Rod Streater made some big catches as a rookie, including this one for a touchdown vs. Tampa Bay in 2012. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The question has been asked all offseason: Shouldn’t the Raiders sign a veteran wide receiver?
So far, the Raiders have answered “no.”
Since the departure of Darrius Heyward-Bey this offseason, Oakland now has a group of young wideouts that includes holdovers Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, Jacoby Ford, Juron Criner and rookies Conner Vernon and Brice Butler.
Moore – likely the team’s No. 1 wideout entering 2013 – is entering just his third season. Ford has been in the league a year longer, but has battled injuries. They rank as the team’s most experienced wide receivers.
Yet when Bill Williamson, ESPN.com’s AFC West blogger, brought up the topic with Raiders head coach Dennis Allen this week, Allen said he believes the young receivers are primed to take some big steps forward in 2013.
“It’s as green as grass,” Allen told Williamson of the group, “but there is all kinds of talent here.”
Moore, who had 71 catches last season for 741 yards and seven touchdowns, could be the best of the bunch. In his two NFL seasons, he’s made some spectacular grabs, and his speed makes him a breakaway threat once he catches the ball. Streater, an undrafted rookie in 2012, is likely the No. 2 receiver entering training camp in July. He had 39 catches for 584 yards and three scores last season.
ESPN analyst Matt Williamson of Scouts, Inc., told Bill Williamson that he agrees with Allen’s assessment that the receiving corps could turn out to be pretty good if given a chance to show what it can do this coming season.
“I am really high on Moore, but he needs to stay healthy and be more consistent as a route runner,” Matt Williamson said. “A true No. 1? That might be a bit of a stretch, since I rarely throw that term around, but he’s right on that cusp in terms of talent. Streater is a good complement to Moore, as he is bigger and more physical. He’s a possession guy to Moore’s explosiveness.”
If Ford, too, can stay healthy and Criner can improve with playing time – he had just 16 catches in 2012 – the Raiders will have four good receivers. Criner, at 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds, could prove to be a welcome target for quarterback Matt Flynn. Over his final two seasons at Arizona, Criner (a fifth-round pick by the Raiders in 2012) put up big-time numbers, hauling in 157 receptions for 2,189 yards and 22 touchdowns. And, if either Vernon or Butler shows he can play this summer, the Raiders will have a group that potentially could be good. Yet, it’s unproven. That’s the problem. The addition of a proven veteran might have helped.
This way, however, the young Raiders will be force-fed. By the end of 2013, the Raiders will know what they have.
When it comes to playing time this season, it will be earned. Allen is looking for production. He wants players who will battle for the ball when it’s in the air and make catches when they need to be made. If some of the “green” receivers can prove they can do that this coming season, the Raiders won’t be looking for veteran pass catchers next offseason.
“At the end of the day, we’ll have five, maybe six receivers that have a chance to help this football team,” says Allen.