Ex-Giant Dwayne Harris Wins Raiders' Return Role

Trade of Switzer gives Harris the job returning kickoffs and punts and makes him a member of the wide receiver corps, too

With just three days to go until the Raiders’ final exhibition game, some positions on the roster are starting to become more clear.

On Monday, the Raiders traded wide receiver/returner Ryan Switzer. That move gives the return job – for both kickoffs and punts – to ex-Giant Dwayne Harris, and also moves Harris into a backup role at wide receiver.

Though the Raiders traded for Switzer from the Cowboys this offseason, the coaching staff decided to go with Harris instead. The Raiders traded Switzer to the Pittsburgh Steelers, along with a sixth-round pick in 2019, for a fifth-round choice next year.

Harris is 30 and coming off three seasons in New York with the Giants. He came into the league in 2011 out of East Carolina and played four seasons with Dallas before moving on to the Giants.

Harris has mostly seen action returning punts and kickoffs, but he has caught 70 passes for 827 yards and eight touchdowns in his career. His biggest season as a receiver came in 2015 when he had 36 catches for 396 yards and a TD for the Giants.

On special teams, Harris has returned 157 punts for a 9.7-yard average and three TDs. He’s handled 130 kickoffs for a 26.1-yard average and a TD. He made the Pro Bowl as a special teams player in 2016.

Head coach Jon Gruden likes Harris’ versatility. Harris was a below-the-radar pickup this offseason because of a foot injury that limited him to just five games in 2017.

“We can do a lot of things with him,” Gruden told reporters Monday. “He’s tough. He was just hurt last year. That was why you didn’t hear from him. … We want to try to get a couple of core (special teams) guys that (special teams coach Rich) Bisaccia can count on every week, and we’ll start with Harris."

For now, the corps at wide receiver includes Amari Cooper, Martavis Bryant, Jordy Nelson, Harris and Seth Roberts at the top of the depth chart, with rookie Marcell Ateman, Isaac Whitney, Johnny Holton and Keon Hatcher competing for the sixth spot. Griff Whalen, who appeared to be a candidate for the roster, has suffered a foot injury and will be placed on injured reserve.

The Raiders face the Seahawks in Seattle Thursday night at 7 in the summer’s final exhibition game.

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