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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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  • RaiderRockstar

    depends on what happens in training camp.

    ***

    exactly. If Walker & Heyward-Bey are healthy, they will start. If Schilens & Higgins were good enough to be the #1 & #2 WR’s then why not cut Walker? Why draft 2 WR’s when we have needs on the OL & DL? They are counting on Walker to return to form (before injury) and they are counting on DHB to be an impact receiver – a #1 WR. You don’t pass on Crabree, Monroe, Raji, etc to draft a guy that you feel can give you 10-20 catches in a season as your 3rd or 4th WR.

    Al Davis said what he said in the presser because he didn’t want to tip his hand in the draft. you think Davis really cares about sharing his honest opinion to the media? He hates the media!

  • SnB Defense

    BTW,

    As a rule…I generally don’t like playing veteran QBs over young developmental QBs unless you have a veteran team poised for a Super Bowl run.

    The problem with veterans…especially guys in their 30′s is that the guy probably has a couple of years left of productive football. That’s why the Raiders have been stumbling for so long. Even when they hit with Gannon…he could only give them a couple of good years….then nothing…and the beginnning of this darkness for 6 yrs.

    Great teams have the same QB at the helm for a decade or so. That’s what the Raiders are trying to accomplish with Russell.

  • RaiderRockstar

    Schilens and JLH are 2nd and 3rd year players. You can’t really compare them with guys on the back-end of their careers

    ***

    Chris in NY : S&B said guys who have “performed well in actual NFL games” which describes the players I listed. None of those guys were busts, they are depth players who have had some good & decent games in their careers (just like Chaz & JLH)

  • SnB Defense

    RaiderRockstar Says:

    If Walker & Heyward-Bey are healthy, they will start. If Schilens & Higgins were good enough to be the #1 & #2 WR’s then why not cut Walker? Why draft 2 WR’s when we have needs on the OL & DL? They are counting on Walker to return to form (before injury) and they are counting on DHB to be an impact receiver – a #1 WR. You don’t pass on Crabree, Monroe, Raji, etc to draft a guy that you feel can give you 10-20 catches in a season as your 3rd or 4th WR.

    Al Davis said what he said in the presser because he didn’t want to tip his hand in the draft. you think Davis really cares about sharing his honest opinion to the media? He hates the media!
    =======================================================
    Al Davis drafts the best athlete available regardless of position. You know this. Javon Walker is being kept around because they have to pay him. They probably try to cut him if not for the RIDICULOUSLY bloated salary given to him. His contract no longer demands playing time. Especially given that he was unproductive last year.

    Why draft 2 WRs. Again, the Raiders like to draft athletes and fit them in. Look at the draft history Rockstar….which we have gone over before….Louis Murphy was a 4th round pick….SO WAS ARMAN SHIELDS AND JOHN BOWIE. If Murphy contributes that fine.

    Hell, the Raiders drafted DMAC with the 4th overall and Bush with a 4th rounder….who’s the starter?

    Cable will hopefully put the best players on the field. Schilens is a Cable guy and JLH proved he can score touchdowns. Camp will be interesting

  • RaiderRockstar

    what makes you so sure he will turn on the lights in Oakland?

    Sounds like Art Shell talking about Aaron Brooks.

    ***

    If you’re giving Andrew Walter and the OL a pass for 2006, you have to give one to Brooks as well.

    Garcia accepted a backup role in Philly & Oakland. Worked out well in Philly, why not Oakland? He’s familiar with Paul Hackett. He’s from Gilroy, played for the 49ers, etc. If you saw Andrew Walter start and play against the Carolina Panthers while Russell was injured you wouldn’t complain about having this 39 year old as your backup – no matter what questions the media asks him.

  • Charlie

    RR

    Because it was a draft for 2010 season and beyond.
    How many throws did JR have his rookie season?
    What about Bush? Nnamdi?
    The Raiders are not rushing their kids.

    The Raiders are building from the outside in. I don’t like it because I think it takes longer to win that way.
    If you have the patience it can yield some very strong teams similar to the Cowboys with Aikman et al.

    DHB will certainly play as will Walker. Don’t expect any WR on this team to catch more than 30-40.

  • RaiderRockstar

    Javon Walker is being kept around because they have to pay him. They probably try to cut him if not for the RIDICULOUSLY bloated salary given to him.

    ***

    Al Davis doesn’t care about money paid to players, just coaches. See DeAngelo Hall, Gibril Wilson, Kwame Harris & Tommy Kelly for example … 3 out of 4 are done after fat contracts and only 1 season. Hall only lasted 8 games!

    so how do you know how the Raiders feel about Javon? give me a link to something where Al or Tom say they are keeping him around only because it’s cheaper than cutting him loose. Is it because he’s injury prone? No. Davis isn’t afraid to take a chance on them either … you have no basis for these comments other than “your opinion” so why spout it off as fact ???

