I will be doing a series of Raiders camp position battles throughout the off-season starting with wide receiver. I will continue to update these battles throughout camp as roster events take place such as injuries, cuts, new signings, etc.
Here is a list of the wide receivers on the Raiders 90 man roster including links to their player profile and my written summary breaking down each one individually.
I believe the Raiders will carry six wide receivers this season, with realistically 2 spots up for grabs. The amount of prospects the Raiders have brought in speaks to the fact that no one will be handed a job anymore. Performance in training camp will go a long ways in deciding the future of a lot of these young players with the Raiders. The competition at the position should bring out the best in everyone. There will more than likely be a wide receiver signed to the practice squad as well. The only wide receivers currently on the Raiders roster that are NOT eligible for the practice squad are Moore, Heyward-Bey, Ford, Murphy and Calhoun.
Here is my projected depth chart. Obviously there will be events that will change this outlook through out camp so I will continue to keep it up to date.
Projected Depth Chart:
“X” (Split End) Darrius Heyward-Bey
“Z” (Flanker) Denarius Moore
“Y” (Slot) Jacoby Ford
Depth 1) Juron Criner
Depth 2) Louis Murphy
Depth 3) Rod Streater
Jacoby Ford #12
Weight: 186 lbs
Arm Length: 30.4″
Hand Size: 9.3″
40 Yard Dash: 4.28
3 Cone Drill: 7.0
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.44
Bench Press: 15 reps
Vertical Jump: 33.5″
Broad Jump: 115″
That brings me to Jacoby Ford who is an interesting story. A fan favorite from the beginning, his electrifying attributes can not be ignored by anyone. He has the ability to score anytime the ball is in his hands which is the type of player that will give a defensive coordinator gray hair at an early age.
His play on the field, however, has been up and down. After bursting onto the scene as a rookie averaging nearly 19 yards per catch and being remembered for his contributions in multiple late game comebacks, he had what many would call a sophomore slump last year.
Struggling to stay on the field due to injuries in his second season, Ford played in just 8 games while starting only 3. His 19 catches and 1 touchdown last year left a lot of people wondering if he could still be counted on as a consistent receiver in the offense going forward.
His size does not do him any favors either as he won’t be winning many jump balls at 5′ 9″. That limits his time spent split out wide in the offense, although he has proved he can make plays from that position at times. His speed will always present match up problems for slower corner backs.
Lets not forget Ford’s value to the return game as well. He has amassed 1,621 yards returning with an average of 25.3 yards per return and 4 TD’s in 2 years. The rule change by the NFL to move the kickoff up to the 35 yard line has limited the impact on kick returns though. You are now seeing more kickoff’s going out of the back of the end zone and players having to make a decision on whether to bring the ball out from 6-8 yards deep in order to have a chance at breaking a long return.
Ford has yet to get involved much in the punt return game to this point. Overall this season will be very telling for Jacoby Ford. Will he return to the form we got used to seeing in his rookie year and have a big part in the offense or will he become more of a situational type player and return specialist? He is currently in-line to be the teams 3rd receiver but will see plenty of competition for that role in training camp.
I talk about the division, the schedule and the roster on my drive home.
Al Davis carefully planned his estate so his son could retain full control of the team. It will be Mark Davis who leads the team into an era of Raiders football without his legendary father.
Mark Davis waited three months before making any changes on the football side of the organization, but changes were inevitable.
Perhaps the best slogan for the 2012 Raiders would be, “Under New Management.”
The Raiders have hired 21 new people on the football side of the organization and whereas a quality control coach will have little to no impact on the immediate or long-term success of the team, a general manager will have significant impact.
21. Eric Sanders, Quality Control – Defense
He’s been with the team for two years and even the most die-hard fan doesn’t recognize the name. Sanders coached linebackers at U.C. Davis for two seasons and he was a psychology major before joining the Raiders. He’ll make copies of play sheets and get the rest of the staff coffee. That’s probably short-changing Sanders, but he sits firmly at the bottom of the pecking order.
