In the NFL, one man’s injury is another man’s opportunity.
So, this summer, as top Oakland Raiders wideouts Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey have missed practices and preseason games, rookies Rod Streater and Juron Criner have gotten an opportunity to show what they can do.
Streater this summer has been the breakout star with 18 catches in three games for 156 yards. The undrafted free agent from Temple has almost matched his reception total as a senior last season (19).
Until Saturday night’s exhibition victory over the Lions, Streater had overshadowed Criner, the team’s fifth-round pick from Arizona.
Against Detroit, however, Criner showed his big-play abilities, scoring on two long passes from backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Criner’s line for the night: two catches, 115 yards and two touchdowns.
It provided a look at what Criner might be capable of in the NFL, and what he did at the University of Arizona. For the Wildcats, the 6-foot-3, 221-pounder was a first-team All-Pac-12 choice and a second-team All-American with some gaudy numbers. In just 11 games as a senior, he caught 75 passes for 956 yards and 11 TDs. As a junior, he had 82 catches for 1,233 yards and 11 TDs. Overall, he scored a school-record 32 touchdowns in four seasons for the Wildcats.
With veteran wideouts on the shelf this exhibition season, Criner has shined in practice, though until this weekend had been overshadowed by Streater in games.
Criner came into the Lions game with two catches for 31 yards.
On one of his TD catches vs. Detroit, a 39-yard reception, Criner showed his strength and leaping ability by out jumping defensive back Alphonso Smith – who was called for interference on the play.
“You have to have that instinct,” Criner told Eric Gilmore of CBSSports.com, of the play. “When the ball is in the air, it belongs to me, and it is all about making the 50/50 plays, and I was just blessed to come down with that one.”
Bill Williamson, who covers the AFC West for ESPN.com, wrote that Criner’s performance “was a nice show for the home fans after impressing his teammates in camp all summer.”
Though Heyward-Bey played against the Lions and now appears healthy, Ford and Moore remain hobbled. Raiders head coach Dennis Allen has not yet indicated if one or both will play in Thursday night’s exhibition finale against the Seahawks, but says he does believe both will be ready for the regular-season opener against San Diego on Monday night Sept. 10.
At this point, though, there seems no doubt that Criner and Streater will give the Raiders two more go-to guys in what potentially could be a very dangerous receiving corps.