Oakland Raiders: Wide Receivers Logjam More Illusion Than Reality


Following the Oakland Raiders‘ preseason-opening win against the St. Louis Rams, much of the attention was rightly focused on the team’s seemingly rejuvenated passing attack.

With the additions of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, the Raiders have a very legit receiving group – one that can break a game open at any moment. But the Raiders must not get so caught up in the sterling play of their top receivers that they ignore the fool’s gold in their midst.

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In the wake of the exhibition game against the Rams, a lot of pundits are talking about the “emergence” of Brice Butler and how he’s in line for a larger role in the offense.

Couple that with all the talk about the rest of Oakland’s receivers group, including Andre Holmes and Kenbrell Thompkins , plus the return of Rod Streater, and it understandably looks like a huge logjam for the Raider offense.

Except that it’s not. Not really. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

All of the talks about Butler’s great night has completely overshadowed the fact that undrafted free agent Seth Roberts had a pretty good game as well. Butler hauled in six receptions (on seven attempts) for 57 yards and a score, and Roberts caught all four balls thrown his way for 42 yards, which gives him a better per reception average – 10.5 yards to 9.5 for Butler.

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But this isn’t just about a stat line from one meaningless game. This is more about the fact that we’ve seen this from Butler before. In last season’s exhibition season, Butler hauled in 13 receptions for 206 yards and four TD’s – in four games. His preseason performance understandably got people excited about his “emergence” as a viable target for Derek Carr.

Except that Butler’s supposed “emergence” never actually materialized, and he finished the 2014 season with just 21 receptions for 280 yards and a pair of scores. The knock against Butler over the course of the season where his drops and the mental errors that plagued him all year long.

Many believed that when Streater went down with injury last year, that Andre Holmes would become the number one receiver the team needed. He’s got terrific size – 6’5”, 208 lbs. – and speed, but he has never displayed the makeup of a top-tier receiver.

He did step up in 2014 and snag 47 passes for 693 yards and four scores. But those 47 receptions came on 99 attempts and he, like Butler, was known for his mental miscues and several very notable drops.

Kenbrell Thompkins is an interesting piece, appearing in 12 games for Oakland last season and catching 15 balls for 209 yards, but never did anything extraordinary to distinguish himself from a very mediocre receiving group.

This is not to say that any one of those receivers not named Cooper, Crabtree, or Streater can’t be valuable contributors to Oakland’s offense. They certainly can. They all have talent and can provide some solid, bottom of the rotation depth.

This is to say that we should tap the brakes on the talk that there is a total logjam at the receiver spot for Oakland. Obviously, Cooper and Crabtree are going to be one and two on the depth chart.

It is Streater who should be the third man in the rotation. Not Butler. Not Holmes. And not Thompkins.

At 6’3”, Streater has the ideal height, he has the speed, and in 2013, he showed that he has the mental makeup to be a legit number one receiver. That season he hauled in 60 catches for 888 yards – and doing so with the likes of Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn, and Matt McGloin throwing the ball.

Imagine what his production could be with Derek Carr throwing him the ball.

It seems like a no-brainer that Oakland will go with three guys who have number one ability at the top of the order. Head coach Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave are going to use an up-tempo, fast-paced offense. The Raiders need playmaking wide receivers who are free of mental errors, reliable, and can be counted on to make the catch.

That should mean that Cooper, Crabtree, and Streater will be the one, two, and three in Oakland’s receiving group.

Beyond that, there will be a dogfight for roster spots, as Oakland is not going to keep all the receivers currently listed on the roster. At this point, positions in Oakland’s receiving rotation are up for grabs.

With Del Rio’s comments about playing time having to be earned, one might read some significance into the fact that Thompkins, Holmes, or Harper received any significant playing time against the Rams. Or maybe not.

No matter how the bottom of the rotation shakes out, the Raiders are going to have a lot more talent on the field at the receiver spot than they have in a very long time.

The days of opposing defenses being able to sit on the one guy Oakland relied on to be their main pass catcher are gone, and they will now have to game plan for potential game breaking threats coming at them from every angle.

And that will only benefit the Raiders’ offense, and the team as a whole.

Next: Roster Move Brings In A Familiar Face For Carr

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