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Camp analysis: Wide receivers

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 at 10:01 am in Oakland Raiders.

Fourth in a series of posts analyzing Raiders position groups with players reporting to training camp in five days:

Projected starters: Chaz Schilens, Johnnie Lee Higgins. Backups: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy, Javon Walker, Todd Watkins, Jonathan Holland, Arman Shields, Samie Parker, Nick Miller, Shawn Bayes, Will Franklin.

There will be improved numbers from one of the least productive units in NFL history. The season-ending starters, Higgins and Schilens, caught 37 passes for 592 yards and six touchdowns. Combined. They finished strong enough to get the stamp approval from none other than Al Davis, who openly wished both would have gotten more playing time sooner. Heyward-Bey had a good first practice, a poor second one then had hamstring issues throughout the rest of the mandatory minicamp and OTAs. Murphy drew praise from Cable and could provide instant results. Walker is a wild card, having undergone knee surgery but vowing to return to health and regain the form that made him a dangerous receiver. The Raiders are paying him over the next two years after a renegotiated contract. Watkins made the 2008 roster on the strength of a strong training camp and will need to duplicate that effort to stick again. If Shields can’t put practices together, hard to see him surviving unless they want to put him on the practice squad. Bayes and Miller are smallish receivers/return specialists with “Raider speed.” Parker and Franklin have some NFL experience but would be longshots to stick.

The key battle: Heyward-Bey vs. Murphy.
Heyward-Bey has some catching up to do because of his hamstring problem, with Murphy having some impressive practices and having the look of an instant contributor.

What I think: The Raiders have drawn criticism over the past two years for passing on Michael Crabtree in the 2009 draft and DeSean Jackson in 2008. Their answers to those decisions lie in the performance of Schilens and Higgins, players of similar styles who finished the season strong enough to give hope that they landed comparable talents with later draft picks. Don’t be surprised if Heyward-Bey, particularly early on, ends up as more of a clear-out receiver who gets the occasional over-the-top shot from Russell, with Murphy getting more receptions. Here’s a scary thought _ the steady veteran presence in terms of leadership is Walker.

What could go wrong: Schilens can’t stay healthy, Higgins can’t produce as a lead receiver, Heyward-Bey can’t hold on to the ball and the dark cloud that hovers over Walker remains in place.

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  • Coach on Wheels

    VETERAN LEADERSHIP?

    Get off it people.

    Being OLD doesn’t make you wise, a good teacher or a good leader.

    Walker is a doofus who a whole one year ago showed Chazz and JLH how to a) get your melon cracked in Vegas, b) retire until a senile owner pays you to waste a roster spot and just act retired.

    The guy was a crybaby in GB and Denver before that.

    THAT’S YOUR LEADERSHIP? OMG people think then type!

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    Jhill, so you think McQuistan will supplant Cooper at LG, but you gave Cooper an out for 2008 because of an ankle injury….hmmm, can’t have it both ways. Either Cooper is declining and will be replaced or Cooper is now healthy and back to his 2007 form, which would easily place him ahead of McQuistan.

    Besides, the coaching staff came out and said McQuistan was better on the left side, so he will be backing up Gallery and will only be used at RG if Cooper is injured.

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    Jhill, so you think McQuistan will supplant Cooper at RG, but….my bad

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    ….not sure why you even bothered to mention G. Warren…that guy is perpetually injured with the occasional decent game….not a player we can EVER count on.

  • Coach on Wheels

    It seems as if Chazz will hold on as a possession guy while JLH and DHB battle for the flanker deep ball spot. Murphy is better suited to be a #3 slot guy or a Chazz type so I don’t see him battling DHB or JLH per se.

    WR is actually two different positions SE and FL with different roles.

    While Chazz and JLH have potential (story of all Raiders) they have hardly proven to be #1 guys – yet.

  • Charlie

    AZ

    Fargas and Dmac were both out and we still pounded it with one guy while down by ten.

