Young players with upside is the best way to describe the Oakland Raiders wide receivers. That’s great if you are playing Madden, but in the NFL experience counts. Another worrisome point about them is that the group of Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Johnnie Lee Higgins, and Louis Murphy has missed a combined 31 games over the last two seasons, which makes it hard to know exactly what the Raiders have in the unit.
Can the Raider wide receivers stay healthy this year and begin to develop their roles in the offense? Perhaps Al Davis needs to bring in someone to guide them along, like assistant wide receivers coach Jerry Rice or Tim Brown. I don’t really know who to put as the starters. According to the TFDS team depth chart, it goes like this:
Murphy is a fine young football player from Florida. He has looked really good in his first two years when he wasn’t hampered by a shoulder injury. Last year, he was second only to Zach Miller with 41 receptions. He started really hot as 12th among receivers in yards gained (238) and averaging 15.9 yards per catch with a touchdown in his first 15 catches. He was on pace for 80 catches for 1269 yards, but after his first three games of the season, Murphy had just one more game with five or more catches, the loss at Jacksonville. He would only score one more touchdown over the last 13 games of 2010.
Injuries are a killer and while Murphy only missed two games, he probably should’ve missed more than that. But the kid has a bright future in the NFL. He’s one of those workhorses who is very dedicated and can be relied upon if he can stay healthy. Murphy had a nice start to his career in Oakland and in the absence of Zach Miller, Murphy has been the go-to guy.
He is a team player and has a tremendous on-field presence. Murphy is a two-time NCAA National Champion. I don’t think Al Davis could do much better than this kid in the fourth round.
What can I say that hasn’t been said a thousand times already? A lot of people are ready to throw in the towel and call Heyward-Bey a bust. But the growing number of passengers on that bus does not include Heyward-Bey. He worked hard to get where he was last year and ended up having a decent year. One touchdown in 26 catches, 333 yards might be considered a decent NFL season if he weren't making Calvin Johnson type money... and if he weren't a starter.
If the Raiders can get DHB to start catching the ball with his hands, he could be very dangerous; much like he was in games against St. Louis (6 catches, 80 yards) and against Seattle (5 catches, 105 yards, TD). Heyward-Bey was on point against the Seachikens on Halloween.
Bottom line is that this dude is a track star trying to fit in as an NFL wide receiver. The best thing the Raiders could do for Heyward-Bey is bring in a veteran presence to guide him and keep giving him playing time in the fourth quarter of games they are winning by three scores.
No first year wide out in the league was hotter down the stretch run than Jacoby Ford of the Raiders. After having no receptions in the first six weeks, Ford had 23 catches and nine rushing attempts for 625 yards and four touchdowns over the next nine weeks. He also added three kickoff returns for touchdowns in the last eight games of the season.
Ford developed into a reliable target for the Raiders and at times played some really great defense on bad throws from his quarterback. Ford has a ton of upside as the Raiders slot receiver and is on the fast track to becoming a dangerous return man.
He was the only Raiders pass catcher with two 100-yard receiving games last year. My impression is that Hue Jackson loves this guy and he will see the field a lot in 2011.
Made out of glass in Lancaster, CA on November 7th, 1985, comes this 6 foot 4, 225 pound receiver with 4.4 forty speed. Not only is Schilens huge and very fast, but he is as graceful as a gazelle running routes, has amazing hands, and a sick vertical leap. Schilens' biggest problem is that he can’t show the world how good he is because he is hardly ever on the field.
His best day in 2010 was the final day of the season against Kansas City when he had 3 catches for 24 yards and a touchdown. The best day of his career was in the 2009 finale against Baltimore, when he had 8 catches for 99 yards. He’s only been in the end zone five times in three years. That’s more than Heyward-Bey, but still.
Johnnie Lee Higgins:
Although he is the most veteran receiver of the group, he is not the biggest guy. Higgins once said the reason he sees the end zone so much when he gets the ball is because he is little and he doesn’t want to get hit by those bigger guys.
Unfortunately for his career, he has been taken out by one of those bigger guys -- Chargers safety Eric Weddle, on opening night in 2009 -- and he hasn’t had the same charisma since then. Since Jacoby Ford is looking like the next Devin Hester in the return game and Higgins is not that valuable as a special teams player otherwise, his days in Oakland could be numbered.
This dude is a good athlete, very multidimensional. In my opinion, he should get more time at wide receiver. Not the best route runner at this point, but he is a good player to have as a project player. He reminds some of Wes Welker with his small frame, quickness, and heart. He returned punts for the Raiders for most of the 2010 season.
Overall, this group is young and needs a lot of work. If the Raiders are bringing in so many assistant coaches, then they seriously need to bring in another assistant coach to help Sanjay Lal. A veteran presence who can still lace up cleats and show them how to be a professional is essential to furthering their development at this point. I’ll talk more about that in Sunday night’s article.
Roster Status: WEAK
Also see position analyses:
Safety I Linebacker I Cornerback I Defensive End I Defensive Tackle I Special Teams
Quarterback l Running Back l Tight End l Offensive Tackle l Guard/Center
Follow me on Twitter: Raidersblogger
I really dig what chris9999 is sayin, you are right on with wides bro. only I would add that DHB should be cut and resigned at a 10th of the cost because Murphy and Ford can everything and then some that DHB can do. He's a huge waste of cash regardless of his potential. If he breaks out this year I will insist I was wrong, but is it even worth it to find out? hell if I know!
SANTANA MOSS ALL DAY !!!
DHB needs someone to teach him how to run routes. Sanjay Lal is a huge dud, period.
with that being said, Moss and a healthy Schilens would no doubt make DHB obsolette. his days are numbered if he can't turn a corner(literally)
Moss would solidify that position and be paired with Campbell once more.
