Wide receiver Denarius Moore will return to the Raiders lineup Sunday in Miami. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The Raiders missed wide receiver Denarius Moore in Monday night’s season-opening loss to the Chargers.
With Moore and Jacoby Ford both out with injuries, Oakland had to turn to rookie Rod Streater to start opposite Darrius Heyward-Bey, and the opportunities for Carson Palmer to try to stretch the field against the San Diego defense were limited.
Instead, the Raiders chipped away with short passes and Palmer connected with running back Darren McFadden for 13 catches.
Palmer had just two completions of more than 20 yards, reports Matt Kawahara of the Sacramento Bee, and averaged 9.3 yards per completion, a downturn from his 13.8-yard average he had with Oakland last season.
This Sunday against the Dolphins in Miami, however, Moore will be back in the starting lineup and Palmer, Moore and the rest of the Raiders are excited to have him back.
Head coach Dennis Allen decided to hold Moore out of the season opener to give his sore hamstring a chance to further heal, and Moore says it was smart to do so.
Now, says Moore, “I’m ready to rock.”
With Moore back, the Raiders can run more three-receiver sets and allow Heyward-Bey and Streater to catch an occasional breath.
“They were just worn out,” Palmer said of Monday night’s starting wideouts. “They never came off the field. So just getting another guy in the mix will save their legs a little bit and it definitely gives the defense somebody to prepare for.”
After returning to practice late last week, Moore says he believes he’s now back in sync and ready to contribute. Last season, he and Palmer worked well together, and during the offseason the duo clicked. Palmer said he could see Moore was back to his 2011 rookie form in practice Wednesday.
“He looked like the Denarius of old,” Palmer told Eric Gilmore of CBS Sports. “He made a couple phenomenal catches. His burst was there last week, it’s just I think more conditioning, really getting in practice. … He’s got a great week of practice in last week and probably could’ve played, but it was a very smart move by the staff and the training guys to hold him out. …
“He’s back this week. You can tell.”
In his rookie season, Moore was sensational, from training camp through the regular season. His speed, vertical leap and ability to make tough catches made him a go-to receiver. In 13 games, he caught 33 passes for an 18.7 yard average and five TDs, while also proving himself dangerous as a kick and punt returner.
While Moore is back, the Raiders will be without Ford for quite a while. The third-year pro had surgery on his left foot to address a Lisfranc injury – the same type of problem that robbed McFadden of more than half the 2011 season. It’s not certain how long Ford will be out, or if he will be able to play at all in 2012. The Raiders might have to bring in another wideout in the interim.
But Sunday, Oakland will have Moore back – and possibly a better deep-passing game, as well.