    My earlier point is that with the weapons we have at TE and RB we will see JR throwing short to medium distances and handing off or pitching out alot.

    We will take our shots down field but we will NOT be a deliberate passing team. We will use the run to set up the pass.

    My sense is that some belive that since we have Hackett and Tollner and we drafted DHB we will return to the days of Daryle Lamonica.

    No way.

  • jhill

    I know Dakota .. I just like the Mullet. I think he should be starting based on the way he played RT the year before last. That left side think makes ZERO sense.

    Mentioned Gerrard W because I think that’s the only other player I gave an “excuse” for, and you had an s on the end of player.

  • Coach on Wheels

    So far in Jerry’s breakdowns -

    UNPROVEN POTENTIAL -

    QB Russell
    RB DMAC / Bush
    WR – All of them

    Proven Player of NFL caliber

    TE – Miller

    The sad thing is entering last season all the same names were on the unproven list. People showed flashes but nobody stepped up and consistently showed they were NFL talent the way Miller has.

  • jhill

    perpetually injured???

    Como?

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    Jhill, I agree about McQuistan playing well at RT back in 2007….that is why it stuck in my mind when the staff stated he was better suited for the left side of the line…strange.

    I am all for whatever makes us better…you know, like benching Fargas, Green, Huff, Burgess, etc etc etc

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    jhill Says:
    July 23rd, 2009 at 2:08 pm
    perpetually injured???

    Como?
    ________________________
    You know…continually, eternally, always, unendingly etc

  • jhill

    Benching Huff???

    Como?

    For who?

  • Coach on Wheels

    Good post Charlie.

    People don’t realize a “verticle team” may take a shot deep once a quarter. The NFL isn’t Madden EAsyplay where you can throw deep every play and win.

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    For anyone that can make a play?

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    Thankfully Huff was already benched…whew…

  • jhill

    Ohhh … Now I understand!

    But … That does not really apply, right? I’m no doctor but tearing your pectoral muscle, and continuing to play Dline in the NFL should not translate to perpetually injured. Maybe he should have ignored team doctors, as should McFadden and all the other injured players. I think he would have been remembered better if he just sat out 6 games instead of toughing it out. People used to get credit for playing hurt, now they get bashed for “underachieving”, lol!

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    …although, on Huff, I still hold out hope Marshall can undo any damage Rob Fukin’ Ryan may have done to him and salvage some form of useful player out of the #7 pick…not much hope, but just a little…not that Marshall is some great D-coordinator, but he couldn’t be worse than Ryan trying to coach a 4-3 right????

  • jhill

    Another insightful post from the Coach himself. Thanks for enlightening us all, as usual.

  • jhill

    Talk about having it both ways Dakota …

    Was Huff ever in position to make a play in Rob Ryan’s defense?

  • CJ Legend 34

    Man! Our group of WRs still scare me mainly because there is not a veteran presance within the group.

    Walker does not count he is a wild card and nothing tells me this guy is reliable. He is always cool, saying the right things until the season starts. As soon as things gets a little shaky this guy trips out. Not to mention his knees are toast!!! When ever a guy has to sneak to get his knees scoped you know something is up man.

    Does anyone know if Amani Toomer is still an available free agent? He could teach DHB a thing or two about selling routes.

  • Coach on Wheels

    WILL RUSSELL BE A DEEP THREAT?

    The biggest problem we have in terms of big play WRs is our QB.

    Too often JR completes passes but he does it in a way that kills any run after the catch. He throws high, low or behind guys so they rarely catch the ball in stride. His seam passes to JLH v. Buffalo and Miller for 56 yards are how he needs to be doing it. If DHB has to stop to catch the ball all that speed is wasted.

  • AZ Raider

    Toomer is availible…

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    Jhill, always willing to hand out excuses, lol. Warren has had two major injuries in two seasons with the Raiders…so what if he played through one, he was still injured and didn’t play up to his potential, just like he has done his ENTIRE CAREER….can’t count on him on a weekly basis and you know it.

