Most of the offseason for the Raiders has revolved around the draft and the release of JaMarcus Russell.
However, there is one group that will play a key role in determining how well the Raiders do this coming season. This group will benefit from having another year of experience, an offensive coordinator, and a new quarterback at helm.
That group is the wide receivers.
As of now, the Raiders have 11 receivers and possibly six spots open. Here is a short look at who they are and who might or might not make the cut.
Schilens is one of our better receivers when healthy. He seemed poised to breakout last year until he broke his left foot in camp. He has great hands and always finds the field when he isn't injured. He had minor follow-up procedure to rehabilitate his foot, and if he can make it through camp and the preseason, he will be one of the starters.
Almost an instant fan favorite, Murphy has the skills and abilities to be a great receiver. He was a bit inconsistent, leading the team in drops, but making enough clutch catches to make us forget that last fact. He did fairly well his rookie year while Schilens was out and again when DHB was injured. It will be interesting to see how he performs if Schilens and DHB start, while he takes a lesser third receiver role.
The most criticized of the Raiders receivers, DHB has a lot to prove this season. He was our seventh overall pick last year and critics think he will be the next big Raiders bust. He put up horrible numbers in comparison to other receivers drafted that year. In response, he has been putting in a lot of work this offseason to improve, with Cable taking notice. It might take him another year of work to get him to where he wants to be, but it's not impossible to do.
Johnnie Lee Higgins
Higgins used to occupy the PR/third WR position up until last year. He is best known for his TD celebrations back in '08. He seemed to be a solid WR until last year. He saw little action and was soon buried in the depth chart, with Murphy taking the third receiver role and Watkins being the fourth. He only saw time on the field when there was injuries. His job status is in question, along with his commitment and work ethic.
Watkins has all the physical tools to be a good receiver, but has yet to make an impact on the team. He was hopped around the practice squad and used sparingly as a fourth receiver. He might be fighting for a fifth or sixth receiver spot.
Drafted in the fourth round this year, he is a natural athlete. He has the breakaway speed to take short passes and turn them into TDs. He also has good hands and could easily be a No. 2 wideout in the future. His primary role seems to be competing for PR/KR with some action as a third or fourth receiver.
He is best known as the preseason boy sensation. He was undrafted and made the team after a great training camp and preseason. He showed good promise until his shin injury that kept him off the field. Coaches and fans alike waited to see his impact but were left hanging. He will have to work twice as hard this year to make the roster, especially with most of the spots reserved.
He has no stats, but was with the Browns last year. Since he was signed to a future contract after our season ended, he was most likely brought in for competition in case we didn't acquire any wideouts during the offseason. He is very impressive in camp and if he continues performing, he will make it hard for the coaches to cut him.
He is a WR/CB that is most likely on the team for depth. With the recent acquisitions of Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware, his only chance to make the roster will be as a WR.
He was also signed to a future contract after last season ended. He has been on three teams, with the Raiders being his fourth. Most likely, he was brought in for depth and competition for PR/KR duties. With Ford, Bodiford, and JLH all looking to take one of the return duties, Figurs has his work cut out for him.
He has been on six teams with only one catch to show for it. Not very impressive at all, but he will get a chance to compete for PR duties. If he makes it, it will most likely be as a PR/sixth receiver.
Again, this was just a short summary to familiarize us with the group. I didn't put too much emphasis on stats because none of our receivers have enough to distinguish themselves.
Even so, four of the positions are "reserved." DHB will be the starter with Schilens playing the second wideout. Murphy will easily be the third receiver with Ford taking the fourth. The fifth and sixth receiver positions seem to be the only spots available.
I'm sure Cable and Hue don't want to waste roster spaces, so they will be looking for the fourth, fifth, or sixth receiver to PR and/or KR. It seems JLH, Nick Miller, Bodiford, Figurs, Watkins, Holland, and Hubbard are all vying for the remaining spots.
If Miller isn't healthy by training camp, he will be the first to go. I can only see Holland as depth, as he rarely touched the field as WR or CB. He will most likely be the next to go, since the Raiders acquired more CBs in the draft and have more than enough WRs.
I personally think JLH will take the fifth with Hubbard taking the sixth.
Both are capable PR/KR and can be good WRs. In the end, those last positions are up in the air and anything could happen from now to training camp. Don't forget, Cable said you can't win the job in OTAs or camp, but you can lose it.
With that being said, it looks like Cable and Hue will decide who is cut first based on who is the worst and working their way up. With as many receivers as we have at this point, we are bound to have good depth at WR this year.