At this time last year, wide receiver Rod Streater was winding down his football career at Temple and contemplating life in the communications field. Today, he is, perhaps, the Raiders most productive wide receiver, at least of late.
Credit the Raiders for seeing in Streater something that 31 other teams didn’t as Streater went undrafted in the seven-round process last April.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie signed Streater soon after the draft, in part because of what a Raiders scout saw from Streater at his pro day workout before the NFL draft.
Now, Streater has developed into a keeper as the Raiders look to the future. He has 28 receptions for 429 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games.
“Streater, really, the last couple of games has made some big plays for us,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “That’s good to see him, from a young player’s perspective.”
On Thursday night, Streater backed up a 96-yard effort against the Cleveland Browns with a four-catch, 100-yard game.
Not bad for a guy that caught only 19 passes his final season at Temple and wasn’t on the radar of many, if any, NFL teams.
“It’s a crazy feeling,” Streater said Friday. “I thought football was over for me. I was just looking at getting a job. Then you come here and the game’s on your hands. It’s a lot of pressure and then it’s not. It’s what you prepare for. It’s what you want to do as a kid growing up. You want to be Thursday night football making that game-winning touchdown. It’s a good feeling.”
Streater is the kind of player Allen and the Raiders are looking for as they move forward in their rebuilding process. He works hard, is diligent about correcting his mistakes and finding ways to get better.
“I’m getting better,” Streater said. “I didn’t have as many mental errors. My effort is good, so I did pretty good but, in the end, we didn’t win, so I always grade myself down regardless.”
Third-year receiver Jacoby Ford said he told Streater and the other young receivers that now is their time to get noticed.
“We always have one every year,” Ford said of the Raiders penchant for finding young receivers of late. “He’s been making plays since he’s been here. He looked up to us. We told him, ‘You just got to go out there and make plays.’ I told him yesterday, I said, ‘They’re going to give you guys some opportunities to make plays and they’re going to throw it up. Just take advantage of your opportunity.’ And that’s exactly what he does. He just makes plays week in , week out.”
— Allen said running back Darren McFadden appears to be fine on the heels of the aggravated ankle sprain he suffered against the Broncos.
Allen said he expects McFadden to be “fine.” McFadden missed four straight games with the ankle injury he suffered against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Nov. 4. Lats night was his first game back.
“It seemed like he was going to be OK,” Allen said. “He was walking around fine, didn’t have a lot of pain. I don’t think it’s an injury that’s going to keep him out any time.”
McFadden rushed 11 times for 52 yards, with 36 yards coming on one carry. He averaged 1.6 yards on his 10 other carries.
— Cornerback Michael Huff suffered a wrist injury against the Broncos and missed a large portion of the game. Allen said X-rays on Huff’s wrist returned negative. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI today.
“I don’t think it’s a major issue, but we’ll kind of have to wait and see,” Allen said.
— Starting middle linebacker Rolando McClain’s two-game suspension ends Monday. Allen said he will discuss how the Raiders plan to proceed at that time.
The Raiders will have to make a roster move if they opt to allow McClain back into the fold. If not, they will be forced to waive McClain or place him on a reserve list of some kind.
— Running back Taiwan Jones just can’t seem to get on the field, other than on special teams. To that end, he said he is open to the prospect of converting to cornerback, if that’s what it means for him to play more.
“Yeah, I’ve thought about it a lot,” Jones said. “Really, I just love playing football. If they need me to play defense, I’d be pretty happy with that.”
Jones played cornerback in high school and his first year in college. The Raiders selected him in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft, but Jones hasn’t been used much in either of his first two seasons.
Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp have offered a variety of reasons for not playing Jones on offense — blocking assignments, injuries putting him behind, ball-handling issues and so on.
Yet, Jones said he feels as if he is adept at all those things and just needs an opportunity to show what he can do in a regular-season game.
“I really don’t know, like, exactly why I’m not getting the carries,” Jones said. “I’m at a point where I can’t control it, so I really don’t worry about it. That’s why I’m really giving it all I got on special teams.”
Jones said his coaches know how eager he is to play more. Best he can tell, he isn’t doing anything that might preclude him from getting a shot.
“I practice just like all the other running backs and I feel like I do a pretty good job of not having too many mental errors,” Jones said. “I know my effort is there. It’s not my decision to make.”
This came on a day when Allen talked about the need to take a look at young, inexperienced players the final three games, with an eye toward seeing what the Raiders have for next season and beyond.
“As we go along, these last three games, we really need to evaluate some of these young guys and see what we have going forward into next year,” Allen said.
— When Allen talks about the future, he said he and McKenzie are in lock-step. For now, the challenge is trying to win games between now and the end of the season, while working in the younger players.
“All of us, as competitors, we want to win,” Allen said. “That’s what it’s all about. But I also understand, and I’ve got a big-picture view of what I want this football team to look like. Reggie and I have talked about it.
“We knew what we were dealing with when we came here. We knew we had some depth issues on the roster, and we couldn’t sustain a lot of injuries. We’ve sustained a few injuries in some spots. We all want to win, and I understand that. And I want to win now, but I’m looking at the long-term future of this team. We’ve got to prepare for the future.”
When asked how close that picture looks compared to the one he sees now, Allen declined to say how long he envisions the two meshing.
“I wouldn’t put any time frame on it,” Allen said. “It’s going to take time. It doesn’t happen with one decision. It’s a accumulation of decisions made over time that gets everything to be exactly how you want it.”
— Wide receiver Denarius Moore caught four passes against the Broncos and looked much sharper than he did against the Browns, in particular, and in recent games.
“He responded to a couple of down weeks,” Allen said. “He came back out and responded to adversity. Like we have talked to the players, adversity doesn’t define who you are, it’s how you respond to adversity that tells a lot about who you are. And he responded well.”
— Ford made a rare appearance in the locker room, which isn’t surprising for a player that is on season-ending injured reserve.
Ford got out of the walking boot that he needed after a foot surgery in September. Now his sights are set upon getting back into tip-top shape so that he can rejoin his teammates for the 2013 season.
“I feel like a normal person again,” Ford said. “I can put on a regular shoe, walk around. But it feels good. It took awhile. It was a long little process to go through, but it’s something I’m getting through pretty well, though.”
Ford suffered his injury in an exhibition game against the Arizona Cardinals. He didn’t play in another game and ultimately got shut down for the season with a Lisfranc injury.
Ford said he intends to remain in the Bay Area during the offseason so that he can work his way back into shape, while under the watchful eyes of team trainers. He’s also fired up about the Raiders offense upon his return.
“If we get everybody healthy and on the field at the same time, we definitely could be a really dynamic offense,” Ford said. “That’s just something we’ve got to get to in the offseason, to make it to the season.”