In 2016, the Oakland Raiders pass attack broke out big time. Both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree had over 1,000 yards receiving. This was the first time such a feat happened since Tim Brown and Jerry Rice each eclipsed the century mark in 2001. They could not keep up the production in 2017 though, with each wideout not able to even reach 700 yards. Now, with Jon Gruden taking over, he will look to build the team in his image, and revive Oakland’s sputtering offense.
Revamping the Oakland Raiders Wide Receiving Corps
Coincidentally, Gruden was the head coach during Brown and Rice’s dual 1,000-yard season. He could decide to stick with what he has in Crabtree and Cooper, but if the rumors are true, the Raiders probably let Crabtree walk, and bring in a new body for next year.
From Excellence to Disappointment
Crabtree led the team in catches with 58, but only mustered 618 yards from them. Cooper had slightly more yards, 680 on 48 catches, but neither led the team in yardage. Tight end Jared Cook ended up being the team’s leading receiver with 688 yards. Granted each missed some time, but even when they were on the field, they left a lot more to be desired.
Cooper dealt with an ankle injury for the latter portion of the season. He was knocked out of the game against the Denver Broncos in week 12, and was in and out of the lineup for the rest of the year afterward. Still, before that, his production was almost nonexistent. He struggled heavily with drops and had a three-game span from weeks three to five where he didn’t gain more than ten yards in a game.
Crabtree didn’t have any injury issues, instead of missing time due to character issues. Before Cooper went down in week 12, Crabtree revisited his beef with Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib. After instigating a fistfight, both he and Talib were ejected from the game. It looked like he was in the coach’s doghouse after that, seeing his playing time dwindle for the rest of the season.
If the Raiders decide to part ways with Crabtree, an immediate upgrade over him would be impending Jacksonville Jaguars wideout, Allen Robinson. He is an excellent route runner with great hands who can also stretch the field. Robinson is versatile enough to where he would fit into whatever type of offense Gruden decides to implement.
The issue with Robinson is that he is probably out of Oakland’s price range. They already have quarterback Derek Carr locked into a huge contract, and will soon have to give draftmate Khalil Mack an even more monstrous payday. Robinson looks to demand an annual salary of $13.6 million, which would put him in the ballpark of players like T.Y. Hilton and Dez Bryant.
Still, all signs point to the Raiders going after at least one big free agent name. They already let go of David Amerson, are set to release kicker Sebastian Janikowski, and reports say that even more names could be given the boot. If the Raiders do clean house, it could free up enough money to lure Robinson to the dark side.
Big Name with Question Marks
Another name that Oakland could pursue to improve their wide receiver situation is the Los Angeles Rams’ Sammy Watkins. Watkins is a player with big-talent potential, but who has been inconsistent throughout his young NFL career. Injuries hampered his performance for most of his time with the Buffalo Bills. Then he never seemed to get on the same page as quarterback Jared Goff in his only year in Los Angeles.
Still, the talent is there, and there were flashes of it last season, like week three, where he gained 106 yards and scored two touchdowns. On the season he had eight touchdowns on only 39 catches. That means he caught a touchdown on about 20 percent of his catches. The downside of this is that he really wasn’t involved in the pass game other than that.
He only had two games on the season where he caught more than three passes. This could be due to the fact that there were so many mouths to feed on the Rams offense. Robert Woods became the team’s surprise number one receiver, catching 56 passes even though he missed a good amount of games.
Rookie Cooper Kupp was much more involved than many expected, reeling in 62 balls. Running back Todd Gurley ended up leading the team in catches with 64. Basically, it looks like head coach Sean McVay schemed Watkins into the offense as a decoy. Teams still had to respect his home run capability, but it ended up freeing up all of their other playmakers.
Watkins still has the talent to be a number one wideout, and Gruden’s offensive mind would definitely bring out the best in his talents should they pursue him.
An interesting name that has been linked to the Raiders as a potential free agency target is Terrelle Pryor. Pryor was Al Davis’s final draft pick, but he was drafted as a quarterback. He became the team’s starter for the 2013 season, appearing in 11 games. While his athletic ability was obvious, he had issues with accuracy and decision making.
After the team moved on from him, he made a change to a position that would tailor more to his skillset – wide receiver. He found his opportunity with the Cleveland Browns in 2016, accumulating 1,007 yards on 77 receptions.
After the Browns didn’t re-sign him, he went to the Washington Redskins on a one-year prove it deal. Well, he didn’t prove much, only managing 20 receptions for 240 yards. He could come full circle and return to the Silver and Black at a different position than the first time.
What makes Pryor enticing is that he would come at a low price. Since he only has one good season under his belt, he will be forced to take a deal at close to nothing. We all saw what he could do in Cleveland as their starter, with a carousel of quarterbacks. In Oakland, he would only have to play second fiddle behind Cooper, taking some pressure off him.
He could end up being a steal, and would come with basically no risk. Even if the Raiders end up keeping Crabtree, they should give Pryor a look.
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