Oakland Raiders: Roster Moves Bring A Familiar Face For Derek Carr


 The Oakland Raiders have a problem. But in a very welcome change of pace, it’s a good problem to have – they simply have too much talent on their roster. The battle for roster spots within the receiving corps is fierce and the team has so much talent they have to make tough decisions – such as the announcement that speedster Austin Willis has been cut.

Willis – the Emporia State product – had been developing quite the cult following since he hooked on with the team in May after going undrafted. It was during a rookie minicamp that Oakland HC Jack Del Rio took a shine to the young receiver, signing him to a free agent contract.

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At 5’9” and with blazing speed (4.38 in the 40), Willis is scrappy, works hard, and has drawn favorable comparisons to Wes Welker – both because of their lack of size, but for their work ethic and willingness to get their hands dirty and do whatever it takes for the team to succeed.

Ultimately though, Willis had a few flaws in his game – such as having difficulty getting separation from defenders – and it came down to being a victim of the numbers game. He played just seven snaps of football against the Rams in the team’s exhibition debut, calling for a fair catch on one punt, and not hauling in a single pass.

After being cut, Willis was quoted as saying: “It’s too bad because I looked good in black and silver.”

Willis was always a longshot to make the final 53-man roster, but by cutting him this early into training camp, the Raiders are showing him respect by giving him time to hook up with another team – which he undoubtedly will. He works hard, has speed, skill, and is a high character guy. If Oakland didn’t have such a logjam of talent on the roster already, Raider fans might well have enjoyed seeing Willis’ scrappy play come the regular season.

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But for Willis’ hard earned fans, it unfortunately was not meant to be.

In a separate move, Oakland brought in a face familiar to second year quarterback Derek Carr – former Fresno State Bulldog wide receiver Devon Wylie.

Wylie only played a single season at Fresno State with Carr – his senior season in 2011 – but it also happened to be the most productive season of his collegiate career. With Carr under center for the Bulldogs, Wylie hauled in 56 passes for 716 yards. Prior to that, his highest pass catching total in a single season was 22 – as a sophomore in 2008.

With Josh Harper still currently on the roster – though some believe with Willis being cut, he will be the next domino to fall – Oakland’s offense is starting to get a bit of a Bulldog feel to it.

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  • Wylie was drafted in the fourth round by the Chiefs in 2012, appearing in six games and hauling in just six catches for a total of 53 yards. He’s bounced around the league after that rookie campaign, splitting time between the Chiefs, Titans, Seahawks, and 49ers.

    It is believed though, that Wylie isn’t being brought in as another body in a crowded receivers room, but primarily as an option for the return game – where he’s made more of a mark in his time in the league. For his career to this point, Wylie has seven punt returns for 30 yards, and 14 kickoff returns for 285 yards.

    Trindon Holliday was ostensibly brought in to be the team’s primary return man – with Travis Carrie needing to focus on his duties in the secnondary and it being a really bad idea to put Amari Cooper on return duty. Though he’s got blazing speed, Holliday did not have a spectacularly good outing against the Rams, fumbling a kickoff that he ultimately had to down in the endzone, and having a good number of bobbles and drops over the course of training camp.

    Wylie, perhaps, is being brought in to give the Raiders some options and flexibility in the return game. If Holliday can’t prove he can secure the ball and put an end to his case of the bobbles and wobbles, we may be seeing Wylie returning kicks when the regular season starts instead.

    The Raiders’ talent in their receivers room is tremendous. It is certainly light years ahead of where last season’s group was. It’s unfortunate that a feel good story like Willis wasn’t able to stick, but it should give Raider fans confidence that they can absorb the loss of a talented receiver and still have a solid, perhaps even spectacular, offensive unit.

    Next: Raiders Could Join NFC West