The Oakland Raiders have spent the last several seasons looking for a true number one wide receiver. They have not had a wide receiver break the 1,000 yard mark since Randy Moss did back in the 2005 season, when he had 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns. Since that season, the Raiders’ leading receivers have been the likes of Ronald Curry and Louis Murphy.
The Raiders attempted to find a potential number one receiver in the 2009 NFL Draft, when they selected Darius Heyward-Bey with the seventh overall pick. Heyward-Bey was a relative disappointment for the Raiders, as he never was able to live up to the lofty expectations of his draft status. He had a good year in 2011 with 64 catches for 975 yards and four touchdowns, but he has combined for 76 receptions for 1,096 and seven touchdowns in his other three seasons. The Raiders released Heyward-Bey this offseason in a move to save salary cap space by getting rid of under-performing contracts.
This year the Raiders are leaning on a couple of young players to step to the forefront this training camp. They are third year receiver Denarius Moore and second year receiver Rod Streater. Both players had relatively solid seasons with a combined 90 catches for 1,325 yards and 10 touchdowns. The disturbing stat is their dropped pass percentage, which was 15 percent of the passes they saw. That was the second worst mark in the entire NFL.
There is a lot of hope being placed in these two young receivers, as they flashed talent and potential to become quality NFL players. Denarius Moore looked to be the one player that many believed with take the reigns of being the Raiders’ go-to receiver. He has constantly flashed big play ability during his short career, with a 16.2 yards per reception average over his two years. He has also led the team in touchdowns in his first two years. So, it is only natural to assume that he would cement his slot as the number one receiver during this training camp.
His camp has been up and down just like his career so far. He will look great for a couple plays, but the he will suffer from drops and inconsistent play over the next several plays. His inconsistent has frustrated his coaches, which to this quote by head coach Dennis Allen following last Tuesday’s practice:
“I don’t think we have a go-to guy yet. I’m waiting for someone to jump out and be the guy. We have a talented, young group that’s working hard, but it’s going to be a work in progress.”
This was a pretty damning shot at Moore, while also serving a challenge for one of his young receivers to step up and take the lead.
The guy that has actually looked solid in camp so for is Streater. Streater has come a long way from his time at Temple. At Temple, Streater racked 49 receptions for 882 yards and seven touchdowns during his two seasons there. He was a big play threat with an average of 18 yards per reception during his career, including his senior season with 21.1 yards per catch. He had some interesting measurable at his pro day with a 4.52 40-yard dash and 37.5 inch vertical jump. Ultimately, he went undrafted due to his lack of production at the collegiate level.
He signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent prior to the 2011 training camp. Streater impressed coaches during his work in mini-camps due to injuries at the receiver position and earned him more snaps during the preseason than a normal undrafted rookie. He had a breakout training camp with 18 catches for 165 yards during three preseason games, which earned him this praise from Carson Palmer:
“He’s a player. He didn’t come in like he’s an undrafted rookie; he doesn’t play like he’s a rookie. He’s special. He’s special. And that’s pretty obvious.”
Palmer saw the potential of Streater early on. Streater asserted him early in camp and took every advantage that was handed to him and he turned in a pretty solid season for an undrafted rookie. Streater ended his rookie season with 39 receptions for 584 yards and three touchdowns. He was similar to Moore, in that he suffered inconsistent play and was troubled by dropped passes.
Streater was looking to build off his impressive first year and become one of the Raiders’ top receivers. He has looked like the best receiver in camp, so far. He has been the most consistent receiver on the roster in camp, as the unit has been troubled by drops all camp. A lot of that is due to his preparation in the offseason.
After one of the team’s camp practices during the first weekend, Streater told reporters, “This year, I was so focused on running routes and catching balls that I didn’t really have much time (for martial arts).” His focus on the technical aspects of his game has paid off in a big way. He is getting greater separation by running crisper routes, which should help him underneath when corners give him cushion to prevent the deep pass.
He has spent a lot of his offseason in the weight room, as well. Streater has decent size, but a slight frame as he was lean coming out of college. He now sports a much more noticeably chiseled upper body. He has used his new found strength well, as he plays much more physical in tight spaces. Coach Dennis Allen has taken notice, as he told reporters:
“I think he’s a little bit more confident. I think he has a little bit better understanding of how the NFL game is played. He’s playing a little bit more physical and that’s one of the qualities that we like about him. He’s improved his route running. You have a guy who has some talent, the guy works extremely hard, he’s going to continue to get better.”
So far, Streater’s hard work has paid off by catching the eye of the coaches. He has also captured the attention of the quarterbacks, as well. Streater has been the main target for nearly all the quarterbacks and during the early days of camp, it was Streater coming up with big catch after big catch. Also, his drops have been reduced, as he has been more consistent. This is earning the trust of the quarterbacks, as they know if they throw his way that he will come down with it.
Streater’s work ethic and natural athletic talents have launched into the conversation to be the Raiders’ number one receiver. As he continues to grow and progress, he could eventually build into a great receiver in the NFL. For this year, another strong preseason could help him secure the slot as the Raiders’ go-to receiver.