By Steve Corkran
Thursday, September 1st, 2011 at 12:41 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Few Raiders player engender as much passionate and spirited debate as fourth-year wide receiver Chaz Schilens.
For whatever reason, fans have a strong take, one way or the other, on whether the Raiders should remain patient with Schilens or cut ties in light of his latest injury.
There doesn’t seem to be any gray area. It wasn’t always that way.
The love for Schilens was universal in 2008, when he went from a seventh-round draft pick out of San Diego State to a member of the Raiders 53-man roster.
He caught 15 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns his rookie season. Most impressive, he appeared in all 16 games. Greatness seemed on the horizon.
Then came the injuries, something that dogged him during his collegiate career, as well.
During training camp in 2009, Schilens broke a bone in his foot during a joint scrimmage against the 49ers in Napa. The injury was severe enough to require surgery.
Schilens, 6-feet-4 and 225 pounds, missed the first eight games in 2009 while rehabilitating. He started the final eight games and recorded 29 receptions for 365 yards and two touchdowns.
Fans were encouraged by his performance, especially an eight-catch, 99-yard showing against the Baltimore Ravens in the season finale at the Coliseum.
Surely, Schilens’ career would take full flight in his third season. Again, injuries surfaced.
Schilens’ foot still bothered him, so he underwent a second surgery. In training camp, he favored the foot, which put undue stress on his knee. Suddenly, both posed issues for Schilens to overcome.
He didn’t make it on to the field for a regular-season game until the 12th game. He caught five passes for 40 yards and one touchdown in five games.
Schilens reported to Napa this year at full strength and made it through the first dozen or so practices without any lingering effects from the foot and knee issues. Once again, everything seemed right with Schilens.
Then came Oakland’s first exhibition game, against the Arizona Cardinals on Aug. 11. Schilens limped off the field after an end around and hasn’t practiced or played in a game ever since.
During that time, the Raiders discovered that they have two consistent playmakers in veteran Derek Hagan and rookie Denarius Moore. Soon, coach Hue Jackson will have to decide whether it’s worth riding it out with Schilens or if it’s time to part ways.
The consensus among fans seems to be that the Raiders can’t count upon Schilens, and it’s time to move on.
It says here that the Raiders are doing the right thing in being patient with Schilens and waiting for him to get to the point where he can be a regular contributor, if not a No. 1 receiver.
There are those with the Raiders who feel as if Schilens is the team’s most-gifted and versatile wide receiver. They point to his rare combination of size, speed, strength and, yes, toughness.
They also point out that the Raiders don’t have a bonafide No. 1 wide receiver, and Schilens is their best bet as of now.
Schilens worked out with a trainer and on his own at practice Wednesday. It’s unlikely he will play Friday night, but Schilens will be a hot topic when Jackson sits down to make the final roster cuts Saturday.
The smart money says, the Raiders keep Schilens, give him all the time he needs to get healthy and then reap the dividends down the road, even if it is later rather than sooner.