  • priesttj

    RRS, Garcia’s age to me is bad his play is worse. Garcia could be 20 and if he played as bad as he did last year I wouldn’t want him.

    He age just cements it for me he aint going to get any better. You’re thinking about Garcia 5-6 years ago he cwas good then he aint now. As I said I’d prefer Frye.

  • SnB Defense

    Charlie,

    You are right. The Raiders tend to draft for the longer term. Don’t agree with it…but that’s Al’s philosophy.

    The Raiders drafted D-HB over Monroe, Raji, Rey and others for two reasons:

    1. The Raiders like players on the roster (Henderson, Kelly/Warren/Sands, Morrison, Alston/Brown) and didn’t feel they needed upgrades at those positions.

    2. D-HB was the most explosive physical talent on the board. The Raiders believe that with coaching and experience he can develop to fit their system.

  • SnB Defense

    RaiderRockstar,

    Al Davis might not care about salaries…but he HAS to care about the salary cap.

    The Raiders were in a bind. Had they cut Walker, the cap implications were something like $10million or so. However, if the Raiders had cut Walker…Walker would have been out money. Hence the compromise. The Raiders reduce the cap impact and Walker can still get paid.

    Walker will be allowed to compete. But unless he goes lights out…I don’t think anyone will be trying to do him any favors to get on the field.

    I wonder how Cable felt about finding out about the Spring knee surgery after the fact?

  • RaiderRockstar

    Because it was a draft for 2010 season and beyond.

    ***

    False. Al Davis wants to win now. always has. he said he won’t step down as GM until we win 3 more Super Bowls. He’s 80 years old, I doubt he’s biding his time

    and as for Russell? we had a balanced offense last year. I posted the pass attempts/rush attempts earlier this morning

    Kiffin was the one using the “training wheels” approach

    the Cable regime brought in youngsters Higgins, Schilens, Henderson, etc. Gave Russell more pass attempts. Gave DB’s Eugene & CJ a chance to play despite the highly paid Huff & Hall back there.

    If Cable/Davis weren’t afraid to play the young guys last year, what makes you think they will this year?

    We already promised to add more Bush in the ground attack and forced Fargas to take a paycut …

  • RaiderRockstar

    Al Davis might not care about salaries…but he HAS to care about the salary cap.

    ***

    the Raiders are (and were) well under the cap. The only reason we didn’t go crazy with free agent signings this year is because that approach failed last year. Like you said, the Raiders would be stupid not to ask Javon to take a paycut after paying him like a Top 10 WR and getting next to nothing for it. He owes them. That doesn’t mean they aren’t counting on him to make plays this year or enter the season as a starter. He was a starter last year (before injury) and Cable said you don’t lose your job to injury in Oakland. We’ve seen that year after year with Burgess & Fargas …

  • dhitz71

    If Walker can resume form to which hell he hasnt gotten much wear and tear the last 2 years then we have a blessing. The dude was nice for the donks but he lost focus. Lets hope he re-emerges as a reformed/refined Raider.

  • Chris in NY

    # RaiderRockstar Says:
    July 23rd, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Schilens and JLH are 2nd and 3rd year players. You can’t really compare them with guys on the back-end of their careers

    ***

    Chris in NY : S&B said guys who have “performed well in actual NFL games” which describes the players I listed. None of those guys were busts, they are depth players who have had some good & decent games in their careers (just like Chaz & JLH)

    ——————–

    Yeah, but Chaz and JLH are still young, developing players. It’s not like you’re not working toward the future by playing 23- or 24-year-old guys over 21-year-old guys. It’s not the same thing as benching those rookies and starting an average 35-year-old vet.

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

    Man, I didn’t have much faith in Obama, but I didn’t think people would abandon him this quickly! Pretty soon every Prius in the nation is going to have a Clinton 2012 bumper sticker….

  • Pingback: Raiders wide receiver situation « OTR

  • Charlie

    RR

    Mr Davis has acknowledged we are not ready to win this year. He said it at the press conference when Cable was announced as head coach.
    He is taking a very deliberate rebuilding approach and it started with JR after the disaster of 2006.

    There is no way we are a pass first to the WR team in 2009. The offense is not built that way, JR is not ready.
    We will take some shots down the field when the time is right but we will use our backs,TE and alot of two TE offense. WR will be run by committee with no one guy really standing out.

  • SnB Defense

    dhitz71 Says:
    July 23rd, 2009 at 12:27 pm
    If Walker can resume form to which hell he hasnt gotten much wear and tear the last 2 years then we have a blessing. The dude was nice for the donks but he lost focus. Lets hope he re-emerges as a reformed/refined Raider.
    =======================================================
    The young players should be the leaders on the field. If Walker can help in certain situation then fine.

