The Raiders spent last offseason dreaming of what their new souped up offense would look like. An aerial attack directed by Derek Carr and spearheaded by offseason additions Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams had some dreaming one of the top offenses in the NFL would reside in Oakland and then move to Las Vegas.
That never happened. Brown ran some routes in parks for Carr and spent a little time on the practice field. Then he froze his feet, threw a fit about a helmet, threatened to fight Mike Mayock, privately recorded a phone call with Jon Gruden and released it on Instagram and then demanded his release without ever playing a down for the Silver and Black.
The high-octane offense Gruden spent all offseason drawing up went to the back of the binder for another day. The Raiders' offense went from rocket ship to razor scooter overnight. While Gruden was able to design an offense around the personnel he had, the Raiders struggled mightily in the red zone, failed to generate big plays and ranked 24th in scoring.
In a word, woof.
So, through no fault of their own, the Raiders entered the offseason and the 2020 NFL Draft with a massive need for a wide receiver and skill players in general who can make things happen with the ball in their hands.
Enter: Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards and Lynn Bowden.
Gruden and Mayock focused their draft efforts on putting rocket fuel in their offense's tank.
Ruggs' 4.27 speed isn't just flashy track speed. He plays that fast in and out of every break and never slows down. He's not John Ross or Darrius Heyward-Bey. He's a unique offensive weapon capable of running by, around and through NFL defenses. Teams will have to focus on making sure Ruggs can't get the ball with an inch of space because if he sees daylight, he's gone.
In Edwards, the Raiders found a 6-foot-3, big-body receiver who excels at leveraging his huge frame and making contested-catches. Like Ruggs, Edwards is a YAC monster, averaging 7.6 yards after the catch in college, good for fifth in the class behind four first-round receivers. He'll give Carr a big slot to target and move the chains with and a guy to throw jump balls to on the outside.
Bowden, a versatile athlete out of Kentucky, will enter as a running back but will be tabbed as the "joker" in Gruden's offense. The Raiders will look to find any way they can to get him the ball to see if he can make things happen.
Those rookies will join Williams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow to create a passing attack with the potential to be even more potent than the one dreamed up with Brown.
The Raiders' passing attack is, in fact, better off now than it was a year ago when it was dreaming of Brown jumping into The Black Hole.
Brown's a Pro-Bowl talent. No doubt. One Gruden surely wishes he had the chance to see in action, turning his concepts into highlights on Sundays. That didn't happen. It's a "what-if" Gruden will have to live with, but the Raiders are in a better spot now.
Disregarding the fact that he's a total wild card and his narcissistic behavior distracts from team goals and is a general life suck to his team, Brown also entered last season at age 31. He was in the twilight of his prime, while the Raiders were in the infancy of a rebuild under Gruden and Mayock. Even if Brown has maintained his All-Pro level play for two or three more years, that still barely lines up with the Raiders' rebuilding timeline. Add in the fact that he was set to be paid a shade under $15 million a year.
Now, if we include the fact that while supremely, Brown was a ticking time bomb who could detonate at any time and destroy a season -- as the Raiders learned -- and the value of having him goes down, especially when the team isn't Super Bowl ready, yet.
In his place, the Raiders added three rookies who are dynamic with the ball in their hands and should enter their prime as the rebuild nears its completion.
Ruggs will be a factor immediately on the outside, inside, on sweeps, screens and whatever else Gruden spends the summer drawing up. Game-changing speed is necessary in today's NFL and now the Raiders have a missile of their own to go to war with the Kansas City Chiefs of the world.
Edwards gives the Raiders a perfect complement to Ruggs. A strong, physical receiver who can go over or through defensive backs to make big plays. Someone who can pluck a wayward thrown ball out of the air and turn a 6-yard slant into a 45-yard catch-and-run.
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In fairness. we're looking at this on paper. Projecting what the Raiders rookies can be. The ceiling is in the stratosphere for Ruggs and Edwards, but NFL history is littered with the bones of receivers with similar talent levels who couldn't turn raw talent into NFL production.
Brown's track record is well-documented. We've seen him torch NFL defensive backs for years while becoming one of the top receivers in the game. But in sports, often the stars must align perfectly in order for a partnership to work.
By the time Brown arrived in Oakland, his wheels already were coming off. Mike Tomlin had kept a lot of the issues under wraps, and try as he might, Gruden couldn't placate the troubled star.
He won't have that problem with his new chest of weapons. A young group hungry and motivated to taste NFL greatness and explode onto the scene in Las Vegas.
The Raiders might always wonder what could have been with Brown. Life is full of dreamed scenarios that never materialize.
But the new reality for the Silver and Black's offense might be even better.
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