The Litmus Test in Oakland: Can the WRs Take the Next Step Forward?

Raider Card Addict@RaidercardadictSenior Writer IMay 24, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 13:  Johnnie Lee Higgins #15 of the Oakland Raiders runs with the ball during their game against the Washington Redskins at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 13, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

For Oakland to rise to the next level, the WR corps needs to improve, rapidly.

Last season the Raiders went through a period of six different weeks where they scored seven points or less. For the season, their best option was from the Tight End position, and Zach Miller's skills.

The talent that the Raiders bring to the table are as follows:

Louis Murphy led the WRs with 34 catches and picked up four touchdowns. He had a total of 521 yards, not too shabby for a rookie.

Next up is Chaz Schilens, who is currently healing again.

Last year an injury limited him, but he still managed 29 catches , two touchdowns and 365 yards in only eight games. The Raiders are hoping he'll be good for training camp.

Johnnie Lee Higgins was the vanishing player.

In 2008 he was a useful surprise with run talent who could return punts and also make some nifty catches in traffic. This last season saw him make 19 catches, with zero touchdowns. Four fumbles didn't help his standing with Tom Cable, either.

Then there's Darrius Heyward-Bey. Like him, hate him, or throw darts at his cards, he was our draft pick that is still raw. More so visible due to poor throws and the hype of a first round status.

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He managed nine catches and a single touchdown but lost a key throw against the Chiefs that sealed the fate late in the game.

These four, plus the addition of Jacoby Ford, present the team with some interesting options.

First, the good news, JaMarcus Russell is no longer with the team.

The Raiders felt, finally that his work ethic, lack of improvement, and overall performances, were not going to improve.

In his place, the Raiders traded for Jason Campbell, a QB with a habit of throwing the ball more accurately, but not wildly. Unless he feels it is a sure thing, he'll keep looking for more options, as needed.

Secondly, one has to imagine that the Raiders won't throw Jacoby Ford into the fire prematurely, learning the lesson from last year.

As it stands though, with two speed demons, opposing teams will probably concentrate on these players, just due to the threat of a long completion.

Third will be how the team responds to Russell's departure.

When Bruce Gradkowski started in place of Russell, the team's offense seemed to rise to the occasion.

Gradkowski managed two wins in his first three games, while Russell managed two wins in 10 starts. However, the intangibles showed, as the Raiders managed to score 20 or more points in two games, while managing the feat only once in Russell's starts.

(Small note, the Denver game, started by Charlie Frye was finished by Russell, who got a late TD for a third game with 20 points.)

Fourth, is the injury quotation.

Early in the season, we were without Chaz Schilens.

Javon Walker was a non-factor all year long, DHB was showing rookie mistakes and Higgins made a key catch in the season opener, only to pay for it with his body.

There is little ability to control this factor, but proper play selection can help prevent particular injuries, such as throwing into traffic of a play over the middle. Asking a player to do so invites a season-ending injury.

Second note, Zach Miller's at home in cases like this. (How he does this all game, is beyond me.)

Also, these are factors the Raiders can work with, as they have no control over opposing teams' cornerbacks.

When it comes down to the game-by-game performance, then it's in the coaches headset.