    Its not enough to collect young talent…you have to get them on the field and let them play. Look at Zach Miller. He didn’t have to LEARN behind some cagey veteran.

    Play the young guys and get on with it. Part of the reason the Raiders are in the hole has been a historical reliance on plodding veterans with little left in the tank

  • RaiderRockstar

    Yeah, but Chaz and JLH are still young, developing players.

    ***

    thats not the point.

    S&B said guys who have “performed well in actual NFL games” which describes the players I listed.

    you have a different argument all together

  • SnB Defense

    Rockstar,

    I will bet you that going into camp…JLH and Schilens will have a leg up early on. They have seen the field and performed in actual games.

    Now if D-HB and Murphy outperform them in camp…then they get the nod. But I also bet they will have to beat them by a margin to be named starters on day 1.

  • RaiderRockstar

    There is no way we are a pass first to the WR team in 2009. The offense is not built that way, JR is not ready.
    We will take some shots down the field when the time is right but we will use our backs,TE and alot of two TE offense. WR will be run by committee with no one guy really standing out.

    ***

    great post Charlie.

    you had me all the way until “WR will be run by committee with no one guy really standing out.”

    we have no way of knowing that! If Heyward-Bey, Murphy or Walker proves to be a consistant target and Russell and deliver an accurate ball, I’m sure Cable will try to call some plays and take advantage of that. Same goes for Higgins & Schilens.

    and just so you know, I said “balanced” not pass-first. big difference

  • AZ Raider

    Dang,

    i go to lunch and your all heated arguing that everyone agrees with eachother is what I got :)

    1. Chaz Schilens, starts and is our #1 guy all year.

    2. JLH is our return guy and I hope he focuses on that, so what happened to Devin Hester doesn’t happen to him.

    3. The 2nd WR spot should go to Walker, DHB, or Murphy. That should be the camp battle.

    4. DHB is so freakin raw, I doubt he’ll be of any impact other than what Jerry illuded to above. He’ll make some huge deep plays for TD’s (but just a few) and he’ll force safties to back off clearing out the middle, but his play will be limited as he will be 1 demensional for his first NFL season.

    Lets say DHB suprises me and he wins the #2 spot in camp/preseason, i think Murphy will be right there with him and the depth chart will read as such:

    1. Schilens
    2. Heyward-Bey
    3. Murphy/Walker
    4. JLH

  • RaiderRockstar

    I will bet you that going into camp…JLH and Schilens will have a leg up early on.

    ***

    it’s possible. why strip somebody of a starting job they held last year? they certainly weren’t weak links on the offense. Chemistry is important, but it’s not everything. Russell probably had better chemistry with Ronald Curry than Chaz Schilens, but who played better? Russell held his own passing camp and Louis Murphy attended. That should help chemistry. I didn’t hear whether or not Chaz or JLH did … I’m sure Davis will want Russell & DHB to get plenty of work in together. He drafted Russell/McFadden/Heyward-Bey/Miller to add firepower and be an explosive offense. Usually 3rd & 7th round picks are guys you draft for depth, special teams or potential. nobody expects them to be pro bowlers, captains or difference makers, but every team needs role players

  • http://atm Raider O

    JR’s Fav targets:
    1- Miller
    2- DMC
    3- Chaz

  • RaiderRockstar

    I got tons of work to do. I didn’t mean to spend this much time on this discussion, but it was fun

    you all have a great day … i’ll be back if I can get all my work done early

  • http://atm Raider O

    I won’t be surprised if DMC was 2nd on the team in catches.
    Miller will lead the team in catches!

  • http://atm Raider O

    Later RR.

    AZ,

    Where you at Whinner supporter? lol

  • http://atm Raider O

    I hate the whinners, but not more than the Dischargers!

  • SnB Defense

    JLH – avg. 4 receptions 56 yds and 1TD in the last 3 gms. He also had a 4 catch gm earlier in the year.

    Sounds like a good number 2 receiver.

    Plus big play capability to go with that.

    Don’t count the kid out yet….and don’t paint him into the return man corner.

    I am sure he wants to make money. Receivers make money…not kick returners

  • AZ Raider

    Where is Whinner supporter?

  • Charlie

    RR

    You are correct that I am making the assumption that no one guy will seperate himself from the pack in 2009 at WR.

    Given the youth of the players at WR (except Walker)and the fact that the position will not be emphasized in 2009, it seems doubtful that one of these guys is going to get a disproportionate amount of playing time at the expense of others.

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

    Our o-line will not allow the WRs to get big numbers. We downgraded the C position with Satele, Cooper regressed badly last season and may continue to do so, Green at RT is a disaster and Barnes may not be much better based on last year’s numbers, and Henderson still has a lot to prove.

    Thank god we solidified the WR spot in the draft though, lol.

  • http://atm Raider O

    AZ,

    lol

    He must have left. Too Bad!

