ALAMEDA –Tyrell Williams is the Raiders’ unquestioned No. 1 receiver, operating with all the attention accompanying that distinction.
He still has managed to produce like one, with 11 catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns during the season’s opening weeks. Tight end Darren Waller is the second receiving option despite his official position, moving around the formation to create favorable matchups.
The Raiders don’t have many viable receiving options after that.
Ryan Grant is starting now with Antonio Brown in New England, and he had minus-2 yards and one catch on five targets. Hunter Renfrow had four catches for 30 yards on eight targets. Dwyane Harris isn’t much of a receiving threat -- he’s also dealing with an ankle issue -- and Keelan Doss remains a work in progress.
“We have to do a better job of winning when it’s one-on-one,” head coach Jon Gruden said in his Monday press conference. “We have to do a better job of consistently winning. We had some problems with the footing yesterday. I think Hunter Renfrow fell down four or five times and slipped. … Our footing was a problem.
“We certainly have to get more out of Ryan Grant. We have to game plan better. We’ll start right there.”
Receiving corps troubles don’t start with the offensive game plan. That’s just fine, brought up in an attempt to circumvent a significant dropoff from the top two receiving threats.
The Raiders and their fan base are certainly sick of hearing about Brown, but this is where his departure remains relevant. Not only did the Raiders lose a Hall-of-Fame type talent, they lost one just days before the regular season. That left no time to find a suitable replacement.
The Raiders banked on Brown, a decision that has proved ill advised. Gruden created packages for him to thrive in this offense and maximize his game-breaking ability.
The chasm between Brown and Grant is wide, something that can’t be covered before free agency or next year’s draft.
Receiver also was clearly a team strength that has fallen back to the pack with Brown’s departure. Keeping him around wasn’t going to work, but losing him still hurts the on-field product.
Waller is proving to be a special player the Raiders must involve even more, especially when working downfield.
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“Waller is growing into something,” Gruden said. “He’s a guy that we detached yesterday. We lined him up in the slot and conventionally as a tight end. He’s smart and has had some receiving production. More and more, we’re going to use him.”
Grant and Renfrow have to balance the stat sheet a bit more, with the running backs more involved than they have been to keep additional focus off the top two receiving targets.