Raiders

Raiders WR turnover near constant as Jon Gruden searches for right mix

Raiders WR turnover near constant as Jon Gruden searches for right mix

The Raiders' receiver corps remains unsettled, with bodies shuffling in and out as head coach Jon Gruden waits for someone to seize a golden opportunity.

The position was a legitimate team strength, maybe the best position group on the roster entering training camp.

This summer’s crew featured Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, as good of a top two as any. Hunter Renfrow, Ryan Grant and J.J. Nelson were battling for reserve spots with return man Dwayne Harris. Keelan Doss was a “Hard Knocks” star and Marcell Ateman was making tough catches.

That position group was going to have some tough cuts. It certainly has starting in September with Brown’s explosive exit and carrying on through Thursday.

In that span, three of the top six receivers have been cut. First Brown went nuclear, then Grant proved ineffective and Nelson was never available. Availability is key in Gruden's eyes, which is why Nelson was cut Thursday. His late scratch versus Indianapolis hurt his status and last week’s setback was another strike.

Gruden was ready to move on.

Doss didn’t make the regular-season roster, but was brought back with a hefty guarantee and isn’t ready to join the game-day mix.

Trevor Davis and Zay Jones have been added in trades. Williams and Harris have battled injury and their status for a Week 7 affair in Green Bay remains uncertain.

Think about that. So much turnover, so much uncertainty in so little time.

Gruden said Tuesday that quarterback Derek Carr is throwing to receivers he has barely met. He isn’t wrong, and his frustration is warranted.

It also isn’t new. Gruden completely overhauled the position group after 2018, with only Harris on the 53-man roster to open both seasons.

Let’s look at the top 2018 receivers and what happened to them:
-- Amari Cooper: Traded to Dallas for a 2019 first-round draft pick
-- Jordy Nelson: Cut with a non-guaranteed year left on his deal (though he was given an bonus earmarked for 2019 at the end of 2018)
-- Seth Roberts: Cut
-- Dwayne Harris: Still with team
-- Brandon LaFell: Suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon late in 2018, remains out of football
-- Marcell Ateman: Was signed to the practice squad to start 2019 season, promoted vs. Chicago, waived Wednesday and re-signed on Thursday
-- Martavis Byrant: Was not re-signed, suspended indefinitely

Now let’s examined top portions of the position group as assembled to start camp:
-- Antonio Brown: Released just before start of regular season
-- Tyrell Williams: No. 1 receiver, battling foot injury
-- Ryan Grant: Cut
-- J.J. Nelson: Cut
-- Dwyane Harris: Still with team, battling ankle injury
-- Hunter Renfrow: Primary slot receiver
-- Keelan Doss: Waived, then re-signed
-- Marcell Ateman: Waived, signed to practice squad, promoted to 53-man roster, waived, re-signed to 53-man roster

Now let’s look at the Raiders receiver corps as currently constructed:
-- Tyrell Williams
-- Trevor Davis: (acquired from Green Bay for 2020 sixth-round pick)
-- Zay Jones: (acquired from Buffalo for 2021 fifth-round pick)
-- Hunter Renfrow
-- Dwayne Harris
-- Keelan Doss
-- Marcell Ateman

I’m not much for predictions, but this is a lock: Next year’s group will look a lot different than what you see just above.

Davis and Jones are on extended tryouts. Not saying he will, but even Williams can be cut in 2019 without dead money attached (if he's healthy next offseason). The 2020 NFL Draft class is absolutely stacked. S-T-A-C-K-E-D. Stacked. Some young guys are coming in, for sure.

[RELATED: Raiders release injury-riddled WR Nelson, re-sign Ateman]

The money not spent on Brown could well be earmarked for another veteran pass catcher to help lead the group, too.

Gruden knows this group has gone from strength to weakness, and will continue attempts to fortify it from one season to the next with guys that can make plays and stay healthy (and not cause trouble). Over the last two years, they have been hard to find. 

Raiders' Josh Jacobs has lofty receiving goal in his second NFL season

Raiders' Josh Jacobs has lofty receiving goal in his second NFL season

Raiders running back Josh Jacobs had a tremendous rookie season. If not for a late-season shoulder injury, he likely would have been named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

The Alabama product is firmly situated as the lead back in what should be an improved Raiders offense in the team's first season in Las Vegas. The Raiders added pass-catching weapons Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards and Nelson Agholor in the draft and free agency, and Jacobs himself intends to be an improved receiving threat for quarterback Derek Carr (h/t Raiders Wire.)

"I worked on a lot of things that receivers do,” Jacobs said Wednesday at training camp. "Not just running-back routes, like how to get off the line, how to stack on top once you get vertical. I’ve just been working on all the little technical things that receivers do. Just trying to implement that into my own style and bring what I can to the table."

"My goal is to catch at least 60 balls this year," he added.

[RELATED: Raiders' Ruggs shows potential with wild one-handed catch]

Jacobs hauled in 20 receptions for 166 yards as a rookie, so that goal would represent quite a significant jump if attained. He certainly has the athleticism and ability to increase his reception total, but given the additional receiving talents on the roster, he might find it difficult to get that kind of volume. After all, there are only so many balls to go around.

Nonetheless, that's the kind of attitude the Raiders surely love to see out of one of their core offensive building blocks. There's every reason to expect Jacobs will improve upon his rookie season, and not simply as a runner.

[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Raiders' Nick Kwiatkoski embracing challenge as anchor of defense

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USATSI

Raiders' Nick Kwiatkoski embracing challenge as anchor of defense

Timing sometimes being everything in life, it was almost too perfect that Nick Kwiatkoski finally got his chance to start on a consistent basis over the last seven games of last season.

Circumstance had previously blocked that possibility. A talented young linebacker with sideline-to-sideline and three-down play capability, Kwiatkoski was the victim of an extraordinarily talented Chicago Bears defensive roster that was particularly strong at linebacker.

On many other teams, he would have been a starter. In Chicago, he was a reserve.

But then came the opportunity for consistent playing time when Danny Trevathan went down with an injury in November. Kwiatkoski was inserted into the lineup. And with free agency pending and his long-range prospects uncertain, it was finally his time to show he could be counted on as a full-time starter.

Read more at the Las Vegas Review-Journal