Little Needs to Take Big Steps to Help Raiders

Former Browns receiver, signed by Oakland after recent release, has been plagued by drops and misplays in first three NFL seasons

Greg Little can be a tease. At times, he can make the difficult catches look easy and he often shows the speed and athletic ability of a first-class NFL receiver.

In three seasons with the Browns since he was taken in the second round of the 2011 draft out of North Carolina, Little has 155 catches for 1,821 yards and eight TDs – for a bad offensive team with questionable quarterbacks.

Yet Little, who was signed by the Raiders this week after being released by the Browns, also makes the easy catches look difficult.

According to Pro Football Focus, Little has had 31 drops over three seasons in Cleveland, including eight last year vs. 41 catches. An even stranger stat: seven passes intended for Little wound up being intercepted. Even in his big rookie season of 2011, when he caught 61 passes for 709 yards, he had 14 drops. And in a recent Deadspin article, Little was rated statistically among the worst receivers in the NFL

By all accounts, the Raiders went into the recent draft looking for an impact wideout in the upper rounds to add to their receiving corps, yet decided to go other directions. Now, Oakland is hoping the addition of Little can strengthen a corps that includes James Jones, Rod Streater, Denarius Moore, Juron Criner, Greg Jenkins and Brice Butler.

It’s possible that with new surroundings, new coaches and teammates that Little can get a fresh start with the Raiders and be more than he was in Cleveland. After his release, Browns general manager Ray Farmer said it’s not as if Little doesn’t have potential. He’s a big (6-foot-2, 215-pound) target and strong enough to outmuscle defensive backs for jump balls. And, he’s still only 25 years old. But the Browns apparently were tired of his inconsistency.

“He shows you he can jump up and make the one-handed catch, he shows you he can break a tackle,” Farmer said, according to Paul Gutierrez of “The question then is, can he repeatedly do that over and over again. That’s the difference between being average or marginal and good or great.”

Little also has had some off-the-field problems, dating back to his college years with the Tar Heels. As Gutierrez noted, by picking up Little, the Raiders are adding a potential playmaker. But if he doesn’t fit in, they don’t really lose anything.

“Oakland’s signing would seem to be a low-risk, high-reward proposition for the team, whose locker room was fortified with so many purported high-character veteran additions this offseason,” Gutierrez wrote.

Little’s contract, which expires at the end of 2014, is for just $753,750 in base salary.

After signing with the Raiders, Little certainly seemed happy for a new opportunity. “Wearing all black Oakland Raider!” he tweeted on Monday. A little later, that same day, he tweeted that he’s looking forward to facing his old team, the Browns, this fall, writing the Oct. 26 matchup is “definitely circled.”

The question is, will Little make the roster and be wearing silver and black on that date?

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