Over the past few weeks, the Raiders have been trying to move forward while walking through a gauntlet of change.
The death of owner Al Davis, the acquisition of linebacker Aaron Curry, the season-ending injury to quarterback Jason Campbell and the trade for his replacement, Carson Palmer – plus injuries to Darren McFadden, the NFL’s leading rusher, and kicker Sebastian Janikowski – have dropped some giant question marks over the Raiders as they come out of their bye week still smarting from a 28-0 loss to the Chiefs.
Now, as the 4-3 Raiders resume practice today in preparation for their final nine games, starting with the 2-5 Broncos Sunday at O.co Coliseum, there may still be more change ahead.
Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reported over the weekend that the team may sign Palmer’s former Bengals teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh to bolster the team’s wide receiver corps. According to Corkran and ESPN, Houshmandzadeh – who was Palmer’s workout partner during his holdout this season – will take his physical Tuesday. Bill Williamson of ESPN noted the signing of Houshmandzadeh would give Palmer a “security blanket” of a familiar receiver, though he said the receiver’s production has declined steadily in recent seasons, and it’s unlikely he would be a high-impact player for Oakland.
The Raiders’ receiving corps, however, hasn’t necessarily been the weak point some observers thought it would be.
With the emergence of rookie wideout Denarius Moore and signing of free-agent tight end Kevin Boss, the Raiders have gotten good production from newcomers. But the biggest improvement of all has come from incumbent Darrius Heyward-Bey, who finally appears to be coming on in his third NFL season.
“The light’s on,” head coach Hue Jackson has said of Heyward-Bey.
Through seven games, “DHB” has 27 catches for 434 yards and a touchdown and is averaging 16.1 yards per catch.
“I said before the year started, ‘It’s time,’ ” Jackson told Corkran. “And he’s done that. He’s risen to the occasion. Twenty-seven catches, over 400 yards. He’s doing well. He needs to continue to get better.”
Heyward-Bey has been praised by Palmer, who put in extra work over the bye week with his wide receivers in order to become more familiar with them, while also studying the team’s playbook.
So, while questions remain about Palmer (is he up to speed now?) and McFadden (will he be good to go?), going into Sunday’s AFC West game, the receiving corps appears solid -- with perhaps one more addition to be made.