The Raiders two best receivers of a year ago will both be back on the field Sunday. Zach Miller and Chaz Schilens are both expected to see a lot of playing time against the Jaguars.
Schilens saw his first action of the season last week as he spent the first 11 games recovering from a foot injury. He played just seven snaps in the game and was thrown to one time on a pass that sailed wide and incomplete. Coach Tom Cable said on Thursday that he is going to “try to get (Schilens) a little more involved (Sunday) … because he really brings something to our team.” It remains to be seen how “involved” he will be after missing so much time.
Zach Miller has been recovering from an injury to the plantar fascia in his foot that kept him out of the Week 9 against the Chiefs. He returned in limited duty in week 11 against the Steelers as well as week 12 versus the Dolphins although in both games he was clearly not back to full strength. In last week’s win over the Chargers, the Raiders only threw the ball 16 times, completing just 10 passes; many of which were screen passes to the running backs. Miller saw one pass in the game.
In that game Miller spent nearly the entire game blocking for the 52 times the Raiders ran the ball. The expectation heading into the Jaguars game is more of the same. Both the Jaguars and the Raiders share a similar conservative philosophy and it has worked well for both teams. That should keep Miller inside blocking for Darren McFadden and Michael Bush just as he did to much success last week.
And, why not? He laid several key blocks in the game last week to help them gain over 95 yards each on the ground and a couple touchdowns.
This game will very likely be a battle for time of possession with both seems grinding the ball down the field. The amount of passes thrown will probably be in the teens again but the value of having these two healthy and reliable receivers on the field will still of great benefit.
The threat of the pass must always be there. Those few times the Raiders are expected to put the ball in the air, they will need guys that they can trust will get open, make every effort to get to the ball and when they get their hands on it, to haul it in. These are qualities that Miller and Schilens have shown in their careers.
Thus far in the season, the only receiver we can point to that has shown to be reliable is rookie Jacoby Ford. In the two games he was looked to as a go-to receiver, he had 10 catches for 256 yards and a touchdown. This included the six catch performance in which he single-handedly brought the Raiders back to beat the Chiefs.
Louis Murphy has shown great hands and instincts but it seems every other game he has a drop or two. Darrius Heyward-Bey is not even worth mentioning. He lost his starting job to Jacoby Ford last week. And by all indications, DHB never deserved the starting job in the first place. He hasn’t had a single catch since the Seattle game in week 8.
Schilens was supposed to be the Raiders number one receiver this season. The Raiders have struggled mightily without the presence on the field that he was expected to have. And without the emergence of Ford in the Chiefs game, they would have lost that game and already be in a near impossible position to get to the playoffs.
If Schilens can step in and be the team’s number one receiver and Miller is back to full strength for the final four games, the Raiders will have a much better chance at making the playoffs. Even if they are used as a decoys and a blockers 75% of the time.
It’s that 25% of the time that will be the difference between a stalled drive and a touchdown. And it is those drives that could be the difference between a long offseason and a playoff berth.