The Raiders signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh to veteran minimum contract on Tuesday. Houshmandzadeh is familiar with Hue Jackson and Carson Palmer from their days together in Cincinnati. Palmer also worked out with Houshmandzadeh during his “retirement.”
Aside from Houshmandzadeh’s familiarity with Jackson and Palmer, what does he bring to the table as a receiver? Houshmandzadeh is 34 and had a less than spectacular year in Baltimore in 2010. He has also been unemployed for the past eight weeks.
Is Houshmandzadeh purely to make Palmer comfortable or does Jackson actually believe he is good enough to crack the rotation at receiver?
Both. Jackson realizes how important the timing is between receiver and quarterback and went out and signed one that Palmer knows well. Houshmandzadeh runs certain routes really well, particularly from the slot. The Raiders are struggling to find consistency at the receiver position. Rookie Denarius Moore has slowed way down over the past few games and split time with Jacoby Ford. The Raiders have rotated Derek Hagan, Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy into the mix as the slot without much success. Hagan now has to look for another job.
After reviewing the video of Houshmandzadeh in 2010, there is no football reason he was unemployed. He has a great feel for coverage of the linebacker and works the middle of the field well. Hue Jackson mentioned exactly this in his radio interview on Sirius radio. Houshmandzadeh will work his way back towards the quarterback and find soft spots in coverage when his quarterback is pressured and flushed from the pocket. His slant from the slot can set up a deep out to the sideline as the safety bites inside.
Hitch, comeback, quick screen and fly routes are not how best to utilize Houshmandzadeh. The Ravens tried and failed to use Houshmandzadeh as a split wide receiver and his sloppy comeback routes, such as the dropped pass against the Steelers in the playoffs last season, are unfortunately the norm for him.
Houshmandzadeh complained quietly about his usage in Seattle and Baltimore and a reputation may have kept him from signing on to any team. His familiarity with Palmer and Jackson makes him less likely to become a problem for the Raiders.
Houshmandzadeh can work his way into the rotation behind Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ford and Moore. Moore has struggled with consistency and the Raiders may pull back on him a little going forward and turn to Ford and the other receivers to play flanker. Moore looked dreadful against the Chiefs and the coaching staff watched extra film of their players over the bye week. Perhaps it is best for Moore to feature him only in certain formations and let him focus more on punt returns.
Hagan has special teams ability and Schilens doesn’t, but Schilens is the far better player when healthy. Louis Murphy was also shopped prior to the trade deadline indicating that maybe the team soured on him.
The Raiders will need the receivers and Palmer to carry the offensive load with Darren McFadden still on crutches nine days after spraining his foot. Houshmandzadeh can help.