On paper, the Oakland Raiders have the potential for an exciting receiving corps.
On paper, a group that includes Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey, plus summer rookie standouts Rod Streater and Juron Criner, would give Carson Palmer multiple, speedy options in Monday night’s season opener against the San Diego Chargers.
The trouble is, that fab fivesome has to play on grass, not paper, and assorted injuries among the pass catchers this summer have not allowed the Raiders to fully integrate their receiving corps with quarterback Carson Palmer and the new offensive scheme.
With the opener just days away, Moore – last year’s rookie sensation – still is bothered by a hamstring issue that has kept him from practicing and Ford’s sore foot is only now allowing him to jog. Neither played much in the exhibition season.
Now, with the Raiders off Wednesday and then scheduled for full practices Thursday and Friday and a light workout Saturday, time is running out for the two key receivers to get up to speed.
Rookies Criner and Streater were the highlight of summer camp, emerging as possible regular-season standouts, but now Criner has been slowed by a twisted ankle Monday (he was back at practice Tuesday) and neither has played in a regular-season game – when everything suddenly turns serious.
That leaves Heyward-Bey as the only proven, healthy wideout going into the opener. It’s likely that Streater would start opposite Heyward-Bey if Ford and Moore are unable to go.
Marc Sessler of NFL.com speculates that with a thin receiving corps Monday, it could set the stage for the Raiders to give the ball early and often to running back Darren McFadden.
“All of this suggests a heavier workload for Darren McFadden,” Sessler wrote, adding, “With or without the young receivers, he’s the beating heart of this Raiders attack.”
Ford, meanwhile, says his status for Monday is “up in the air.”
“I just have to see what the coaches and the training staff think,” he told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group.
Ford suffered a similar injury last season to the foot and missed several games, so Corkran noted the Raiders are likely going to be very cautious about putting Ford on the field and suffering a relapse.
Moore actually may be closer to playing than Ford.
“Denarius was out running around today, and he’s had a couple of good days back to back, so I’m encouraged by that,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen told CBS Sports Monday.