  • AZ Raider

    If there is one pass Russell can throw, it’s the streak… The wheel down the sideline is a weak point.

  • CJ Legend 34

    Good point Coach on Wheels!

    I am still not sure what kind of WR DHB is yet.
    He is fast but I also saw in college he could get physical on a # of plays as well. He has a big frame for a 4.3 40 guy.
    ————————————————–
    Coach on Wheels Says:
    July 23rd, 2009 at 1:59 pm
    It seems as if Chazz will hold on as a possession guy while JLH and DHB battle for the flanker deep ball spot. Murphy is better suited to be a #3 slot guy or a Chazz type so I don’t see him battling DHB or JLH per se.

    WR is actually two different positions SE and FL with different roles.

    While Chazz and JLH have potential (story of all Raiders) they have hardly proven to be #1 guys – yet.

  • HayesDaze37

    It’s a great day to be a Raiders fan. Isn’t it?

    Pass-heavy or run-heavy Offense? Obviously, a “balanced” attack is the season-long ideal…but, there are times when a 50-50 run/pass balance just doesn’t fit individual games/situations.

    We don’t even know what our main Offensive strengths are yet — basically, a sophomore class of RB’s are assumed to be it — but it’s entirely possible that the receiving corps could be it, if Chaz, JLH and the young guys are as good as we all hope (and soon).

    One thing’s for sure — Whether a game calls for 40-passes & 20-runs, or 20-passes & 40-runs…JaMarcus better be ready to manage that game. If, by the Bye-week, he’s not ready to carry the team when called upon, having a balanced Offense won’t matter…and we’re in BIG trouble.

    Fragile stuff, molding a franchise QB.

  • jhill

    What was Warren’s injury the year before?

  • Coach on Wheels

    Jhill – I agree that Cooper is not a lock to start given the team released him during the offseason. Of course since they brought him back I guess they don’t see much in McQ.
    I thought McQ played well when given the chance. Not sure why he can’t get by Cooper or Green at RT. This year could be his big chance with Cooper dropping off and RT wide open.

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    Jhill, I am not wasting anymore of my time talking about Warren…he missed 4 games the year we got him, you can look it up yourself if you would like….just another crap player we are depending on at a key position.

  • SnB Defense

    CJ,

    Veterans are only good if they can play. Who mentored Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald?

    Who is mentoring Calvin Johnson?

    The Raiders can do themselves a favor and play the young players and let them make mistakes and develop.

    This team is not going to the Super Bowl…so the team better be developing along the way.

    2007 was a complete waste of time with McCown/Culpepper/Porter/Sapp etc….

  • Charlie

    The problem with our Dline is we really do not have any good, durable NFL talent.

    Ellis will help but Burgess has always had injury problems going back to his days in Philly.

    Everyone else is a castoff, undrafted free agent or day two draft pick. Far too many projects.

    Maybe next year we can draft a DT with one of our first two picks.

  • Kirk

    What kind of team keeps a loser like Walker? Oh, yea, we do.

  • RaiderRockstar

    The Raiders can do themselves a favor and play the young players and let them make mistakes and develop.

    This team is not going to the Super Bowl…so the team better be developing along the way.

    ***

    YES S&B !!! start Heyward-Bey!

  • HayesDaze37

    COW is mostly right about Javon Walker as a leader. Mostly.

    Whether or not we like the fact that Javon has done some immature and flat-out stupid things…Javon was a Pro-Bowl WR, and (when not hurt) he has shown receiving skills teams drool over. He has shown that talent in the NFC and the AFC, with different QB’s and systems…and he knows things about playing WR that only veterans know (that only GOOD veterans know).