  • http://atm Raider O

    Dakota,

    Have you seen Satele play? How do you know we downgraded?
    Do you get Miami games in SD?

    lol

    I just wanted to know what it’s like to be a Troll! sorry. lol

  • AZ Raider

    Alight O,

    No more 9er gabb from me… After all, you know where my heart lies :)

  • http://atm Raider O

    AZ,

    Next to your Jar!!!

    lol

  • http://atm Raider O

    Being a Troll is Fun, we should all Troll.

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

    Settle down Raider O before I bust you over the head with empirical data….

  • jhill

    There is no way we are a pass first to the WR team in 2009. The offense is not built that way, JR is not ready.

    —————————————————–

    Say what?!?!?!

    How do you know this? What offense are we running?

  • jhill

    Satele is NOT a downgrade …

    He is much better than John Wade, who would have been playing 2/3 of the games Grove missed with some silly injury!

  • jhill

    Cooper, like Warren, had a serious injury in the Buffalo game. Instead of sitting out, he continued to play. You guys just don’t realize how banged up this team was, and we STILL won 5 games.

  • http://atm Raider O

    Dakota,

    I know you have empirical data on all of us, it’s part of your job with the agency.

    You can do better!

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

    Man Jhill, you have an excuse for all our schitty players, lol. Oh, he had a boo boo, leave him alone!!!!

  • http://atm Raider O

    Dakota,

    You are our big brother, and you keep us safe from all the terr@ists AKA Trolls.

  • Charlie

    Jhill

    DMAC, Miller, Bush and Fargas.
    Alot of two TE like we played aganst Tampa when we were down TEN with eleven minutes to play.
    Throw short to DMAC. Line DMAC up in the slot.

    Jr was not a four year starter like the Mannings in college. There is no way he will be pushed to be a “savior” in what amounts to his second year as a starter.
    Eli won with a run first team with the Giants. Before that he was a “bust”.
    Baltimore led the league in rushing attempts with Flacco.
    The Falcons pounded it with Turner to help Ryan.

    Way too much evidence to suggest anything other than the “vertical game” taking a back seat in 2009.

  • jhill

    Wrong guy Dakota,

    I already have Cooper replace in the starting lineup with McQuistan. But are you really telling me that the “boo boos” to Warren and Carlisle last year were no big deal and shouldn’t have impacted their play?

    Excuses?

    Aside from the continuing saga of coach Lane Kiffin, the most significant news had to do with injuries which could cost the Raiders two starters for their game against the San Diego Chargers Sunday at the Coliseum.

    Defensive tackle Gerard Warren, who has been Oakland’s most dominant interior defender, has a torn pectoral muscle (it was originally identifed as a neck injury against the Bills). Right guard Cooper Carlisle, who left the game against the Bills and returned, has an ankle injury and may not practice this week.

    While most coaches do their best to mask the seriousness of injuries, here is what Kiffin said regarding the Raiders two injured players.

    Regarding Warren: “That could be a serious issue for us.”

    Regarding Carlisle: “It’s bad.”

    Not coincidentally, with Warren out of the game, the Raiders faded down the stretch against the Bills. That leaves Tommy Kelly and Terdell Sands as the two remaining tackles. Kiffin also counts Fred Wakefield as a third tackle, but in reality Wakefield is a tight end/offensive lineman/defensive end who only recently began playing tackle.

    The Raiders can also move Jay Richardson inside.

    If Warren’s injury is for the longterm, the Raiders will be on the lookout for available tackles. It is doubtful anyone could be brought in this week to have an impact.

    Carlisle was replaced in the lineup by Chris Morris, who would assume the starting role if Carlisle can’t play.

  • AZ Raider

    DMAC was on the sideline while we where down 10pts 11 mins left.

  • Charlie

    AZ

    They had a gadget play with Bush throwing deep to Watkins for pass interference.
    They ran the ball about 80 percent of the fourth quarter with Bush.
    Your point?

  • SnB Defense

    AZ Raider Says:
    July 23rd, 2009 at 1:35 pm
    DMAC was on the sideline while we where down 10pts 11 mins left.
    =======================================================
    Yeah, Ian Eagle said it best at 1:07 on the clip:

    “Bush is in the backfield as the running back because Fargas has a knee injury and McFadden has an ankle injury.”

    “1st down and 10, Bush good block by Cornell Green he got by…Oh there he goes, look at this run, chased by Barber, Chased by Buchanon….and he’s in for the touchdown……a 67 yard sprint! and the Raiders have recaptured the lead!”

    “Breaking one tackle after another”

    http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-air-and-ground-players-of-the-week/09000d5d80db1052/WK-17-Michael-Bush-highlights

  • AZ Raider

    just that he wasnt on the field… i thought you said that. He and fargas were both injured for the 2nd half of play.

    that gadget play was sick! A little more on it, a little sooner = TD. PI worked though :)