NAPA — The Raiders’ wide receiver depth may be tested a little at the start of the season.
Andre Holmes, the Raiders’ leading receiver last year, has a fractured hand that will sideline him 3-4 weeks, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Raiders didn’t confirm the report and coach Jack Del Rio did not meet with the media on Wednesday.
While Holmes paced Oakland with 693 receiving yards last season, he figures to be no higher than the No. 3 option this season and is fighting Rod Streater and Kenbrell Thompkins for that role.
Determining the final roster spots at receiver could be among the toughest choices for Del Rio and general manager Reggie McKenzie, even if Holmes’ absence temporarily decreases the depth. Brice Butler, who played in 15 games last season, had six catches and a touchdown in the exhibition opener against the St. Louis Rams. Seth Roberts, a practice squad player last year, caught four passes and has had a nice camp.
“It’s a battle,” quarterback Derek Carr said of the receiving corps, “and it’s going to be up to the coaches and Mr. McKenzie to decide who fits where and what they want.”
Holmes seemed to injure himself when he was taken to the ground by Dexter McDonald after catching a pass during team drills in Sunday’s practice. He left the field shortly after.
Del Rio, who has made it a policy to not disclose any information about injuries, denied Tuesday that Holmes’ absence from practice was related.
“I don’t know that anything directly from that fall is causing anything,” Del Rio said of Holmes. “He’s a guy that will bounce back in short order.”
If Holmes returns on the short end of that reported timeline, he could be back for the Sept. 13 opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
But if he were to miss a game or more, it increases the importance for a successful return of Streater, the team’s leading receiver in 2013 who missed most of last year with a broken foot and the first 11 days of camp with an undisclosed illness.
There’s also the question of rookie tight end Clive Walford. He missed the first nine practices with a hamstring injury, but returned last week and caught two passes in Friday’s preseason game. He hasn’t practiced since, missing his third straight day on Wednesday, although he was riding an exercise bike at the end of practice.
* Trindon Holliday showed off the two sides of himself in the exhibition opener. He muffed the opening kickoff and had to kneel on it for a touchback, but later reeled off a 22-yard punt return.
“He’s got incredible talent,” special teams coordinator Brad Seely said of Holliday. “He’s always got to work on ball security. That’s always been a situation where he’s got to improve on and he knows that.”
Taiwan Jones returned the only other kickoff and took that back 27 yards. Jones also remains the one of the team’s top special teams coverage players.
“He’s one of the better special teams players in this league because No. 1, he’s tough, No. 2, he’s extremely fast, and No. 3, he wants to be a good player,” Seely said. “If you have all of those things all converging, you’re going to have a good football player.”
* Trent Richardson pledged when he made his training camp debut that he wanted to play special teams. His involvement hasn’t all been smooth, but it’ll be important for Richardson to contribute in that area.
“He’s getting back in the flow of things,” Seely said of Richardson. “He’s always been a lead back on teams that he’s been on — whether he is that or not here, I don’t know that yet — but up to this point, he’s going to be a guy that if he’s going to have a role on our team, he’s going to have to play on special teams and have a successful role.”
* Cornerback Keith McGill and receiver Kris Durham both missed their first practice of camp for undisclosed reasons. Linebacker Sio Moore, running back Roy Helu Jr. and fullback Jamize Olawale all remained out, but worked out on the side. Linebacker Josh Shirley returned after missing a couple practices.
* The Raiders stayed light on 11-on-11 work again Wednesday, the next to last practice that will be open to the media this year.
On the first play, Michael Crabtree was taken to the ground going after a pass on the sideline. He was slow to get up and hobbled off the field. He took a few plays off and seemed ready to return, but the offense turned it over to the second team. Crabtree did later return to team drills.
TJ Carrie had a nice pass breakup on a ball thrown to Amari Cooper where he got his hands in there to rip the ball out before he could finish the catch. Cooper has acknowledged needed to improve on securing balls after the catches them during practice as part of gaining a better feel for the pace of NFL play and that’s probably an example of that.
Dexter McDonald also had a nice breakup of a Christian Ponder pass attempt to Seth Roberts where he knocked the ball out of his hands as he was trying to haul it in. Overall, you can see the defensive backfield start to make some more plays in practice.