    So, regardless of how much $$ the guy makes, or whether or not we “like” the guy, the things he brings to practice/film room make him an asset for the young guys. Even if the young WR’s blow-away everybody, and there is no room for Javon on the team (read: regardless of cap consequences)…the young guys have plenty of FOOTBALL to learn from Javon Walker. (And from his off-field negatives, too…but we know those aren’t lessons we like coming from their own teammates.)

  • Coach on Wheels

    I try to stay optimistic but when we talk (like today) about guys like Walker, Warren, McQuistan and Huff needing to step up or vying to start it shows how little real talent this team has…

    Of all those guys Cooper Carlisle is the only proven starter and he got no interest from other teams when we released him. How many of our starters would start for 50% of the NFL teams? Gallery, Miller, Aso, Howard, Morrison (if moved to OLB), and Lechler? Throw in Jano and you’ve got 7 proven starters out of 24 spots.

    What are the odds all 16 other guys are going to step up? Same as last year?

  • Coach on Wheels

    oops 17 other guys bad math.

  • HayesDaze37

    AZ Raider Says:

    If there is one pass Russell can throw, it’s the streak… The wheel down the sideline is a weak point.

    ———————————-

    Actually, AZ — Russell showed last year his touch is a major problem. Throwing a “streak” wasn’t a JaMarcus strong point last year — simply heaving it downfield did not work, no matter who was running-down the ball. JaMarcus over- and under-threw plenty of guys streaking downfield last year. No single pass pattern stands out as his strength (although ZMiller in the seam sure looks like it could be special!).

    JaMarcus can make ALL the throws…but, can he make all the throws, to the right places, with the right amount of touch?

    Yeah, methinks he’ll have it all figured out soon.

  • Coach on Wheels

    Oh Hayes I don’t deny that there is a microscopic chance Walker will be a decent WR. He will NOT be a mentor or leader however. Cris Carter was a mentor for Moss. No matter how good he is, Moss joins guys like TO in the “no leadership / mentoring” catagory.

    BTW – Walker used SPEED to go to the pro bowl five(?) years ago a three knee surgeries ago. He has really had TWO seasons in his career he put up #1 WR numbers and the Denver year was two surgeries ago. I’ll be pleasantly shocked if plays in 8 games this year and has 400 yards.

    Frankly, I’d rather see our youngsters learn by doing than wasting time with Walker.

  • RaiderRockstar

    y’all have a great night now. ya hear?

    till tomorrow … same time, same place

  • AZ Raider

    Hayes…

    Can’t say I ever saw anyone but Watkins run a streak pattern where they actually got the ball thrown to them and it was Bush who threw that pass for PI call in TB. But I can tell you Russell and his #1 at LSU had the steak perfected. Problem is, we had no reliable reciever to go run the streak down. We drafted that guy, and got another in the 4th.

    That play we run all day with Miller, well that’s not a seam, its an in pattern and he also catches the short post, but regardless what you call it, it works well.

    I stand by my statement that Russell CAN and WILL throw the streak nicely.

    The wheel pattern we like to run with DMAC up the sidline? He needs to work on that or he’s gonna get someone seriouly injured or picked off. He puts way too much air under that ball.

  • DKnight007

    What needs to happen, is Coach Cable needs to call plays for DHB in the red zone or just outside the red zone when he has one on one coverage and have him get a chance at scoring some TD’s early in the season to get DHB’s confidence going early on.

    He also needs to some WR screens for him and give some over the top balls to go up and grab.

  • AZ Raider

    DK,

    forgot about DHB’s jump ball… I agree he better be in there in every redzone situation.

  • HayesDaze37

    Coach on Wheels Says:

    Oh Hayes I don’t deny that there is a microscopic chance Walker will be a decent WR. He will NOT be a mentor or leader however. Cris Carter was a mentor for Moss. No matter how good he is, Moss joins guys like TO in the “no leadership / mentoring” catagory.

