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Louis Murphy eyes up a big gain
To say Raider wideouts were unproductive last season is fairly redundant. We all know that. Horrific quarterback play married with inexperience was a recipe for receiving disaster, and it showed.
Despite these struggles and lacking go-to experience at wideout behind oft-injured Chaz Schilens, the Raiders resisted picking up Terrell Owens or any other veteran presence early in the offseason, choosing instead to trust their talented but very green in-house receivers.
The philosophy is that the Raiders have an excellent core group of young, dynamic receivers and a veteran would only take reps away from the youngsters.
There is some merit in that school of thought, but every team needs a reliable receiver to get them first downs, which the Raiders do not have aside from Zach Miller, who is a tight end and not a wideout.
With the Raiders jettisoning the awful JaMarcus Russell in favour of steady Jason Campbell, the receivers were set to show what they could do with a bona-fide NFL quarterback in 2010.
Schilens, the Raiders most reliable chain-mover, was finally healthy. Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey looked great in OTA's, and speedsters Johnnie Lee Higgins and Jacoby Ford were playing well. Early returns said a quantum leap in pass production was inevitable.
Unfortunately shortly after the good vibes began, Schilens needed knee surgery, leaving the Raiders without their No.1 receiver for the second straight season.
Schilen's injury is signifcant, as besides Zach Miller he's shown himself as the only reliable third down option in actual game play, and it forces the Raiders to find a new No. 1 wideout.
Though the other receivers have talent, none among them have a proven track record of being yardage eaters who can move the chains and all are very, very inexperienced at the NFL level.
Muphy and Heyward-Bey are in their second year; Higgins has little game experience, and Ford and Nick Miller are rookies who have never caught an NFL pass. Yamon Figurs is a little more experienced having played with the Ravens, but has not looked good in preseason and has unreliable hands.
The Raiders looked to pick up T.J Houshmandzadeh when he was released on Saturday by the Seattle Seahawks, but that was quashed when Houshmandzadeh signed yesterday with the Baltimore Ravens.
It's clear that with Schilens sidelined, the Raiders realize they need someone proven at wideout.
The best option for a go-to receiver is Heyward-Bey, who has the size and strength needed for the job, and has shown much better hands, route running and aggression this offseason. Murphy was more productive last season, but is more of a downfield, big play threat and should stay that way.
The Raider pass game must improve for the team to find success, and that means that one of the talented but unproven wideouts needs provide consistent, first down production, and provide it fast.