Oakland Raider Wide Receiver Battles: The Under Six Feet Edition

Steven SmithCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 13: Nick Miller #89 of the Oakland Raidersl catches a pass against the Dallas Cowboys during a preseason game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on August 13, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

For a team that is coming off of a 5-11 season, the amount of position battles are very few.

Raiders beat writer Jerry McDonald has written about the competition at the full back position, but there's another trio of players vying for playing time at receiver.

Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jacoby Ford, and Nick Miller are all of similar stature. All are under 6'0" and weigh around 180 pounds. They are all fighting for playing time at the slot receiver position, and to be the main return man on punts and kicks.

It's possible that all of them will be on the roster this season, but due to their similar value, I predict one of them won't be on the final roster when the season begins.

Who's Safe?

Of the three, Jacoby Ford has the greatest upside. He's small, but has the speed the Raiders love. A track star at Clemson, Ford ran a 6.52 60-meter dash in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships and a 4.28 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

Ford is no stranger to special teams and has the potential to be an all purpose player with the explosiveness to score whenever he has the ball. He's still a raw route runner and has average hands, but the Raiders should keep him around to see how he develops.

On The Bubble

Both Miller and Higgins have something to prove as they overcome big obstacles to retain a roster spot.

Higgins was expected to have a solid season last year after scoring seven touchdowns (three punt returns and four receiving touchdowns) in 2008. It didn't turn out well in 2009 after Higgins took a devastating hit from Eric Weddle during the first game of the season. He hasn't been the same since.

Higgins has the most experience of the three, which gives him the inside track for the slot position. He will at least need to show he's still productive during punts to keep a roster spot. If he doesn't, the Raiders might just consider him damaged goods and let him go.

As a rookie free agent, Miller was a camp favorite last year until a stress fracture to his shin derailed his season. Miller will have to continue his uphill battle for a roster spot between the experienced Higgins and the speedy Ford.

He made part of his case on Thursday by scoring the Raiders only offensive touchdown.

Other Notes

Some of you may be thinking, "Hey! What about Yamon Figurs?"

Well, you're right. He's a wide receiver in the running to be a return man and make the roster. A former third-round pick, Figurs is a journeyman who hasn't had any notable impact since his rookie year in Baltimore.

If Miller and Higgins are on the bubble, Figurs is on something even lower that my feeble brain can't make a comparison to. Putting on my Miss Cleo hat, I say he doesn't make the roster.

Best thoughts Rolando McClain and his family.

Know Thy Enemy: Notes On The AFC West

The San Diego Chargers starters looked fine without Vincent Jackson in their limited time against the Chicago Bears. It is only preseason, but it's no secret that the AFC West is theirs to lose.

Rookie Ryan Mathews made a nice debut gaining 50 yards in nine carries. He also added two catches for 11 yards. If Mathews can be that productive in the regular season, the Chargers become that much more difficult to stop.

The Broncos Kyle Orton looked efficient in his preseason debut against the Cincinnati Bengals going 8-of-13 for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

For some reason, I became a semi-Virginia Tech fan a couple years ago. The Beamer ball mentality is really entertaining to me. That said, I'm glad that former Hokie Eddie Royal is again receiving targets after a dismal first year under Josh McDaniels.

Royal had one catch for 12 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals.

I'm watching the Broncos/Bengals game as I type this and Tim Tebow's debut is looking pretty rocky.

The deep ball accuracy he has displayed is very nice, but it's easy to see he has a lot of work to do on his pocket presence and delivering the ball quickly.

Dexter McCluster and Jamal Charles are going to be fun to watch in Kansas City. Everything else...not so much. The Chiefs lost their first preseason game to the Atlanta Falcons 20-10.


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