Importance: Negligible impact.
20. Justin Griffith, Quality Control – Offense
Griffith has mostly followed Greg Knapp around the country. As a player, Griffith followed Knapp from Atlanta to Oakland to Seattle to Houston. He was no longer wanted as a player in 2010 and left Knapp to be a coaching intern with the Seahawks for the 2011 season. He’s well schooled in the zone-blocking system and an ex-player and that may prove to be a valuable resource for the offensive staff.
Importance: Familiar with zone-blocking system. Slight impact.
19. John Grieco, Assistant Strength and Conditioning.
This is Grieco’s first NFL position, but he comes well credentialed and he’ll assist legendary strength coach Al Miller. While the strength coaches are some of the more underrated coaches on the staff, let’s not get carried away putting an assistant strength coach in-front of position coaches.
Importance: Injury prevention and recovery time. Slight impact.
18. Keith Burns, Assistant Special Teams
Special teams is the third phase of the game and only one or two coaches are devoted to it. Burns has been coaching for almost 30 years and was believed to be hired as a secondary coach. In fact, his Raiders.com biography says Burns is a secondary coach.
Importance: Impact on kick coverage. Slight to moderate impact.
17. Mark Hutson, Tight Ends
Like Burns, Hutson is a veteran of the college ranks. He’ll have the narrow focus of dealing with the tight ends. He’ll likely focus on blocking as he was the offensive line coach at Tulane dating back to Matt Forte‘s final year there.
Importance: Couldn’t hurt to have tight ends that can block. Slight impact.
16. Clayton Lopez, Defensive Backs
For the most part the Raiders went to the college ranks to fill position coaches, but the defensive backs coaches are one of the exceptions.
Lopez has a good track record at the NFL level, but he’s bounced between teams. At the surface, Lopez’s work looks good as his secondaries tend to improve upon his arrival.
Impact: Lopez will not be around long if there is not a noticeable impact on one of the team’s weakest position groups.
15. Steve Wisniewski, Assistant Offensive Line
He’s not going to be real familiar with the zone-blocking system Greg Knapp will deploy, but he’s loved by fans and the organization. Wisniewski was a big part of the reason for the surprise Raiders’ offensive line in 2011. His role may be reduced, but the organization realized that he is more than worth keeping around.
Importance: Proven teacher of man-blocking techniques and will help transition to zone-blocking scheme. Noticeable impact.
14. Al Miller, Strength and Conditioning
Miller helped teams win four Super Bowl rings. He retired in 2004 to be with his wife who has Alzheimer’s disease. Dennis Allen, who he worked with in Atlanta, recruited him to be strength coach before he had been formally offered the Raiders position.
The strength coach is often overlooked, but strength and conditioning is a big part of injury protection and healing. Miller is one of best in the industry and only stopped to take care of family matters.
Importance: Noticeable impact on injury prevention and recovery.
13. Steve Hoffman, Special Teams Coordinator
Hoffman makes a lateral transfer from the Kansas City Chiefs. He inherits two of the best kickers in the NFL. As long as he doesn’t mess with Sebastian Janikowski or Shane Lechler he’ll be a success. His coverage units will be under scrutiny, but perhaps not as much as his field goal team after the Raiders blocked two kicks in-route to a win in Week 16.
Importance: Ability to impact one phase of the game significantly. Noticeable impact.
12. Terrell Williams, Defensive Line
Williams is yet another college coach to have been added to the Raiders staff. He wont design the scheme, but Williams will need to get the Raiders front to stop the run, something they haven’t been able to do since 2002. Coincidentally or not, the Raiders haven’t made the playoffs since 2002, which is the last time the team held opponents under 125 yards per game rushing.
Williams coached Cliff Avril and Anthony Spencer, both free agents, during their college years at Purdue. Only one is likely to be available, but the link is worth mentioning.
Importance: Williams will monitor a position needing improvement against the run. Significant, specific impact.
