In the Raider Nation’s perfect world, Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards will seize the day and become the dominant Raiders wide receivers combo that every team covets. Add in Hunter Renfrow as that third-down slot receiver, and Derek Carr will be able to shine.
But as every football fan knows, it’s not a perfect world. So this offseason, the Raiders signed solid veteran players in John Brown and Willie Snead IV to supplement that youthful potential with some proven talent.
In his Zoom news conference this week, coach Jon Gruden said Ruggs’ development as a first-round pick was hindered first by a lack of any offseason programs and then by injury and a bout with the coronavirus. Still, Gruden pointed out just having Ruggs out there as a deep threat helped impact the game, giving tight end Darren Waller an opening.
He’s expecting more this year, though.
We don’t want Ruggs to just be threat,” Gruden said. “We’d like him to be on the receiving end of a lot of those threats. So, we’re trying to get him more and more involved in the pass offense, and so far, so good.”
Raiders wide receivers: Edwards finished strong last season
Edwards was a third-round pick out of South Carolina last season, and while he didn’t come into the league with as much fanfare as Ruggs, he was a four-year college starter and was a second-team All-SEC selection. Out of the Raiders wide receivers, he has the skill, speed, and size to instantly make a difference.
He finished with only three catches for 193 yards and one touchdown. Most of those stats came in the last three games of the season.
“It definitely was a process, and it obviously was frustrating,” he said. “Anytime I’m not getting the results I want to get, I’m frustrated, and I’m trying to fix it. But Rome wasn’t built in one day. All good things take time, and I’m just trusting the process.”
Returnee Renfrow has been a model of consistency in his two seasons with the Raiders. In his rookie season in 2019, Renfrow caught 49 balls for 605 yards and four touchdowns. He followed that up in 2020 with 56 catches for 656 yards and two touchdowns. Of the Raiders wide receivers entering 2021, Renfrow is another player who could make a significant impact on offense.
Raiders wide receivers newcomers can make their mark
Nelson Agholor led all Raiders wide receivers with 896 yards and eight touchdowns, but he has since moved on to the New England Patriots. Enter John Brown from the Buffalo Bills. He had only 458 yards receiving last year with the high-powered Bills offense, with three touchdowns.
But he’s had a couple of 1,000-yard seasons in his seven-year career, including 1,060 yards with six TDS in 2019.
“Reminds me a lot of Nelson [Agholor],” Carr said. “Very fast, very smart, works hard. But he’s a great person, just like Nelly. I think that they are very similar players. So, sad to lose Nelly – love him and wish him the best.”
Gruden said Snead would compete with Renfrow for time in the slot receiver position. The seven-year veteran caught 33 balls last season with the Baltimore Ravens for 432 yards and three touchdowns. For his career, he has averaged 12.2 yards per catch.
“Willie Snead IV has come in here and he’s a real pro,” Gruden said. “Strong hands, really precise route runner. Tough as hell.”