ALAMEDA -- Hunter Renfrow made the Raiders' initial 53-man roster with five other receivers. Only two of them remain.
Tyrell Williams and Dwayne Harris, primarily a return man, have been with the Clemson product this whole season, but have missed a combined six games dealing with injuries.
Renfrow is the only Raiders receiver who has played every game this season, seeing his position group turn over significantly. The primary slot receiver has lined with myriad combinations flanking him as the Raiders have cycled through options.
The Raiders cut Antonio Brown for insubordination, Ryan Grant for ineffectiveness and J.J. Nelson for unavailability. They re-signed Keelan Doss and promoted Marcell Ateman from the practice squad to account for injuries and transactional losses. They then traded for Trevor Davis and Zay Jones in an attempt to remodel the position in-season.
The receivers have found some stability after all that chaos. Williams is healthy again, Davis and Jones are generally up to speed and Renfrow is growing into a reliable target.
“There has been so much turnover, starting with all the AB here and all the stuff that transpired with that,” Renfrow said earlier this week. “We had a whole different receiver room this offseason. For me, it has been cool because I have been able to learn from so many different people. I try to take a little bit from everybody.
“But I’m excited about this group. We may not all be well known, but I think we have a great chance to go prove ourselves and show that we can be steadily productive. I love that type of challenge. I expect us to rise to the occasion.”
Renfrow’s right. The group is unheralded but can be effective with a diversity of talent all looking for something to prove.
Williams is the big body wanting to show he’s a true No. 1. Jones is shifty, wanting to prove efficient and reliable. Davis is the track star trying to show he's worthy of steady play and increased targets. Renfrow’s the possession guy, showing he’s more than just a college-level star.
There’s drive within the group. Time will tell if it’s good enough to complete an offense that is solid up front, with excellent tight ends and a star running back.
At this point, there is competition among the receivers as everyone battles to make an impact. The Raiders were trotting out a skeleton crew during the transition to this group. Now, it’s deep enough where guys must earn their role.
“Every day we’re fighting,” Davis said. “We have a lot of guys here who have played and contributed in games. Every week we’re competing to get those reps and those game-day opportunities. That just makes our team better.”
Receivers coach Edgar Bennett deserves some credit for getting this group back on its feet. While head coach Jon Gruden and offensive coordinator Greg Olson play a role getting new receivers ready, Bennett and quality control coach Nick Holz spent countless hours getting Davis and Jones prepared to play within the Raiders' scheme.
Davis was the first to go through the crash course, regularly showing up in pre-dawn hours for individual tutoring sessions before the team reported for the day’s work.
“He’s keen on details,” Davis said of Bennett. “Right when I got here, he was right there with me before the sun came up, teaching me all the details of this playbook. That’s how he is. If I ever want to come in early, he’ll be there. 6 a.m. or 6 p.m., it doesn’t matter. He has been instrumental to getting us through this period with new guys coming in.”
The Raiders have moved the ball well despite receiver turnover, with Carr often throwing to guys he had barely met or rarely targeted to before a given game. That reached a head last week against the Green Bay Packers when Davis and Renfrow were primary targets and Doss and Ateman were called into the action.
Williams’ return to health and the Jones trade has raised the talent level and brought stability to the group that should remain intact -- the Raiders passed on the chance to claim Josh Gordon off waivers Friday -- as they traverse the season’s second half.
Being strapped can be viewed as a positive now, with greater experience and depth to weather future storms should they come.
“It was good for us as a team and the receiver group especially,” Renfrow said. “It’s not like we didn’t have enough bodies. We were just running out young, unproven guys. That experience helps with depth so, if somebody goes down later in the year, we’re ready and have no dropoff.”