The Oakland Raiders passing offense was in the bottom tier of NFL teams in 2013, so much of the focus this offseason on improving it – understandably – has been on the quarterback situation.
The Raiders believe veteran Matt Schaub can take the offense to a much higher level than it was last season, when Oakland ranked 24th among 32 NFL teams with 208.8 yards per game passing. The Raiders ranked even worse for touchdown passes (29th), quarterback rating (28th) and completions (27th).
But perhaps almost as important in 2014 will be the team’s receiving corps. This offseason, general manager Reggie McKenzie signed former Packer James Jones to bolster the receiving corps, and Oakland now has three legitimate wideouts in Rod Streater (60 catches, 888 yards in 2013), Denarius Moore (46, 695) and Jones (59, 817). Throw in emerging tight end Mychael Rivera (38, 407) and newly signed running back Maurice Jones-Drew – who’s always been a good receiver out of the backfield – and Schaub will have plenty of targets at his disposal this season.
And, that’s not counting pass catchers who may be picked up in the draft. The No. 1 wide receiver prospect, Sammy Watkins, has been linked to the Raiders in many mock drafts with the team’s fifth overall choice.
But so far, it’s Jones who seems most capable of making the biggest impact on the Raiders passing attack.
In writing about the Raiders’ offseason moves to upgrade, NFL.com analyst Adam Schein praised McKenzie for being able to land Jones, who in 2012 had 14 TD catches and has had 50 or more receptions three of the past four seasons.
“I think James Jones is a very good receiver,” wrote Schein. “It’s nuts that he was available for so long. There will be teams – like the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants – that will regret not signing this guy. He is reliable, scores touchdowns and is a Super Bowl winner. Jones, like Schaub and Jones-Drew, makes the Raiders better and more professional.”
Jones, who just turned 30, likely would have had a 1,000-yard season in 2013 but for a knee injury that knocked him out of three games. He’s a physical receiver (6-foot-1, 208 pounds) who’s good in the red zone, and could wind up being Schaub’s go-to guy around the end zone.
Jones, a third-round pick out of San Jose State in 2007, signed a three-year deal with the Raiders reported to be worth $11.3 million.
After signing Jones, McKenzie told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group that Jones – like many other veterans he’s signed recently – can provide leadership.
“A guy like James Jones, we’ve got a young receiving corps,” said McKenzie. “And James Jones will do wonders for that group.”
And, for whoever is playing quarterback in 2014.