11. Ted Gilmore, Wide Receivers
Gilmore has been coaching receivers in the college ranks since the mid-1990s and most recently was coaching receivers at USC. This will be his first stint in the NFL and he’ll inherit a young and talented group of receivers that still need to grow at the position.
The continued growth of the Raiders offense may rely on the receivers and it will be up to Gilmore to make sure Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore and Louis Murphy improve on their 2011 seasons.
Importance: Gilmore will monitor a position needing improvement. Significant, specific impact.
10. John DeFilippo, Quarterbacks
DeFilippo is another coach that seems to find a home wherever Greg Knapp lands as an offensive coordinator. This time around, DeFilippo will not be saddled with Josh McCown, Daunte Culpepper and JaMarcus Russell as his three quarterbacks.
DeFilippo will have a proven veteran Carson Palmer and a young, athletic developmental player in Terrell Pryor. DeFilippo and Greg Knapp will likely be able to hand-select their backup quarterback of choice. Obviously this is a much better situation for DeFilippo than his previous stint with the team.
Importance: It’s a quarterback-driven league and the Raiders will need to get Palmer playing well and start planning for the future. DeFilippo could make a break a season or multiple seasons with his coaching of the quarterbacks. He’s likely to get assistance from Greg Knapp, without it DeFilippo would have more impact on team performance than any other position coach.
9. Kelly Skipper, Running Backs
Skipper has had opportunities to leave the Raiders and he remains on staff for his sixth season. Skipper has done a nice job bringing out the best in Darren McFadden. McFadden had detractors coming out of Arkansas, but has corrected many of the issues scouts had with him in college while under tutelage of Skipper.
Importance: Significant impact of running game, which also happens to be a key of Greg Knapp’s entire offense.
8. Johnnie Lynn, Defensive Backs
The Raiders aren’t messing around with defensive backs or defensive backs coaches. Stanford Routt was released and the Raiders hired two defensive backs coaches with NFL experience.
Lynn comes over from Philadelphia, but he has years of NFL experience. He’s been an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. That experience can be valuable to his superiors.
He’s experienced and has been successful at each of his coaching stops with the exception of his one-year stint in Philadelphia last season. His secondaries have always keyed on getting turnovers and that’s an area of the Raiders defense that most improve.
Importance: His experience and expertise in many areas and track record as a secondary coach will make a significant difference for the entire defensive staff.
7. Frank Pollack, Offensive Line
Pollack has been the assistant offensive line coach for the zone-blocking Houston Texans for the past five years. He should have a very good handle both the zone-blocking system and how to teach it to NFL players.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s entire offensive system is based around the running game and the proper execution of the zone-blocking system. Pollack is a unique find because he’s well-versed in the system and was available. Knapp’s implementation of his system is made many times easier due to the hire of Pollack.
Pollack’s challenge is to team with Steve Wisniewski and get the young Raiders’ offensive line executing the zone-blocking system like they’ve been running it for years.
Importance: Significant impact to a pivotal area of the offense.
6. Johnny Holland, Linebackers
Holland was well-respected and well-liked in Houston. He was ousted with the rest of the defensive staff at the end of the 2010 season after a five-year stint as linebackers coach. He was one of the few position coaches at the time that was expected to stay with the team. Wade Phillips apparently had his own guy, so Holland sat out the 2011 season.
Both DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing achieved rookie of the year honors under Holland.
The Raiders are in desperate need of a coach that can motivate and challenge Rolando McClain and clean up Aaron Curry’s pass coverage.
Impact: Potentially huge impact on the Raiders defense. Even if the defensive line improves if the Raiders don’t also improve at linebacker they can’t expect to hold opponents to less than 125 yard per game rushing.
5. Jason Tarver, Defensive Coordinator
There is no denying that Tarver is a relative unknown. He’s young and has his only experience as a defensive coordinator came last season as co-defensive coordinator for Stanford. He wasn’t the play-caller.
