Coming into camp, the wide receiver battle seemed likely to be one of the least competitive. I thought that it was likely a given that Denarius Moore and Rod Streater would be the starters, Jacoby Ford and Josh Cribbs were likely to be in the mix with the two receivers the Raiders have drafted, Juron Criner last year and Brice Butler this, making the team for depth.
Those were, I felt, the six most likely receivers to make the final squad. I doubted that the team would take 7 receivers because they have more talent in other positions.
However, the first 5 days of training camp has turned my initial thoughts on their head. Juron Criner and Brice Butler have not been making the plays that UDFA Greg Jenkins and free agent Andre Holmes have made.
Jenkins, a 6’1” former QB out of Alabama State, first signed with the Raiders after being invited to participate in their rookie minicamp, after the draft. He wasn’t really on any team’s radar after going both undrafted and unsigned as a UDFA for the first two weeks or so after the Draft.
Jenkins has showed surprisingly good hands and body control for a quarterback and has made some difficult receptions catching passes mostly from 4th string QB Matt McGloin. He caught the attention of the coaching staff, however, and on Tuesday’s practice he was upgraded from 4th-team to 3rd-team. There was no practice on Wednesday, so we will see how he lines up for today’s practice.
Holmes (pictured here), an imposing 6’4” receiver out of Jared Veldheer’s alma mater, Hillsdale, will have to serve a league-imposed four-game suspension for PED violations if he makes the squad but he’s been a consistent play-maker during camp and the team may overlook that suspension if they think he can contribute to them.
Holmes was remarkably productive at Hillsdale, catching 104 balls for 1,368 yards his senior season and he’s been in training camp with both the Vikings and the Cowboys over the last three seasons, but has been unable to stick with either team.
Holmes has acknowledged the importance of this camp to the media, saying, "I think especially since this is my third training camp you realize that every day is important, especially in training camp.” He added, “Every day is like a game. . . well the preseason is like the Super Bowl, you know what I mean? You gotta go out there and show your worth and just because you do it the first four days of camp, you gotta keep doing it every single day."
It’s likely that attitude of giving his all every day and making a play that is helping him set himself apart from the others competing for the precious final roster spot. If you’re interested in more info about Holmes, check out this piece by TFDS owner Levi Damien.
Also, Jacoby Ford seems to be no lock to make the team. While he is an explosive player when he’s out on the field, he struggles to stay healthy and sustained an injury in the first few days of camp that left him sidelined for the last two practices. He has indicated that he’ll be back very soon, which the coaching staff can only hope is true given his injury history.
Josh Cribbs is known more for a returner than a receiver and that has held true for the first week of camp, as well. He has not made many plays in the passing game but should make the squad due to his returning abilities and the fact that he’s versatile.
Denarius Moore and Streater still appear to be locks as the team’s starting duo and I do not expect any changes, there, any time soon.
Juron Criner and Brice Butler are in a similar situation with neither standing out in camp or making any spectacular plays.
So, a week into camp, we have three receivers I think are highly likely to be on the team: Streater, Moore and Cribbs. If Ford can rebound from his injury and put together a solid training camp for his remaining weeks, I think he’ll still warrant a spot because of his explosiveness.
That puts the remaining 4 players I’ve mentioned – Criner, Butler, Holmes and Jenkins – are in competition for the final 2 spots. I don’t expect the Raiders to take more than 6 receivers unless Holmes is one of the receivers taken and then they may go with 7, initially, until the four-game suspension is complete.
For more news and thoughts on the Raiders, follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews
Photo by Levi Damien