NAPA – Antonio Brown missed yet another Raiders training camp practice Friday morning, his second straight since joining the fray earlier this week.
The superstar receiver showed on his Instagram Story that he’s struggling with the soles of his feet, an ailment that would account for his recent absences and his short stint on the non-football injury list.
The Raiders don’t view his absence as a big deal or significant setback, but head coach Jon Gruden certainly wants his best player practicing posthaste.
“I think we’re all disappointed (Brown isn’t practicing),” Gruden said. “I think he’s disappointed. We’d like to get the party started. We’d like to get him out here. He’s a big part of this team but, for the time being, we’ve seen the development of some other receivers that we’re excited about.”
There’s reason for optimism with a corps being lead by Tyrell Williams while Brown currently is sidelined.
“Tyrell Williams has made some big plays at multiple positions, and has showed great stamina,” Gruden said. “Darren Waller has been very good. We’re fired up to talk about those two guys, and we’re starting to see others emerge.”
There are several quality receivers currently in Napa, creating serious competition for roster spots.
Gruden name-checked Marcell Ateman. He has made some plays recently, though J.J. Nelson and Keelan Doss stole the show on Friday morning.
Both guys went horizontal to catch deep shots down the left sideline made legal after surviving the ground, though Nelson did so with one hand.
Doss is a smooth route runner with solid hands. Nelson has shown an ability to adjust when the ball is in the air, and Derek Carr clearly trusts him to make plays.
Hunter Renfrow has been an early camp standout, while Ryan Grant showed up Thursday after being largely invisible the first week.
Gruden has tough decisions ahead on the back of that depth chart, thoughreceivers will separate themselves some in games.
The Raiders should keep five receivers, six tops. Here are my favorites for those roster spots through six practices:
Locks: Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Dwayne Harris
Fighting for one or two spots: Marcell Ateman, J.J. Nelson, Ryan Grant, Keelan Doss
Former UCLA standout Jordan Lasley just got here, so he’s a wild card with talent required to challenge for gainful employment.
Evaluating the rest of the position group without Brown taking targets seems to hold greater long-term benefit over him missing time at the start of camp, but Gruden doesn’t see it that way.
“I want the guy out there as soon as possible,” Gruden said. “I’d like him to get in the huddle and never leave. I’d like him in there every play, but life goes on and you have to continue to work. Other guys have to take advantage, and so far they have.”