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HENDERSON, Nev. – Are you looking for a scout report on the Las Vegas Raiders’ kind of renewed sorta receiver corps?
Look no further than a member of that unit when Bryan Edwards, who was in his second year, spoke about the “diversity” of his group.
“We have me,” said Edwards, 6 feet 3, 212 pounds, a draft third round out of South Carolina in 2020, “obviously a big receiver outside.
“[Henry] Ruggs, extremely fast, can take the top of any defense, can make games downstairs, can do it all.
“Hunter [Renfrow], Third and Renfrow, Swiss Army Knife. Hard as a nail.
“And we have Zay Jones who can play any position. We have a lot of guys – Willie Snead … I feel like we have a very dynamic space.”
However, a veteran who was supposed to be the speed demon against the Ruggs was released on Tuesday when John “Smoke” Brown was a reduced day injury. On the initial 53-man list (which had 52 players on board as Las Vegas awaits to announce its acquisition of linebacker Denzel Perryman), the Raiders went with five receivers.
Was it really only three years ago when Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant were to be quarterback Derek Carr’s downfield goals, just two summers ago, when Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams were set to revolutionize the Raiders’ passing game before Brown blew it all up air his way out of town in the preseason?
With a receiving space centered around the Ruggs – the number 12 overall pick last season, having 26 catches for 452 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games – Edwards and Renfrow, a fifth-round pick in 2019, Las Vegas has a young, talented and hungry, albeit relatively unproven, group. It should also replicate the production lost on Nelson Agholor’s departure in free agency after he had career highs in receiving yards (896), average yards per yard. Catch (18.7) and TDs (eight) in his lone year with the Raiders.
So who steps up?
The way Ruggs sees it, he needs to become the “go-to guy” for the Raiders and insists that he is more than physically able to withstand the grinder after putting on 13 kilos of muscle outside of this season without losing any of its 4.2 seconds at -40 speed.
“Fellowship is there, unlike last year,” he said. “It’s a man’s game now. I’m not the biggest guy, but I have to get to where I can compete with grown men now.”
And therein lies the friction.
Not so long ago, Carr had people like Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree to throw down the pitch. Then things went sideways, the WR space was rebuilt, and coach Jon Gruden’s tight and ongoing friendly violation appeared in 2018.
Consider: In 2016, with Crabtree (89 catches) and Cooper (83 catches) leading the way, 63.3% of Carr’s completions were for wide receivers. The figures under Gruden: 48.0% in 2018, 40.2% in 2019 and 45.1% last season.
Of course, the emergence of Darren Waller as a Pro Bowl tight end, with a total of 197 catches in the last two seasons, has had an effect on these numbers, but Carr insists that a trust has been conveyed between himself and these unge wideouts.
After all, Renfrow put on a show at a joint rehearsal with the Los Angeles Rams recently: “We’re not going against the Citadel or Furman … this was game day for us,” Renfrow said. “That’s the beauty of it – if I can beat Jalen Ramsey, then I can beat everyone in the NFL. Because he’s one of the best.”
And Edwards, who was limited to 11 catches in 12 fights as a rookie, said his ankle is fine now.
“Health is wealth, man,” said Edwards, who was compared to Terrell Owens of Gruden and to a young Davante Adams of Carr.
“I have a group of wideouts that I trust that when I fall back, I will throw the ball up to them,” Carr said. “And I said to them, ‘It’s up to you whether you want to make SportsCenter or not. I want to throw it to you because you have the talent and the ability to go to make these plays.'”
Paging Ruggs, that is.
“There was a day I rolled out and just hit one up to Henry, one-on-one, and this man jumps about four feet off the ground and grabs it, lands, gets up and runs,” Carr said. I said, ‘You keep doing it in practice, I promise you I’m throwing it in a game. But if we can not see it in practice, I can not throw it in a game. I can not do. I can ‘t put our team in danger of a turnover or a bad game.’
“But as long as they’s acting, or when I’m making a bad throw, they’re knocking it down to go to second-and-10. Man, we can keep doing that … of course we still need more work, but these young guys get a chance to win the trust of me.
“In team practice, there were a couple of times the other day, I was like, ‘You know what, I want to give a couple of guys a chance and see them go play.’ And when they do, you send it away, and you say, ‘OK, when I get that look, I know he’s going to do it for me. “
Now it’s a scout report … as positive and localized as possible. Just be sure to check in again around week 9.