Can Zay Jones do enough to stand out in a suddenly crowded Raiders’ receiver room?
To call the Las Vegas Raiders‘ 2020 offseason strange would be a significant understatement. With the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the numerous protests taking place across the globe, sports have taken a back seat in many people’s consciousness.
With the big four professional sports having seen their seasons altered or suspended in some way over the past few months, they have been out of sight, out of mind for the most part.
And with training camp set to begin July 28th, fans are dying to see what the Raiders will look like with all their newly acquired offensive weapons.
After selecting Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs in the first round, the Raiders added swiss-army-knife Lynn Bowden of Kentucky and a big, physical receiver in Bryan Edwards of South Carolina in the third round.
While the three have yet to take the field for the silver and black in any official capacity, their presence on the roster is a welcome sight after last season’s revolving door of receivers.
Following Antonio Brown’s brief, yet tumultuous stay in Oakland and Tyrell Williams‘ battle with plantar fasciitis, the Raiders’ patchwork receiving corps struggled to produce.
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Although most of the vacancies were filled with practice squad players like Keelan Doss, Rico Gafford and Marcell Ateman, general manager Mike Mayock also made a couple of acquisitions via trade in the form of Trevor Davis from Green Bay and Zay Jones from Buffalo.
Davis’ time with the Raiders was brief, however, Jones remains on the roster — for now.
Raiders’ wide receiver Zay Jones finds himself on the roster bubble this summer.
Normally, the cancellation of OTAs would not bode well for a bubble player like Jones, but he currently has a few things going for him.
For one, Mayock is a fan of his, or at least he was when he left East Carolina as the all-time reception leader in NCAA FBS history in 2017. Mayock ranked Jones the No. 4 overall receiver, ahead of both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cooper Kupp.
After leading the Bills in receptions, yards, and touchdowns in 2018, Jones saw his targets drop significantly last season with the signing of veteran wideouts Cole Beasley and John Brown.
While it’s unknown whether Mayock still thinks Jones is better than either Smith-Schuster or Kupp today, he thought enough of him to bring him to the Raiders.
The ace Jones may have in his back pocket is the work that he has put in this offseason with quarterback Derek Carr. Carr has posted several throwing videos on his YouTube channel this offseason, with various Raiders making an appearance.
While the lack of close-up shots or jersey numbers can make it hard to know which players are present for sure, aside from free-agent signee Nelson Agholor in his Eagles helmet, Jones has been the one constant in all of Carr’s videos.
A year after seeing all his offseason prep with Brown amount to nothing, it would benefit all parties involved if Carr and Jones develop a strong rapport. A big year from Carr could silence doubters who believe he is not a franchise quarterback.
In a contract year, Jones could secure a big payday and some financial security next year if he produces in his first full season with the Raiders.