The Raiders entered the 2020 NFL Draft with a glaring need at wide receiver after Antonio Brown went nuclear prior to last season and left them searching for playmakers.
Lucky for Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock, the 2020 class was loaded with top-tier talent and the Silver and Black exited the affair with two dynamic pass-catchers in Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards. With no OTAs, no rookie minicamp and no preseason games due to the coronavirus pandemic, many expected it to take some time for Ruggs and Edwards to pop in Gruden's offense. The system is very complex, with Gruden asking his receivers to learn all three spots in the offense. Rookie receivers normally take time to adjust to the speed of the NFL game.
But that hasn't been a problem for the Raiders' new duo early on in training camp.
"It's been so impressive to watch them play, honestly," Hunter Renfrow said of Ruggs and Edwards on a conference call Tuesday. "I feel like last year I was messing up a route or a concept every other play and you barely have any of that with them. Just the intelligence that they are bringing, it really has been very impressive. Whether it's a freshman coming into college or in my second training camp watching rookies come in, they are two of the best that I have ever seen. To be able to -- because you have so much going on in your head just in making sure line up the right way and how you want to attack this guy but there's no technique. What's been impressive is that they are finding ways to remember what to do and then find better ways to do it.
"The competitiveness with Nelson Agholor coming in and Zay Jones, it's just been one of the more fun camps so far for me," Renfrow continued. "You're competing because [Agholor] will got out there and make a play, then Henry, then Bryan and Marcell Ateman. All these guys are making great plays and you're just excited to go be apart of it. It's been a lot of fun and those rookies have kind of jump-started it."
By adding Ruggs and Edwards to an arsenal that already includes Renfrow Darren Waller, Tyrell Williams and josh Jacobs, the Raiders now have an attack that will make defenses defend every blade of grass on the field. The speed of Ruggs will open up things in the middle for Renfrow and Waller, while the physicality and strength of Edwards will give quarterback Derek Carr a guy who can move the chains over the middle and go up and make plays on the outside.
A lot is expected of Ruggs and deservedly so, but don't sleep on Edwards who already is gaining the confidence and trust of Carr.
"I've always been a guy in high school, college, in the pros with Andre Holmes, when [Michael Crabtree], [Amari Cooper} I love throwing the ball up and giving those guys chances," Carr said Tuesday. "I feel like, if a guy is running side by side, I can put it in a place where only they can get their hands on it. That was our goal line offense at Fresno State, Davante [Adams] I'll place the ball and you just go get it. That's kind of how Bryan is. He's the guy that wherever I put the ball, I have confidence in how strong his hands are that he can separate, make an extended catch while guys are holding on to him and everyone can high five and be excited about it instead of just a long foul ball.
"He's an exciting guy man," Carr said of Edwards. "He's got some details to iron out. There was a ball that I went to give him a chance today, I gave Bryan a chance, something happened and will watch the film and talk about it. I got mad at him and we come back the next play, I give him a chance and he strong-arms the ball, throws the corner off him and it would have been a 40-, 50-yard play. Just because he's that strong. With other guys usually, it is catch, tackle. Whereas, he catches it and can throw people and make plays that way. So he's not a 4.2 guy but don't let the violence of his routes and how he strong he plays fool you. The man can run."
The Raiders' 2019 season was an uphill climb after Brown left. Carr and the offense were able to move the ball but struggled on third down and in the red zone, causing them to average 19.1 points per game.
Ruggs' speed and Edwards' strength should give Gruden, Carr and the Raiders' offense dimensions they didn't have last year when they were forced to grind out games due to limited threats in the passing game.
Now with a fully-stocked arsenal, Carr should have everything he needs to direct one of the more versatile attacks in the NFL.