NAPA — Two years ago, Denarius Moore burst onto the scene in training camp as a wide receiver to be reckoned with. Last season, Rod Streater made a huge splash. This year, it’s Andre Holmes emerging from a crowded receiving corps and making a strong case for a roster spot, if not significant playing time.
Holmes, 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, caught two passes for 11 yards in seven games with the Dallas Cowboys last season. He also spent time with the Minnesota Vikings since he entered the NFL out of Hillsdale college, the same college that produced Raiders left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer.
Moore and Streater ultimately enjoyed successful rookie seasons. Time will tell if Holmes follows their lead, even if he isn’t a rookie.
If so, he won’t get to make his mark until the Raiders fifth regular-season game, at the earliest, because he was suspended four games by the league for violating its policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Holmes has outshined the likes of second-year receiver Juron Criner, 2013 draftee Brice Butler and undrafted free agents Conner Vernon and Sam McGuffie so far.
Time and again, it’s Holmes making the big play, drawing oohs and aahs from the fans in attendance and catching the eyes of the coaches that will decide who stays and who goes a month or so from now.
“I’ve made some plays and everything but I’m still going to be hungry and just think, ‘OK, I’ve done what I’ve had to do,’ ” Holmes said. “It’s continuous, especially going into the preseason games. That’s where, I said every practice is a game, well the preseason is like the Super Bowl. You got to go out there and show your worth and just because you do it the first four days of camp, you got to keep doing it every single day.”
On Tuesday, Holmes worked his way into the corner of the end zone, timed his leap perfectly and came down with a pass from Tyler Wilson just as the ball sailed over cornerback Taiwan Jones’ fingertips.
– As long as we’re on the subject of wide receivers, coach Dennis Allen said he still isn’t sold on any of the players on his roster as the go-to receiver just yet.
He is hopeful that someone will emerge as the clear-cut No. 1 by camp’s end. Moore and Streater figure to be the only legitimate candidates for that role right now.
“I don’t think we have a go-to guy yet,” Allen said. “I’m waiting for someone to jump out and be the guy. We have a talented, young group that’s working hard, but it’s going to be a work in progress. We have until September to figure that out.”
Moore played the part last season, until he lapsed the second half of the season. Allen is eager to find out if Moore can regain his standing as the No. 1 receiver on this team.
So, what does Moore have to do?
“Make the plays that we want him to make,” Allen said. “He’s going to have to go up and make the contested plays, and he’s going to have to make sure he doesn’t have those concentration drops that he had at times last year. Again, It’s as much about the mental part of it as the physical part of it.”
Beyond that, Allen said, he wants every one of his receivers to develop a certain mind-set.
“Just, to be the go-to guy you’ve got to see yourself as a go-to guy,” Allen said. “We’ve got to develop a swagger with the players on this team. There’s got to be a vision and there’s got to be a belief that they’re good football players, and that they can get the job done.”
Streater said he is taking that message to heart and not wasting any days at practice.
“As of now, I feel like I’m competing for that,” Streater said. “Every day, anything that comes my way I got to catch. Whatever I don’t, I just got to continue to work hard and just continue to focus on running routes right, blocking and doing things receivers do when the balls not in the hands.”
– Nice touch by Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Brown and current Raiders scouts Zack Crockett and Calvin Branch to spend some time with long-time season ticketholder Josh Maresca during practice today.
Maresca, who turned 58 today, is battling illness right now, so the visit no doubt served as a nice pick-me-up. He watched today’s practice while wearing a No. 80 Raiders jersey.
– Linebacker Joe Mays signed with the Houston Texans, but not before receiving interest from a handful of other teams, including the Raiders.
It’s unclear whether the Raiders offered Mays a contract before he opted to sign with the Texans. However, he was on the market when the Raiders were searching for help at linebacker in light of injuries to Miles Burris, Billy Boyko and Kaluka Maiava.
– Allen had a rather revealing quote about rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden: “He’s not a first-round draft choice that feels like he’s entitled. He’s a first-round draft choice that wants to come in and prove himself. That’s what I like about him.”
Everything we’ve seen from Hayden supports Allen’s take. Hayden got beat on back-to-back plays Tuesday, but he bounced back and ran stride for stride with the receiver a few plays later and prevented a long completion.
Even though Hayden hasn’t been cleared for contact in practice, he participates in every drill, doesn’t take off plays and soaks up as much info as he can from coaches and veteran players.
– Offensive players wore the silver jerseys the past couple of days. As it turns out, that’s more than coincidence.
Allen said there’s a little competition going on between the offense and defense each day, with the unit that outperforms the other getting to wear the silver jerseys the next day.
It’s all part of fostering competition, creating a little good-natured rivalry and keeping things interesting during the drawn-out days at training camp.
“There will be practices throughout training camp where we’ll put the jerseys up for grabs and the side of the ball that competes the best,” Allen said, “because, at the end of the day, we’re judged on winning and losing. We had a competition day the other day, the offense won the jersey, the defense is fighting to get it back.”
– Tony Bergstrom worked at left guard once again with Lucas Nix sidelined by injury. The rest of the offensive line looked the same, for the most part.
Jared Veldheer is at left tackle, Stefen Wisniewski at center, Mike Brisiel at right guard and Khalif Barnes at right tackle.
Recently signed lineman Andre Gurode worked at right guard and center. He moved from center to right guard when he was on the field with Wisniewski.
– The play of camp so far came late in the proceedings today, when defensive coordinator Jason Tarver pleaded with his troops to make a goal-line stand.
On the next snap, strong safety Tyvon Branch jumped a route for tight end David Ausberry, stepped in front of Ausberry and intercepted Matt Flynn’s pass. Branch was off to the races, his teammates and Tarver off the hook with excitement.
– A close second came a tad earlier when fullback Marcel Reece matched up with Jones, bolted down the left sidelined, timed his leap perfectly and snared the ball over Jones and kept going for a long touchdown.
That’s the precise reason the Raiders love Reece so much, for his ability to create matchup nightmares because of his rare combination of size, speed, hands and athleticism.