    ———————————————

    Carter was mentor to Moss? This is the same Randy Moss that “shoved” a traffic cop all the way down the street with his car…while Carter was his mentor?

    Some mentor.

    Mentoring isn’t just preaching “values” (whatever that means) at kid. Mentoring is…how to play…how to run…when to run…how to deke…how to cut…where to cut…WHO to cut on…WHO to cheat on…WHO to run on…and so on all the way down the line. Most coaches don’t know all those things, unless they’ve played at a high level and/or against the same defenders they’re “teaching” our guys about.

    Coach, I know you’re a better than average coach, I believe it anyway. But, assuming you’re a real coach and not just a name, you must admit that there are guys on ALL teams that aren’t saints, and who maybe aren’t contributing the way they are expected to. Those things do not make those guys automatically disposable.

    To discard a talent like Javon Walker before it’s proven he’s done would be foolish (especially with the already-spent investment). And to assume he has no more to offer, just because of his stupid behavior on his own time, would be a mistake.

    No sweet way to say it, it works both ways for players/owners: Use the guy for everything you can before you discard him.

    Let the young kids play!! I’m all for it, always have been. But, don’t just throw the WR kids onto the field without a little more inside info…or they won’t be more than flashes this year…

    …as opposed to the season-long contributors we want at least one of them to be in his rookie year. Walker could be valuable, even if he gets beat out.

  • HayesDaze37

    AZ — The TE FINDS the seam…he’s not “sitting” on either of those routes…

  • AZ Raider

    NEW POST HAYES

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  • RaiderJohn

    Dear Jamarcus Russell,
    In a year where all the TV analysts are saying this is your make or break season I disagree. Typically the rule is 3 years before the “bust” tag can be applied and your first year didn’t count because of the hold-out. That contract is done, feed and house your family well and give us fan-family what we deserve; A Super Bowl!! Not this year, no pressure but in time? Yes, I believe in you.
    So as a big fan of yours and an active member of the Raider Nation I have to ask you: ARE YOU READY? Are you ready to quiet the critics? Are you ready to handle the media? And most important are you ready to be the LEADER of the Oakland Raiders for the next 15 seasons? In the huddle, in the locker room, off and on the field, down by 7 with 1:32 in the 4th? ARE YOU READY?
    Your skill is a gift, a god-given gift that was given to you for the purpose of winning and entertaining. And you ARE a RAIDER, so let’s do this huh? I don’t know yet if they gave you that right tools to be a true passer with DHB. Khalif Barnes etc..but only time will tell. And Garcia? They just put him there to light your fire. That’s all. You are the starter for now, but listen to Jeff because he has been around the block a few times seeing that he is 39 years old and all. But also know this, you are 24 years old right? You have your whole life ahead of you, don’t you want to go to the hall of fame some day? I think it’s possible but you need to apply yourself as a leader NOW! That’s where it starts.
    While critics say what they say about you, they rarely mention the positive. Never have a seen you blame your WR’s or your O-line men, or slag off your team mates in the media (think Ryan Leaf), You seem to be accountable on the field. Never mind the big arm, that’s just something you already have. You were born to do this.
    This season understand this; our defense against ranks worst against the run, and this will not allow you much time to even be on the field as teams will again know to simply eat up the clock on the Raiders by running the ball over and over. This was not addressed in the off season. The schedule is also VERY difficult. This means that 2-6 by mid-season is very possible. But it won’t be your fault necessarily , the organization is to blame for not putting the right people in place. Garcia will come in, he’ll win a couple games and the analysts will go crazy. Warren Sapp will be beaming with arrogance (even though he praised you a few months ago, what’s wrong with that dude?), and people will say “I told you so” BUT they will be wrong. I know there is greatness in you, I know you are pro-bowl material, and I know you can take US to the Super Bowl.
    So go into this season as the leader of the Oakland Raiders, hold your head up high, get the team to play for you and gather around you and respect you as a LEADER!!

    -A true fan

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