On the team, this is a key component. Useful should the running game bog down, the wide receivers help keep defenses honest and protect the offense from teams' "stacking the box". Sometimes teams design the offense to run exclusively around these players or a coach might try a more balances approach.
For the Oakland Raiders, JaMarcus Russell's maturity is going to be measured on how well these players respond and if needed, can help out the team as a whole.
With one day remaining before the first cutdown of rosters, it will be interesting to see if any of the players mentioned are done early. As of right now the Raiders.com web site is showing 10 total players fighting for a number of positions. One still listed, Samie Parker, was recently released.
Our first candidate, Chaz Schilens is a frustrating choice. Not because of what he does, but because he had all the earmarks of a WR option for the Raiders. But because he will be missed, as he was injured in practices with the 49ers. Breaking a bone in his foot, at the time the diagnosis was four to six weeks out, he will be sorely missed.
As of right now, his position on the roster is pretty secure, as the team awaits his return.
Our second player, Darrius Heyward-Bey, was our much talked about draft pick. While showing he does have some speed, getting open and making the catches seems to be the next step up for him. Granted you won't expect him to catch everything or beat double coverage, but I have hopes he can mature quickly.
If injuries haunt us again, he'll be asked to step up and deliver. I can imagine his roster spot is secure as well, as Al's new toy is going to be on prime time TV in week one. If he starts or not, is a different question entirely.
Our third player, Javon Walker is hoping to put an ugly season behind him. Javon arrived in Oakland with a large contract but thinks quickly went south. First was the incident in Las Vegas, then came the information he wanted to retire in which Al Davis talked him out of.
Then injured, he would end the season on the IR and many fans felt he was deserving of the worst free agent signing in history. Javon came back this offseason, having a mystery medical procedure, and finally saw some action in sunday's loss to the Saints. With a healthy contract, odds are good he will be on the team for week one.
Starting depends on who else makes up the options, as he could play the number one spot.
Our fourth player, Johnnie Lee Higgins had a nice coming out season last year. As a punt returner and wide receiver, he proved to be able to score from both places and helped energize the fans for this season. So far in preseason though, his numbers haven't been huge.
A number of passes have been thrown in his direction, but not have been completed. Some could attribute this to the team concentrating on testing out other players, or teams locking in on him, after his speed was showcased on several clubs last year. Odds are good, Higgins will be with the Raiders, and may start depending on how deep the field is.
Our fifth player, Johnathan Holland is a second year player for the Raiders and so far has been lightly used. On Sunday, he provided the best highlight for the Raiders when he broke loose for a 43 yard touchdown.
It might give him a break on the first round of cuts, but I think the Seattle game will determine if he's with us on the first week. Odds are against him right now.
Our sixth player, Louis Murphy I think has some good promise in the NFL. Determined to get yardage, right now he leads the team with 158 yards and the WR group with seven catches. The primary issue that needs to be worked on is hanging onto the ball, as witnessed on Sunday.
Granted, his spirited play to get up after being untouched was refreshing, the fumble made you want to pull your hair out. Odds are good he will be with the team on week one.
Our seventh player, Nick Miller is at a crossroads. In training camp he looked sharp, and does have three catches for 61 yards. However a late fumble against the 49ers on a return dropped his stock somewhat.
The Raiders might place him on the practice squad, as an insurance policy if something happens during the season, if they don't keep him on the roster. Our eighth player, Shawn Bayes, hasn't been seen any gametime for the Raiders. Due to depth, this player probably will be gone, before the Seattle game.
Our ninth player, Todd Watkins, is in the same boat as Nick Miller and Johnathan Holland. There is talent there, but how far can it take him? He has 30 yards receiving on two catches, but looked decent in camp. He may last until the Seahawks game, but he will need more effort to secure a spot on the roster. Odds are against him right now.
Our 10th player, Will Franklin has one of our team's touchdowns. Since then, though he has had only one more catch. He almost scored the go-ahead two point conversion against the 49ers this year, but it went incomplete.
With other players ahead of him, I don't see him being with the club on week one. He might be around for Seattle though as an extra player.
A lot of how these players perform do hinge on how they handle JaMarcus Russell's throwing. It also goes to the point if they can work within the system Tom Cable has in mind. You can also expect this team to keep an extra player, due to Chaz Schilens being out to start the season.
So, I see Javon Walker, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Nick Miller making the team. Johnathan Holland might make it if Miller loses favor and goes to the Practice squad. Todd Watkins also hinges on the Seattle performance, but could be placed on the practice squad as well.
Shawn Bayes and Will Franklin will probably be cut.