A year ago, Rod Streater was a relatively unknown and undrafted free-agent wide receiver from Temple.
But after wowing the Raiders in training camp last summer, Streater made the opening-day roster and then had 39 catches for 584 yards and three touchdowns
Now the second-year wideout, in the midst of a mandatory three-day full-squad Raiders minicamp, believes he can give his team a lot more in 2013.
“I feel like a vet,” Streater told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group after Wednesday’s minicamp session. “Just over a year, I felt like I learned so much, from coverages and plays and things like that. I feel like I understand a whole lot more and can contribute more than I did last year.”
Streater is part of a Raiders receiving corps that may be one of the most unheralded in the NFL. This offseason, Oakland lost veteran wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey and tight end Brandon Myers to free agency, and there’s a question mark hanging over the head of wideout Jacoby Ford, who has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons after a brilliant rookie year in 2010 when he dazzled as both a receiver and kick/punt returner.
Now, head coach Dennis Allen is counting on a group that consists of Denarius Moore, entering his third season; Streater; last year’s fifth-round pick, Juron Criner; this year’s seventh-round pick Brice Butler of San Diego State; undrafted free agent Conner Vernon of Duke; and Josh Cribbs, a free-agent veteran signee who is likely to make more of a splash returning kicks than catching passes.
Moore is unquestionably the team’s No. 1 wide receiver going into 2013. Last season he caught 51 passes for 741 yards and seven TDs, following a rookie season in which he caught 33 balls for five scores.
But who will start on the other side? Who will emerge as the No. 3 option among the wideouts? Streater is likely the leading candidate for the other starting slot, but the competition is open. Allen told the media after Wednesday’s practice that five or six receivers “have a chance to help this football team.”
Criner, who put up huge numbers at Arizona, is a 6-foot-3, 221-pounder who could blossom in his second season. As a rookie, he had just 16 catches for 151 yards and no TDs.
Vernon already has impressed Allen. During organized team activities (OTAs), Vernon – a good route runner with reportedly excellent hands – was singled out by Allen. Butler, meanwhile, has shown good speed and has good size (6-foot-3, 205 pounds). Steve Muench of Scouts, Inc., told ESPN.com AFC West blogger Bill Williamson last month that Butler has potential, saying: “He has the speed, size and body control to stretch the field at the NFL level.”
Essentially, it’s an open competition, and Allen is looking for a few good men to separate themselves this summer and form a rapport with starting quarterback Matt Flynn.
“We need guys to go up and make plays for us,” Allen told Corkran Wednesday. “It’s understanding the route combinations, understanding the different techniques of running certain routes. Those are all certain things that you gain from experience. What a receiver is paid to do is go up and make plays on the ball and that’s what we’re looking for.”