This will be Tarver’s first time calling defensive plays and running his own defensive staff. It’s a good thing that Dennis Allen is the head coach and is likely to have his hands heavily in the defensive game plan. Greg Knapp is mostly self-sufficient on offense and Allen should and will have input on the defense.
It will be interesting to see if Allen allows Tarver to call the defensive plays as he said he would in his introductory press conference or if the coaches Allen was able to hire might have changed his mind.
Importance: The potential impact Tarver can make on team and the defense is significant. The defense was the problem in 2011 and Tarver is the man specifically tasked with correcting the issues although he will work closely with Allen.
4. Al Saunders, Senior Offensive Assistant
The retention of Al Saunders can’t be understated. He’ll be an adviser on offense now and he’s familiar with the personnel and their strengths and weaknesses. He’ll be a valuable resource for Knapp and Allen to draw from for offensive information.
Saunders retention could mean Knapp isn’t going to force the Raiders offense to fully convert in one offseason. If that is the case it bodes well for the young players as the Raiders transition.
The Raiders could be attempting to use Knapp’s zone-blocking running scheme combined with a little more of Saunders’ Air Coryell-style passing game which better suits the Raiders options at receiver and quarterback.
Importance: Potentially large impact on the Raiders offense, particularly Carson Palmer and the passing game.
3. Greg Knapp, Offensive Coordinator
His first stint with the Raiders was a disaster. He didn’t call the plays and he was forced to start JaMarcus Russell at quarterback in his second season. He’s experienced, but that also means he hasn’t been overly successful. In the past, Knapp has fallen in-love with the running game, but his recent stint as quarterbacks coach of the Texans may have reignited a love for the passing game.
Knapp needs to craft his offense carefully to fit the skill set of Carson Palmer. Al Saunders could be a valuable resource to Knapp.
The offense gained respectability under Hue Jackson and Knapp needs to build upon that success. A step down in offensive production is not likely to be well received.
Importance: Knapp has a nice group of players to work with and should be able to put them in position to make plays, but a step-back on offense is likely to be considered a failure.
2. Dennis Allen, Head Coach
Not since John Madden have the Raiders had a defensive-minded head coach. Allen comes well-respected from his prior stops in Atlanta, New Orleans and Denver. According to various accounts, it was only a matter of when and not if Allen received his first shot at being a head coach.
Allen’s tasked with taking a roster full of players and getting the Raiders back to greatness. Allen will preach discipline and accountability, two things the Raiders have been lacking since Jon Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay.
Allen has quietly put together a solid coaching staff and the team is hard at work preparing for the draft, free agency and the new era of Raiders football.
Importance: McKenzie’s commitment to Allen for four years and the organizational change marks a sharp contrast to the Al Davis-era. The impact will be significant even if that change does not immediate alter the Raiders win total.
1. Reggie McKenzie, General Manager
While Dennis Allen will be the face of the Raiders, it is Reggie McKenzie that will sit behind the curtain and pull the levers and strings. McKenzie will have total control of football operations, but as he’s mentioned multiple times that he wants the Raiders organization to work as a team. McKenzie will listen to input from his coaches and scouts, but when a decision has to be made, it will be McKenzie that makes that call.
McKenzie will let Allen coach and he’ll do what he can to assist his team in any way he can. Much of that has to do with the players that are brought in.
The players are the ones that actually play the game and that’s what makes McKenzie the most important hire the Raiders have made in decades. Ron Wolf suggested McKenzie and his interview with Mark Davis and John Madden went well enough that Mark Davis didn’t feel the need to continue the search.
Importance: The Raiders are committed to McKenzie for years to come. General manager hires are usually not the variety the team wants to be making every few seasons. The most stable franchises at top of the organization chart are also the franchises that are winning the most games.
As published on Bleacher Report 2/20/2012.
As seen on Bleacher Report:
As with any fan base, the Raider Nation is not immune to overrating players. Every offseason coaches and front office personnel across the league lock themselves in the film room to study their own roster. It’s not uncommon for a player to lose snaps the following season after the team had time to evaluate their play relative to other players in the league.
