The Oakland Raiders’ wide receiver position will see plenty of competition heading into the 2014 season, and Andre Holmes is one player who could emerge from it to have a breakout year.
While the upside his physical tools gave him was undeniable, little was expected by way of production when the Raiders claimed him off the waiver wire in March 2013.
That new opportunity with the Silver and Black did not get off to the best of starts either, as he was suspended for the first four games of the regular season, and yet another release certainly could have been an option.
However, betting on Holmes putting it together, the Raiders chose not to cut him, instead giving him the opportunity to come back and contribute after the suspension.
While he needed to work his way back into the rotation and earn his snaps upon returning, he was quickly able to establish himself as one of the offense's most reliable playmakers, performing at a high level throughout the second half of the year.
Only seeing significant snaps in the team's final seven games, Holmes tallied 25 receptions for 431 yards, good for an impressive 17.2 yards-per-catch rate.
Averaging that seven-game production over the course of a full 16-game season would have given him 985 yards on 57 catches, which would make for the highest Raiders receiving-yard season since Randy Moss' 1,005 in 2005.
So, of course, the projected statistics are there, but what makes Holmes the kind of impact player he is and can be moving forward?
More so than any Raiders receiver in recent memory, Holmes combines his impressive 6'4" 210-pound frame with his speed to separate downfield and the ability to high-point the ball, often making difficult catches in one-on-one situations.
In one particular play in Week 15 against Kansas City, Holmes saw single coverage downfield on 3rd-and-long. With only his right arm free from the defender's grasp, he managed to come down with an impressive one-handed grab, moving the chains in a key situation for the offense.
In his best statistical game of the year, a seven-reception, 136-yard performance on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas, he made a similarly impressive play.
On a route going up the right sideline, Holmes extended for a jump ball over the top of the defender, showing incredible body control in the air by twisting to make the catch and coming down inbounds.
In fact, it was plays similar to these that Holmes seemed to make on a fairly regular basis over the last few games of the season, constantly getting the offense out of difficult situations and picking up first downs.
Working in his favor for him building on that demonstrated ability will be the Raiders' significantly improved quarterback situation moving forward.
Now, the team has both a short-term veteran option in Matt Schaub, as well as a long-term and potentially franchise-type player with Derek Carr.
Putting up the numbers and making the plays he did in 2013 was impressive enough, but considering that anticipated improvement from the quarterbacks in 2014 and beyond, Holmes' ceiling raises that much more.
Of course, building on his small sample size of success is key, as there have been countless examples of NFL players flashing big-time potential early on only to struggle shortly thereafter.
However, Holmes' ability to emerge as a reliable target in what was a difficult season for the Raiders' offense, and the one-on-one advantage his physical tools give him, certainly bode well moving forward.
At the very least, he should challenge for one of the top three spots on the receiver depth chart throughout training camp, and with increased snaps over the course of a full season, his production could be in for a significant boost.
As such, in a 2014 season where the Raiders should be improved throughout the roster, Andre Holmes is in line for a breakout campaign, and he could quickly become one of the offense's most dangerous weapons overall.
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