Moss, Schilens/Murphy, Ford, Zach Miller ...
we will be in the STRONG column ... and Campbell would have 4 reliable targets.
The only thing is Santana is looking for a multi-year contract. who knows how much he wants. but his 1000+ yards and 93 receptions in 2010 would garner him a good size contract. he still has plenty in the tank.
Brett, you are being very kind to DHB saying he had a decent NFL season...I could maybe buy that if he was a 6th or 7th round draft pick, and was not getting the starting time that he has been given. I agree with you that he has worked hard and should definitely get praise for his work ethic, but I'm sorry, with the money he is getting paid, he should work hard, and he should also be producing a heck of a lot more than just (1) touchdown as a full time starter. DHB was selected 7th overall in the 2009 NFL draft, selected over Michael Crabtree, Percy Harvin, and Jeremy Maclin, who all are crushing DHB statistically. DHB is such a poor route runner, and is so inconsistent with his hands, that he literally is no deep threat at all, something which he was drafted to be, and he managed to catch only (1) pass of 26 yards or longer all season. Play like this cannot be condoned. There is absolutely no excuse for DHB's poor performance on the field, as he has been given every opportunity to succeed, and he has been training with one of the very best in Asomugah.
DHB is defintely a track guy who is trying to fit in as a receiver and it is not working. He is a complete liability on the field, and the only way DHB can catch a ball if it hits him directly in the numbers on a short slant route. If DHB remains a starter, the Raider wide receiving position will remain weak. Sad but true. DHB has to be de-emphasized from the starting rotation and the Raiders must seek help from a veteran free agent receiver. This is a priority in the offseason. Now that Vincent Jackson is unavailable, the Raiders must seek another type of big play wide receiver who could give them a legitimate deep threat option. Santonio Holmes comes to mind, but I doubt the Jets will let him go. Malcom Floyd is another receiver to consider as he is big, fast and can definitely produce.
The Raiders are a legitimate up and comming team that has the potential to compete for the playoffs for years to come. However, if the Raiders want to be a serious Superbowl contender, which I believe they have the talent to be, their wide receiving unit needs to be considered (STRONG) as the top teams in the NFL are so good defensively, that reliable playmaking wide receivers are an absolute must....
when I wrote this piece, I actually wrote it was a decent season -- unless you're getting paid to be the next Calvin Johnson. Evidently, the editor didn't like that part. He is making too much money, but at the same time, he totally deserves it. It was Davis that made him the 7th pick. That was not his choice. Al could've traded back in the draft and paid a lot less for him.
Right now I think DHB is a good number four. He's probably even with Nick Miller, but he gets a heck of a lot more time on the field.
Oakland’s problem is simple. Too simple. They don’t have any receiver, who gets open!
I don’t mean that literally. What I mean is, the best teams, have guys who can get WIDE OPEN, even if they have double coverage. And do so 7-8 times a game.
That opens up the entire field for everyone else.
Watch Eagle’s games. Guys like Jackson and Maclin aren’t having to make great catches all the time. They’re getting the ball with nobody anywhere near them. They’re getting it on a slant route, for a 25 yard completion, with nobody within 5 yards of them.
Much of that is just the space they create for each other.
This is Oakland’s problem. When Heyward Bey or Murphy make a play, it’s usually as difficult catch with tight coverage. They never get any freebies.
Most teams, receivers get a few easy catches a game. Not Oakland. As I said, your WRs have to make big plays to get the ball.
What’s the problem:
1: Play calling. As I said, watch New England, and they have several idiot-proof plays, that even DHB could make. Just dumping it off to guys, for an easy 8 yards. You telling me DHB couldn’t run a bubble screen or a little slant every now and then? He just never gets the chance
2: Personnel. Oakland have no real elite target. Receivers are too easily shut down by single coverage. Theres nobody to open the field up for guys like DHB or Miller, or Murphy. No player the teams game planning against.
What I’m saying is, put Chan Johnson, or Sydney Rice or someone like that in Oakland, and I promise you, ALL receivers would start playing better.
As guys like Chad take double coverage all day, and still get wide open. Teams have to game plan them.
Leaving burners like DHB and Murphy to get easy completions
yeah, I think idealy Heywood at #2, Ford in thr Slot and get a Vincent JAckson or Santana Moss to be the #1. I think we have to give Heywood another year to get his game. Get a veteran in here to help him along would be a bonus.
Good article Bret. I have been saying the same thing since the beginning of the 2010 season. What is Downtown Timmy Brown up to these days? He would bring a great presence to the WR position. His knowledge, his skill, and his Raider heart.... What more could we ask for? What more would the WR corps need?
I also say, get rid of Schillens. Yeah, he could HAVE BEEN amazing, but I think that window has closed. He has become an emcomberance. Not worth waiting it out anymore. Trade him while we MIGHT still get something for him. JLH...sigh. I had so much hopes for him, but he just hasn't been the same since the big hit. And I agree that Jacoby replaces him easily. I like Quick Nick too. He needs more chances at the ball. HeyBey has not impressed me. Ok, let me rephrase...he impressed me in training camp, but he fell back into his bad habits during the season. I know he won't be cut, but it might be the smartest move to trade him now while there is still some possibility at serious compensation. And then there is Murphy. I love this guy. I admire the way he runs routes and makes the tough catches. And what about his blocking skills?! 2 in 1 play? C'mon...thats just genius.
I see Murphy, Ford and (hopefully) Miller as starting WR's. Would like to add that I would love to see us sign Plaxico, and NOT Ocho-Simpleton....