, You Cant Even Judge His Value. Whats Worse Is If We Release Him And He Goes Crazy On Another Team That Acually Throws The Ball Consistanly Well.
you can be open all you want when opponents know that you can't catch! He definitely has intangibles that would give him the opportunity to be great, but what he needs to do is shake the nerves that tend to get the best of him when the ball actually does go his way. Believe me, I don't want him to bust anymore than you. Good comment my man
i feel bad for any receiver to have to deal with j. russell throwing him the ball. the one thing i do like about bey is he is a great blocker and doesn't give up on plays. unfortunately he drops some as well (as does murphy). schillens is so unpredictable its crazy. i think with better offensive line play in the pass, as well as campbell growing in the offense, bey will get better. would like to see a vet wr like santana moss to come in and help him. i like many was down on mcfadden as well, but once healthy with better play calling he excelled. if hue builds that bully on offense he says he is, i believe teams will stack the line and bey will get better opportunitys, but we must address the line early and often in the draft since we cant do nothing in free agency to help the team due to that dumb lockout. one more quick thing, we must resign Asomugha!
I completely agree with Spartacus on this one. DHB has been a complete bust and just hoping and praying are not going to help this track guy with terrible hands. The Raiders need O-line in a big way. They need to move forward from the DHB drafting just like they did with Jamarcus. The Raiders struck gold with Ford, Murphy, and Schilens. They should put the players on the field that give them the best chance to win, period!!! I am hoping they take an O-lineman with that second round pick, but Al seems to love his DB's.
DHB was the 7th pick (OVERALL) in the 09 draft, and hasn't even come close to justifying this selection. His numbers reflect a 7th round draft pick, and that is being generous. We can all hope and pray he will have a breakout year in 2011, but deep down, we (the fans) know different. We want to understand the insanity, and believe that Al Davis discovered a daimond in the rough, so to say, to hide the pain and reality that Davis passed on Percy Harvin, Jeremy Maclin, and Michael Crabtree for a track guy with no demonstrated natural football ability, so hope has become our only solice. Unfortunately, DHB just does not have it. Period. We can try to put any spin on it, but facts are plain facts. He has shown no glimpses of brilliance, and no game breaking ability. DHB has been given two full years to shine, and has not produced at any level worth mentioning. We are staring at a guy who literally has the chance to become a bigger bust than JaMarcus Russell, and that is a very painful blow to take...
I agree with what the topic says. I believe that having Chaz Schilens back in the line up along with our young WR corp having another year of experience and the resigning of Zach Miller should make DHB improve! I don't think teams will take DHB as seriouse as the other guys which may benefit DHB. If we can Improve our Oline then that would give Campbell more time in the pocket to allow DHB time to get seperation from opposing teams secondary. Yes DHB has hard hands but a lot of balls thrown to DHB were poorly thrown to him. If Ford wasn't gifted and talented we would have lost some of those games. The first game against the chiefs he made 3 spectacular catches 1 were he took the ball away from a for sure INT by Brandon Flowers. I don't think I have seen a WR ever do that and for Ford to do it twice in a year is amazing. Case in point with Campbell back in for nother year as the starter, getting more acclimated with Hue Jackson's and Al Saunders offense I am confident his timing with the WR's will be more in sync and make his throws more accurate! I ain't knocking Jason Campbell, I love the guy and I think he is going to very good for us in the years to come but I am just saying what I saw. We can't fully blame DHB for his progress!
spot on Ariel. Teams will be hesitant to put their best cover guys on DHB and it should make more opportunities for him in thecoming year. I also think the Raiders coaches could take it a step futher by putting him in on only three or four wide receiver sets, that way it becomes a misleading factor in their offense as though they don't even have confidence in him. Nice comment
Cliff Branch is spot on with this assessment. I have said since the pick of DHB that it was a terrible pick. It is not DHB's fault he was drafted number 7, that is the fault of the Raider organization. DHB does not have the hands for the NFL. Murphy, Ford, and Schilens are all better wr's than DHB and that is a major problem with the contract DHB has. I have said this all along, if DHB does not improve significantly, he is a complete bust. Like Branch has stated, Ford is a better player already and he does not have anywhere near the time DHB has had on the field. Ford is a play-maker, he goes and attacks the ball. The QB sees that and will go to him more often because of that. I hope DHB proves me wrong and has a great year, but he will be gone if he does not show up this year. His contract will be at the end, so the Raiders will not even get close to the number they gave him as a first round pick.
Would definately be nice to see Hey-Bey step it up! He works hard and he is a good kid, but without consistant seperation and the ability to catch and hold on to the ball he wont make it any further! Really like him, good personality, so heres for hoping he will make it! Go Hey-Bey!
@Harder2000 Receivers that should play: Ford, Murphy, and Schillens. DHB should be cut; he's awful. This is still a very weak position. Al is too old to pray for them shine...go after Santonio Holmes (long-term deal) and Santana Moss (one-year deal) in free agency. They can start/teach/push the young guys and make this team dangerous. After this year, Holmes and Ford would be your starters with Schillens and Murphy (or someone else) in reserve.