You can’t teach speed. New Oakland Raiders wide receiver Martavis Bryant possesses a level of speed that makes NFL cornerbacks shudder
Until now, the Raiders have seldom had speed to rival other NFL teams. Simply put, they haven’t had a true deep threat in over a decade. Sure, Amari Cooper has had his fair share of deep strikes, but his best work is with his crisp route running getting open in the intermediate levels of the field.
Over the last decade or thereabouts, the Raiders have seen a few guys like Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford show some flash for a few games here and there, but no one has ever taken that vertical threat role and made it their own. Even a speedster like Darrius Heyward-Bey wasn’t a threat over the top.
Year after year, a true burner would be near the top of the Raiders off-season shopping list, but for whatever reason, it would be overlooked. Come 2018, that has finally changed with the acquisition of former Steelers wide receiver Bryant.
How He Fits
Bryant is much more than just a speed threat. The key word that kept popping up when watching some Steelers game tape was “versatile.” Bryant can line up outside where he’s capable of being the lone receiver on one side of the field, or in tandem with another wideout (or flexed our tight end). He also lined up in multiple trips formation sets, which will no doubt be a staple of Jon Gruden’s offense. It is a unique situation that the Raiders top three receivers (Cooper, Jordy Nelson and Bryant) can all play outside and in the slot. Being able to line up in multiple positions is going to be a real positive for the offense, making it easier for Gruden to draw up plays to isolate certain matchups and to highlight specific weaknesses in the opposing defense they can take advantage of.
Make no mistake about it though: Bryant was acquired to take the top off a defense. He has true football speed and can fly past DBs even in off-man coverage.
What is so impressive about Bryant’s speed is that he is seemingly able to hit top gear very quickly, and doesn’t lose speed when moving laterally in the open field. Having an additional vertical threat who can make plays underneath, while being a threat to score from anywhere on the field, can only be seen as a positive for the offense moving forward.
Off The Field Issues:
Bryant has immense talent, but he does come with some baggage. He was suspended for the entire 2016 season for multiple drug offences. Additionally, Bryant did have some issues with the coaching staff and the locker room in Pittsburgh. He was open and candid in his belief that he should’ve been getting more on-field opportunities.
Why Raiders are a Long Term Fit
On the surface, many people consider Bryant to be a big risk when it comes to his off-field issues. Some have also questioned whether Bryant is a long-term fit with the Raiders given his sullied past and the trepidations and potential hiccups that can be associated with the team moving to Las Vegas.
What however isn’t well known, is that when Bryant was suspended for the 2016 season, he took it upon himself to get his life in order. He relocated his off-season home of Los Angeles to Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas. During his 2016 hiatus, Bryant attended the Van Hook Sports Performance training center, where he received access to all the necessary facilities both on and off field to maximise both his on-field performance, along with his health. Given that Bryant turned his life around in Henderson, it only makes sense that Las Vegas Raiders would be a great long-term fit. Staying in Vegas would allow Bryant the full 365 days access to the very facilities, health professionals and equipment which helped him back on the right path.
The Raiders may not be moving until 2020, but don’t count the aforementioned reasons above as to why the Raiders and Martavis Bryant may indeed be a match made in heaven, and a matchup nightmare for the rest of the NFL.