There are a few players on the roster vulnerable to a loss of snaps or even a loss of a job after the Raiders new general manager Reggie McKenzie and new head coach Dennis Allen have time to evaluate them.
Giordano lead the Raiders in interceptions in 2011 with five and it has many fans thinking he is the solution at free safety and Michael Huff should be released or move to cornerback.
It’s important to remember Giordano only served as a nickel free safety and injury replacement for Huff in 2011, starting more than four games for the first time in his career. Dennis Allen coached Giordano during his final year in New Orleans and is well aware of his capabilities and limitations.
For every Giordano interception there was a missed tackle, bad angle or blown coverage assignment. What can be seen on television broadcasts is one thing, but imagine what more the coaches will uncover when they examine all-22 film?
If it wasn’t for an injury depleted and youthful group of Oakland Raiders cornerbacks in 2011, Giordano may have never had an opportunity to make the interceptions and we could be talking about a breakout year by Michael Huff. Instead, Huff was relagated to the slot cornerback role, a difficult and thankless position in a horribly designed 2011 Raiders defense.
When Darren McFadden went down with yet another injury, Bush stepped in to carry the load. Few were worried about what might happen the the Raiders running game because Bush was starting caliber running back just waiting for his chance.
Bush got his chance and despite 256 carries put up numbers like a backup running back. Bush rushed for 977 yards while starting the final 9 games and averaged just 3.8 yards-per-carry. The latter tying him with Brandon Jacobs and putting him just ahead of BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Marion Barber and Joseph Addai.
There have been rumors and some fans have suggested that the Raiders trade McFadden and start Bush. If it’s a game of inches Darren McFadden has averaged 5.3 yards-per-carry the last two seasons to Bush’s 3.9, a difference of 50 inches per carry.
Darren McFadden has had issues with injuries, but the gap between him and Bush is considerable. If Bush is back in silver and black next season he should be valued and paid like a backup.
Ford can electrify a crowd like no other player on the Raiders roster, but Ford has a lot to learn about being an NFL receiver. While Ford may be the most dangerous player on the Raiders roster with the ball in his hands, it’s getting it into his hands that has been a problem.
Despite an injury plagued 2011 campaign, Ford managed to play in 8 games, grabbing 19 balls for 279 yards. While Ford made the most of his receptions in 2011, he averaged just over 2 receptions per game played which is comparable to his rookie season.
Ford just isn’t getting open with great consistency and the Raiders were forced to get creative to get the ball to him. He’s an exciting young player, but he needs to improve as a receiver to become a consistent threat.
The Raiders reached for an unknown safety out of Ohio University with the 47th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. In three seasons with the Raiders Mitchell hasn’t become a starter or even a consistent sub-package player.
Mitchell is a situational safety that is often given the tough assignment against the opposing team’s best tight end. At times this role has worked for MItchell, but he’s also had his fair share of problems and was routinely chewed-out by starting strong safety Tyvon Branch in 2011 for missed coverage assignments.
If Huff moves to cornerback and Giordano finds himself without a job, there would be an opening in the Raiders secondary for a starter. Tyvon Branch could slide over to free safety, but Mitchell is far from ready to assume the starting strong safety role as some have been lead to believe.
It’s been three seasons and Mitchell hasn’t become a starter, assuming he could be a productive starter in 2012 is a huge mistake. He’ll be lucky to make the roster next season under the Raiders new regime.
The athletic offensive lineman made the active roster on game day just four times in 2011. There were instances in 2011 that an injured player that had no chance to play in the game was active on game day over Campbell.
This is the young lineman fans think can start over Khalif Barnes at right tackle? That’s seems unlikely at this point. As bad as Barnes was in 2011, Campbell must really look terrible in practice.
He’s a completely unknown commodity, expecting anything from him seems like a stretch headed into 2012. Raider fans should be happy if Campbell gives the team any positive production next season.
There is a lot of youth on this list and that means each player will have the opportunity to match the expectations the fans have placed upon them, even if that opportunity comes on another team.
Allow me for a moment to walk the Raider Nation through a timeline of Hue Jackson’s tenure with the Raiders.
Al Davis hires Hue Jackson to revamp an offense that hadn’t been good in many years. With the aide of competent quarterback play and a healthy Darren McFadden, Jackson is wildly successful in his first year.
Tom Cable is fired for an 8-8 season and Hue Jackson is promoted to Head Coach.
He is working with a roster constructed by Al Davis and defensive coaches hired by Al Davis.
October 8, 2011
Al Davis dies and Hue Jackson is forced to take a more active role in managing player personnel because-although unqualified-he is the most qualified person in the building. Mark Davis begins to gather his advisory team or John Madden, Ron Wolf and Ken Herock.
Hue Jackson loses his starting quarterback to injury for the season. Jackson knows with the passing of Al Davis that a new front office would be coming in and in all likelihood he would be fired if he didn’t make the playoffs and maybe he would even need to win a playoff game to keep his job.
Trade for Carson Palmer. Hue Jackson was looking out for himself, knowing that he had little chance of making a playoff run with Kyle Boller and knowing a losing record would mean he would be fired. Hue Jackson pressures Mark Davis to make a lopsided trade for the only decent quarterback available. Hue’s ego and power begin to grow within the organization and some question wether that is a good thing.
Hue Jackson and the Raiders lose the most explosive offensive weapon on the team for an extended period of time, Darren McFadden.
Ride Michael Bush and get the young receivers more involved in the offense.
Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore injured.
No good solution can be found as the Raiders continue to ride Michael Bush and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Meanwhile, John Madden, Ron Wolf, Ken Herock and Tom Flores are advising Mark Davis to interview Reggie McKenzie when the season ends. Mark’s advisors are telling him to be cautious about Hue Jackson’s ego and power grab within the organization.
Defensive secondary not playing well.
Hue crossed his fingers that Chuck Bresnahan, without the constant supervision of Al Davis, can turn the Raiders defense into something resembling a solid unit. Turns out to be a non-solution and one Hue Jackson can’t directly change.
Hue Jackson heads into the final week of the season 8-7 after another epic defensive failure that he has little control over. His team has an outside chance to make the playoffs.
Hue Jackson, knowing his fate was now in limbo, his defensive coordinator incompetent and his team with a slim chance to make the playoffs, walks into Mark Davis’ office and asks for input on the General Manager hire as a last ditch effort to try to save his job. One he might have saved had he never walked though Mark’s office door.
Hue Jackson was acting in self-preservation and Mark Davis wisely refuses to grant Hue’s request. It was a slightly absurd request to begin with, allowing a head coach to have input in who is hired as his boss, but Mark Davis also viewed this as another Hue Jackson power grab. Mark Davis had been warned by his advisors to be careful regarding Hue Jackson’s ego and power aspirations.
The Raiders lose in week 17 and Hue Jackson voices his frustrations with the team and his lack of input on the general manager hiring process in his final two press conferences and in-so doing seals his fate with the Raiders. Mark Davis and his advisors collectively grumble at Hue’s final act and finishing the season 1-4 does not help Hue’s case, no matter how little he had to do with the collapse.
Reggie McKenzie is interviewed and Mark Davis and John Madden give McKenzie the impression that firing Hue Jackson and starting fresh is the best course of action. That makes things easier for McKenzie, because he likely desired the ability to hire his own guy, but would have considered keeping Hue around if Mark Davis had requested it. McKenzie gets a clean start instead of delaying the inevitable firing of Hue Jackson to hire his own coach.
The decision was made to start fresh under McKenzie. It is naïve to think that either Mark Davis or Reggie McKenzie made the decision to fire Jackson on their own. It was a collective decision and ultimately it was a series of events that went against Hue Jackson. Jackson is still a good coach and will land on his feet somewhere. His defense, his ego and his act of self-preservation ended his short tenure with the Raiders. The Raiders will be better for it and Hue Jackson will be a better coach for it.